The Silence is Deafening

I’ve heard of many classes being taught on ‘How to hear the voice of God.’ These are important things to learn and be trained in, and to be honest they’re things I would never be able to teach well. Not because of a deficiency in hearing God (although that could be true) but because I don’t have words or tangible instructions. It was something that just happened for me and became natural. It was a gift I didn’t have to work for. No, I couldn’t teach that class. If there was a class on God’s voice that I feel as though I could teach it would be ‘How to hear the voice of God, when he isn’t speaking.’

There are two things I imagine a title like that would lead you to believe. The first is that it’s a class on spiritual discernment, a type of ‘reading the signs for Christians’ class. That isn’t exactly how I mean it. The second is that this is a facetious title and really you’re talking about hearing an imaginary voice when there isn’t one there at all. I think, if I’m honest, that I am meaning a sort of blend of the two. (As I write this I realize how much I could say on the first option so there may be another blog post in the making.)

I have always been struck at my need to hear God’s voice right at the moment he’s refusing to speak. When I feel that I’m at a cross roads and I need to hear him. When I’m sure that he’s saying something but he just won’t clarify. (Let me be clear at this point so it doesn’t need consistent reiteration. I believe the scriptures are his written word and that they go on speaking authoritatively. What I mean is that if God is not speaking to you in an audible voice from heaven type way, the marvel of our faith is that he is always speaking because his scriptures are always on offer to us. His voice never rests. BUT, this is about something entirely different. This is about personal direction. These moments aren’t about making a decision between sin & righteousness, this is instead about right or left, up or down.) So, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you have had these silent moments too. Where deep in your bones you know God has said something. He isn’t saying it audibly, it isn’t even in the normal or consistent way you’ve known it before but some way, some how you have this feeling that God is saying something. 

So in response you sit there asking, begging, crying out for God to speak in a way you know. A “Make it clear if that was you” prayer.

His response? Silence.

For some I know this has caused great pain, even to the point of leaving faith. I don’t want to make a joke or speak lightly on a topic that has driven so many people away from God. I do want to say something carefully but honestly about that though. Something that I know well because I have lived it and know that pain. Running from God because he’s quiet is a sign of immaturity. It’s a toddler not getting his way, throwing a fit and proclaiming -usually in a grocery store of some sort- that his/her parents don’t really love them anymore. What I have done is that I have called to God out of insecurity. I’ve called to him because I don’t have faith, I don’t believe the truth and I need him to speak it to me once again.

This is ok for a while, the problem is that we have to grow up. There has to be a moment when we transition from an insecure child to a confident adult. God doesn’t request this of us randomly. He does it when he knows we can do it. Like a parent teaching their children to ride a bike. We know the time when they’re ready to go without the training wheels. The child may not like it, they may not believe it but there is a moment when the training wheels are actually holding them back. When the training wheels are now hurting them, causing them to lose interest and be bored at how slow and safe they make them feel. Removing them means there is time for new muscles to be trained. It’s no longer about steering and the rhythm of pedalling. Those things are now instinctive. Now it’s about balance and speed. 

This is what the silence of God is about. 

God believes in us. He believes in us so much that he can stop telling us something thirteen times before asking us to respond. He can give us a nudge, or whisper in our ear of which direction to go rather than having to yell it at us. He knows we know his voice. God knows that you understand that feeling deep inside of you is him. The question is, how will you respond? Are you the kid wanting to take off on the new adventure or the kid screaming in Wal-Mart about not being loved anymore. I wish I could say I’m the adventurer but that has always been the case. I hope I’m starting to figure this balance thing out though. 

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  1. I love the silence of God in the sense that it is taking me to new heights. It solidifies in my that my faith is not solely based on hearing God’s voice and feeling his presence. It is a common and biblical season in every Christian’s life. I dislike it (probably an understatement) in the sense that it makes just about everything in life more difficult, when you don’t quite feel “in tune” with God. I miss my former interactions with God and wonder how long this may last!

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    • Thanks for the response Nico. I agree with your feelings of both benefit and frustration. I have to say that I have swung that pendulum myself multiple times. Sometimes it happens in a day and sometimes over the span of a year. I too would say that God’s silence has caused some of my most significant growth and sorrow.

      There has been one area that has grown significantly for me in the midst of the silence though. My future hope. I find myself excited, worshipful and full of thanksgiving us to the thought of what will be one day. That I will stand in the presence of God uninhibited. Having received the fullness of my salvation in glorification. This, even on my lowest days, brings me hope. I hope it could be for you too.

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  2. Classes… I have a difficult time understanding how that can work. These are the sort of thing we need a spiritual director/father for. Preferably someone both knowledgeable and experienced, who has been listening to God for a very long time, like an old monk.

    In my own life when he was silent, and the 2 clear examples I can think of both involved finding a job when 1. I just bought a house and again 2. when their was a baby on the way, I have found you just trust God and certain doors open and it is only in retrospect that you can see his hand.

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    • I agree that classes can be difficult but also not necessarily wrong. The tradition I grew up in was one that was more reliant on a single class than a fathering figure. I have come to agree with you that walking with someone is going to be the best way of being discipled, whether that is in prayer or anything else. Yet, I wouldn’t rule out what God can do through a training session or classes. I have had many moments sitting in a seminary class or training session where something was said that spiritually brought me to my knees.
      Also, I think you’re right on with the doors opening and closing. You have said it and obviously have lived it with a certain amount of ease that I know many, including myself, have not always found quite so easy. It was through real trial and hardship that I realized the opening and closing of doors was how God functioned in a time of silence.

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      • Oh it wasn’t at all easy. There is a certain terror in feeling you may be homeless or unable to feed your family, the natural human tendency is to rely on yourself, despair is the human reaction in these situations. I think maybe God is silent so we can learn through experience our self helplessness and dependency on him. It was a difficult learning experience for me.

        I wasn’t condemning classes they could be helpful to an extent, it’s just that actual discipleship is an individual thing and these sort of experiences are different for everyone and when you are going through them you don’t necessarily see the bigger picture. Individual guidance can’t be beat. Unfortunately reliable guides are also very hard to find.

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      • I agree wholeheartedly about the unbearableness of discipleship. Thankfully our Bishop has been a true spiritual father for me and many others. Something I will always be grateful to God for.

        I definitely did not want to make light of the difficulties for you or your family in the midst of his silence. I think that what you have described is exactly how it felt for me as well. A deep desire to rely on myself and his willingness to let me sit feeling exposed and alone until I lean upon him and his grace.

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  3. The Lord is really speaking to me through this tonight. Places where it would be nice to hear a reassuring word from Him, it is an opportunity and call to maturity – to stand on promises confidently! He’s such a good Dad.

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