Teenage me had worked up the courage to begin texting a girl I was interested in. Things were going well, with the messages and conversation between us flowing. We shared funny anecdotes, stories from our days and prehistoric emojis like =), XD and even <3. Then one day it just stopped.
I had responded to one of her messages and hadn’t heard back. I thought maybe she left her phone somewhere, or was doing something really important, but as the hours passed, I began to get worried. I held out hope and when the day came to an end, I went to sleep thinking of how excited I would be when I woke up in the morning and she had responded. There was evening, and there was morning. No text.
Oh no. What if I said something that offended her? I looked back and nothing seemed to stand out. Maybe it was one of those weird network things and my text got clogged up and stuck, unable to be delivered. If I send another text, maybe it’ll push it through (or at least change the subject) so I texted “Good morning!”. Nothing. All day.
Days passed and I thought I must have totally blown it. The following weekend I saw her at an event. She came up and said “Hi!”, and when I asked what was going on, she simply replied, “Oh sorry, I ran out of credit.”
I was so relieved to find out that’s all it was. She didn’t have another way to tell me that’s what happened, but I filled that silence with all kinds of thoughts and worries. Silence can be a struggle. Even more so when we are dealing with God’s silence. I think of those times when I have been leaning into God, seeking Him in my moments of darkness and hurt, searching for His wisdom or comfort. Whatever the prayer, feeling silence is an immense challenge.
Now let me reassure you for a moment–just because I’m a pastor, it doesn’t mean I have a special line of communication with God that others don’t have. I have the same struggles. We can all feel this same difficulty, and unfortunately, this is the space where a lot of people leave their faith. They are not sure what to do with the silence or even the quiet voice of God. I don’t have all the answers for dealing with this Divine silence, but I have reflections to share that have helped in my journey.
Just because God is silent, it does not mean that He is distant.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
We see this many times in Scripture that God promises to never leave His people. He hasn’t gone anywhere. He is with you in the midst of the place you are in, even if it feels hard.
Secondly, just because God is silent it does not mean He’s not working.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
In all things, God is working. All things. Even silent seasons. He may not be telling you the details, but we can trust that He is working. In our canon of scripture, we have a time of silence called the intertestamental period. The space between the Old and New Testaments. History was still happening, but there were no prophets speaking, no scriptures came out of that time. But what broke the silence? John the Baptist’s birth. The forerunner to make the way for Jesus. The clearest we have ever seen God. He was working in the silence preparing the world for Jesus, and He is working in the moments we feel like He is silent now. What is He preparing in your life?
I personally believe God can use silence as a beautiful and gentle teacher. In a world of constant noise, information and communication overload, perhaps God can use silence to make us pause and think more deeply on what He has taught us. We have to adjust our pace of communication to His. So here’s what that has looked like in my life.
Take time to look back in godly reflection
I love the words of Malachi (which is actually the last book of the Old Testament right before the silence of the intertestamental period). “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel” (Malachi 4:4).
This is an encouragement to look back on the words and actions of God in history but I believe also in our lives. Some questions you might want to reflect on: Where has God brought you and your community? What has He taught you? What does His Word say? Have I lost focus on something He pointed me to in the past?
Take time to look inwards, re-examine our hearts
There is a powerful prayer in Psalm 139:23,24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
While you wait on God’s voice, maybe this is a moment to invite Him in to search your heart and do the kind of renovation and leading only He can do. Some questions you might want to reflect on would be: Are there things we need to let go of? To lay down at His feet? To change? To lean more into? Am I living in the present with God right now? Am I looking for the ways He is moving?
Take time to look forward to what God has for you
I like to think of this as a microwave generation. We love to have everything instantly. I recently bought a microwave meal and was frustrated when I read the front of the box and it said it would be ready in 90 seconds, but then when I went to make it the instruction said it would take 2 minutes in the microwave. Ridiculous! But also does 30 seconds really make a big difference in my life? Maybe we need to relearn the skill of waiting. To learn to be okay with waiting on God and keeping hope in His plan.
Where is your hope today? What are you waiting for in faithful expectation?
Silence is hard but let me leave you with one final verse to give you encouragement if you are facing a season of silence and waiting: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5).
Joshua Stothers is the associate pastor and chaplain at Castle Hill church and Hills Adventist College, Sydney, NSW.