Learning to Watch God Work When He is Silent
“It is always difficult to hear silence.” This line from Elizabeth Winthrop’s children’s novel The Castle in the Attic, has long intrigued me. It is a paradox. You don’t always notice silence right away, but when you do, it can be loud.
Our world seems fearful of silence. We are constantly bombarded by noise: voices, music, opinions, and background ambiance. Silence is rare and often uncomfortable for us.
The silence of God is intriguing to consider. Because of who God is, we look to Him for guidance, answers, miracles, and provision. But because of God’s all-powerfulness, He can do whatever He wants; including being silent. This isn’t a characteristic that we often appreciate. We want Him to be working and moving in our life. We want Him to be close and answer us when we cry for help. But sometimes, even when we are actively seeking and walking with God, we experience seasons where we do not hear God. He is silent.
Though God is sometimes silent, He is not silent forever. In the life, words, actions, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we find the ultimate answer to all hopes, fears, dreams, worries, ailments, and questions. However, this is often not comforting to us when we are urgent for Him to speak. Why does God seem silent in the time of our greatest need? When sickness consumes our friends; when our children are suffering; when the job offer deadline is looming; and when the bills need to be paid.
I cannot answer for God, I am not Him nor do I have any special insight.
Sometimes the silence we hear is because of our own hearts…are we listening? Are we seeking? Are we ready to hear His answer? Are we expectant that even in God’s silence, He is still sovereign, good, and working in His world?
We must consider the hard truth that God is silent because He chooses to be silent. There are times when we can learn from silence what we could not learn in a million words. Though He is silent, He is never ignoring you. He was silent during His people’s slavery to the Egyptians and for another 400 years as the nation of Israel waited for their Messiah. Paul’s plea for the “thorn of his flesh” to be taken away was met with silence, and God was even silent when His own Son, plead to be spared the death that was set before Him. But these cries did not fall on deaf ears! God was active and involved in each of these circumstances and His silence was only because He had a greater answer for each of these cries.
God may be silent, but that doesn’t mean that He isn’t aware of or listening to your suffering.
Silence is sometimes an answer. God’s silence is sometimes an invitation to watch Him work. He may not answer because He wants us to wait and watch what He is doing. This is one of the answers God gives Habakkuk:
“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (Habakkuk 1:5 NIV).
Watch for the hand of God at work. Look to the movement of the church locally and universally. Look to creation and consider what God has done. God’s answers are not always going to be the ones we want. His answer to Habakkuk ultimately meant the Babylonian empire conqueror and destroy the nation of Israel. But even in this, His hand was at work and in control of these events. He may be silent, but He is not neglecting His world.
If you are in a season of silence, these thoughts may not be the “answer” you expected or wanted to hear as you desperately scan through these words. You may still feel unanswered and lost in silence. To feel neglected by God is one of the more terrible feelings in the world. Jesus’ worst suffering was to feel alone and forsaken by the Father, in the hour of His deepest need. I do not know why He chooses silence. But I know that we are not alone in feeling this way. When the Father turned His back on His one and only Son, Jesus still obeyed. He endured the Father’s silence because God had a bigger and better plan.
As painful and trying as the silence may be, press into the silence. Do not back down from it. Let it surround you in sorrow and grief. Allow it to be a bitter friend to you as you sit and wait for God. Trust that His silence has meaning and purpose for you and for His glory.
- Intentionally put away distractions for a day, go away by yourself, if you can, and spend time seeking the presence of God in the silence.
- Look at the world around you and watch for where God is working, in your life, in the life of your family members, in your church, and in the world.
- Listen to the Revive Our Hearts series on Habakkuk. You can listen on their podcast or their website at www.reviveourherts.com.
- Thank God that He does not ignore the cries of His people! He will act. Pray for the strength to trust His answers.
Lives with her husband, Justin, in South Dakota. She teaches middle school and loves traveling, collecting quotes, learning fun facts and historical information, drinking coffee, eating ice cream and enjoying good conversation with friends.