There have been seasons in my life when I felt I couldn’t ‘hear’ God. It felt like he was far, far away. I felt abandoned. I felt forsaken. There have been different reasons for those seasons of silence.
Once, I was wanting God to move on my behalf, but he was waiting for me to take a step of faith toward him first. He was asking me to do a hard thing, but I wrestled and argued with him. I didn’t want to listen so I didn’t. I refused to listen. If we choose not to listen to someone we eventually stop hearing them. They become silent to us.
Another time I was bound up with anger because a prayer I had prayed had gone ignored. At that time I thought that if I ticked all the Christian ‘to-do’ boxes, I had a guaranteed ‘yes’ to my heart’s cry. This was not the case. I learned that the Christian ‘to-do’ boxes have a completely different purpose for our lives and do not include manipulating God to do as I wish.
Disobedience. Sin. Anger. These things have brought me through seasons when I believed that God had gone silent when in reality it was I who had plugged my ears. I was like the little child who clapped her hands over her ears and hummed real loud to drown out what she doesn’t want to hear. I am the one who had stepped away from his safety and refuge in my own grown up version of a temper tantrum.
But I have learned there is a different kind of silence. The kind of silence where God is calling me to sit quietly in his presence and let himself flow over me and into my spirit. The kind of silence that is comforting and refreshing.
In those moments, I am given a choice. In that kind of silence I have an option of trusting him or trusting myself and what I think I know is best. It’s usually in those kind of silent moments that I know that if I step into a deeper trust with him that I will soon hear him loud and clear.
I need to do two things: trust him and dive deep into his word. I am a huge fan of the Old Testament. I love both the Old and the New, but I learn so much about my human frailty and God’s great big deep love for me in the Old Testament.
I read about the Israelites and I learn how they dealt with silence and how God dealt with them….
The Red Sea was an insurmountable obstacle. As the Isrealites looked at the Red Sea before them and Pharoah’s army behind them, they determined it was better for them to live as slaves than to die free.
God split the sea for them to walk across on on dry ground.
While they waited for Moses to come down the mountain, they turned to Aaron and their own logic, and created a god because Moses was taking too long on that mountain.
God was instructing Moses on the way of life for His people.
Mankind is generally uncomfortable with silence. Mankind says silence needs to be filled. It is tempting to explain away the silence rather than pressing into the silence.
What if the silence became our cue to tuck in closer to him? What if we asked for faith to believe that He is working and moving in ways that we cannot see? Will you tuck in close and trust?
God could be about ready to split the sea for you. He could be about ready to speak loud and clear. God could be doing a mighty act of deliverance. He could be singing songs over you. He could be calling you deeper into him.
I find silence disconcerting. If silence lingers I think of a way to fill it. If silence lingers I wonder if I have done something wrong. If silence is accompanied by scowls, I grow insecure.
You see, if I can keep the conversation rolling long enough and make you laugh hard enough, then maybe, just maybe, you won’t see me and disapprove.
Somewhere along the way, I decided it was my job to make everyone around me happy by being who they wanted me to be or who I thought they wanted me to be. The problem with that? When things grow silent my first impulse is to take the blame for some nameless unknown offense. I offer myself up as a scapegoat because there must be something inherently wrong with me, right?
But when God is silent?
Until I think about hiding places.
A really good hiding place is pretty quiet. It’s still. It’s silent. It’s a good kind of silent. The kind of silence that breathes.
Unless you’re scared. Then it’s not. But if it’s safe? Then it’s the best kind of quiet.
Psalm 27:5 ‘For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.’
God is my safe place. He is my hiding place. It’s okay to hide from trouble and the best kind of hiding is in the safest of places and the safest of places are the quietest of places. What if God is silent not because he is angry, but because he is keeping me safe?
Then the silence becomes something good and beautiful. It becomes something to be thankful for.
What if silence became an opportunity to rest in the One who holds me close to his heart and hides me within himself?
When God is silent I have an opportunity to learn to wait. I learn to be still. I trust that he is working in my circumstance and in me.
What if in the silence we learn to wait on him? What if in the silence we learn to be still? What if in the silence we learn to let him work and stop striving for solutions? What if we viewed God’s silence as an opportunity to trust him more?
I am learning to be okay with sitting quietly with someone. I am learning to enjoy another’s presence without the need for words. (this is hard!) I am also learning to enjoy the sweet comradery of God’s presence without the need for words. And the beautiful thing? If I am silent I find that God is not really silent, he is just waiting for me to hush up so he can speak. It’s in those still, silent places that I can hear his whispers reaching my frantic heart and I hear him clearly.
Silence doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to mean disapproval. Sometimes silence a really, really good thing to embrace. Silence reminds me to be still.
Do I still freak out when God is silent? A little. But now I do a few things:
I don’t automatically assume that I am inherently wrong.
I open myself up to the Holy Spirit and his work.
I wait patiently and trust his heart.
What happens the next time God is silent? I am going to be still, hush up, and listen. I just might hear his whisper.
I have been pondering growth a lot lately. It is probably due to this conference I have been asked to participate in that has me thinking about soil and seeds and water and nutrients.
I watched my babies grow and celebrated each milestone and worried over each delayed milestone. In parenting I have felt the pressure that all children should be experiencing this or that by a certain age even though it is common knowledge that not one child is like the other and therefore have different rates of growth and achievement.
At times that’s been difficult to remember.
I am at a point in my parenting where I am, at times, anxiously waiting for the seeds that I planted into my kids’ hearts to take root and grow. When they were young I amended their heart’s soil by adding in the nutrients of unconditional love, which did what was best for them and not necessarily what they wanted.
I planted the seeds of kindness, selflessness, respect, responsibility, repentance, and forgiveness. I hopefully gave them the right tools to tend to the garden of their souls.
I watered it with gentle responses (at times not so gentle and thank God for their forgiving hearts). I watered it with showing them kindness and respect. I watered it with humbling apologizing for my own parenting failures. I water it with prayer.
Now I wait. I continue to plant those seeds, but now I wait.
I wait for God to give the growth. I can walk my kids through the steps of what selflessness looks like. Maybe it’s seeing trash on the floor and instead of walking by it, we go together to pick it up and throw it away. Or maybe it’s doing a sibling’s chore. And sometimes it’s walking with them through the repentance and forgiveness process for something they did wrong.
But I wait for God to cause those seeds to grow in their hearts. I cannot make them grow. I cannot force them grow. I want to though.
Especially when it’s hard to wait on God.
This is part of my rest. This is part of my desperation for God. It’s the waiting on him. It’s the stilling of my mind and soul and emotions to be still in his presence and whisper, ‘God? Here I am. I am a jumbled mess. But here I am.’ and then be quiet.
Being quiet in God’s presence takes practice. It takes discipline. It takes moments of failure to train our minds to be quiet. To be quiet of worry, but to be loud in pondering the nature of God:
The goodness of Him.
The love of God, the love so overwhelming that it drives out all fear.
The power of God that causes those seeds to grow.
You are a seed planter. Plant your seeds and wait on God to water them and grow them.