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Does God ever go silent?

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(Photo: Unsplash/Kyle Johnson)

Does God ever go silent? It’s a reasonable question. My first reaction to it is an emphatic yes!

A while back I felt the Lord tell me to complete some schooling I’d started but had been procrastinating on finishing for a dozen or so years. I felt sure the Lord indicated I’d need to finish it in order to prepare for the next chapter in my life. So, I went back to school.

While I worked on completing the program, I felt sure I’d know what to do after I was done. I’ve found it much easier to maintain faith when I have a goal in sight. Any doubts about the future were quickly dismissed with focus on the task at hand. But once school was done, I was faced with a question I sincerely dislike, “What’s next?”

As I tried to figure out the answer I repeatedly, and at times desperately, sought the Lord in prayer. His voice was so clear at the beginning that I was sure as soon as I was done He’d tell me what was next. But as it turned out, I heard nothing. Crickets. Seeming silence. The uncertainty invited anxiety into my life, and the anxiety invited doubt. Soon it felt like a house party with the worst of guests, all tempting me to question God’s faithfulness.      

So does God ever just decide to not answer us or to simply not speak? If I’m answering solely based on my feelings, then I’d be quick to answer yes. But I’ve come to the belief that God is always speaking, even if it seems He is being silent. It’s paradoxical, but John tells us in the first verse of his Gospel account, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). God is speaking because it is part of who He is, part of His nature as God. God is true articulation. But speaking is not the only way God articulates Himself. It would seem then even in silence God is saying something.

Perhaps the best example of this concept I found in Scripture was while Jesus’ body lay in the tomb. On the surface, it seems like Heaven went silent when the disciples needed some reassurance. The body of the promised Messiah, the one to whom the disciples had pledged their lives, whom they expected to reign forever, was lying in a tomb, dead. Can you imagine how difficult and lonely those three days must have been? Imagine the anxiety, fear and despair they faced. In their minds they’d been the victims of a divine hoax. Jesus had proven His identity to them, yet now He lay buried, and their hope crushed. Prior to His death their futures seemed certain and secure, now they were outlaws without a leader.

But while the disciples wrestled with the silence, God was accomplishing His eternal triumph over hell and sin. The silence the disciples heard was actually the articulation of Jesus’ eternal victory over death. In retrospect the disciples could see what was taking place when they felt God had gone silent. Rather than silence, He was speaking life to all of eternity.  

In the midst of my own uncertainty, I’ve read a lot of Psalms. The psalmists often wrestle with why God seems to be silent at times. David, perhaps more than any other, often cries out to God regarding this. One particular verse has provided a lot of comfort. In Psalm 27:13 David states, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

David’s life proved the truth of this verse, he did see the goodness of the Lord in his life in spite of many seasons where it felt like he’d been forgotten about. The tomb of Christ proves this truth as well. When it seemed God had forgotten about humanity, He was in fact saving it. These truths make me consider the possibility that when God seems silent, perhaps He is accomplishing more than I can imagine.

So instead of asking if God is silent, I think a more appropriate question to ask myself is whether my faith is in the God whom the Bible reveals, or is it in my feelings and my certainties? Oswald Chambers said, “Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.”  

Daniel Hamlin is an author, surfer, and speaker from the Central Coast of California. Since the release of his first book in 2015 Hamlin has spoken at churches and ministries throughout the world. He also holds a degree in Biblical Studies. Find out more at www.danielhamlin.org

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