It can be painful to go through times when God seems silent. But if we endure, we will discover that God grows us through silence.
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” (Psalm 42:1-3)
Going through a time when our faith seems to be adrift at sea can be difficult on a follower of Christ.
It is tempting to wonder whether or not we have done something wrong. Have we grieved God through disobedience? Are we withholding forgiveness from another person? Have we lost our passion for abiding with Christ?
But the truth is, not all of God’s silences are because we’ve grieved Him somehow. Sometimes there is a purpose. Because you see, God grows us through silence.
The Power of God’s Silence
When God is silent, it is a difficult thing to endure. The Bible equates our emotional state when God is silent to being as one who is ready to give up and die (Psalm 28:1).
When we endure God’s silences, we become aware of how destitute we are without Him. And that’s the point. Sometimes we have to be reminded how desperately we need Him.
We cannot always be on an upward trajectory in our faith. God didn’t wire us that way. Peaks and valleys we can understand, but what truly frustrates us as human beings is to seem to be stuck on a plateau. Not moving forward, not falling backward. Just stuck in the middle, with no clue what direction to take.
Ask anybody on a weight loss plan who has been carefully checking their progress. Being stuck on the same weight for a period of time can be very demotivating. We were not wired to accept this kind of inertia as a human being. To accept a plateau is to fall into depression.
But at times, we must endure being adrift. The key word being endurance. Because we have a choice in the silent plateau. We can either decide that God’s silence is unendurable and start choosing our own way, or we can learn what it means to thirst after Him again.
The Decision in God’s Silence
God does not seek to make robots out of us. We are clearly free to follow or not follow Christ. He leaves the decision to us. There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:25-27).
Another way God grows us through silence is providing the opportunity for us to continue to make that decision. Do we find God’s silence reveals more of our desire for Him? Or does it make us want to give up and seek our own will?
Does that sound like a cruel choice? Then do you breeze over Genesis 22 or do you really take it in? Abraham was so close to sacrificing Isaac at God’s command that he had the knife in the air ready to plunge it into his son, the heir to the promise of the nation of Israel, before God called to Him, stopping Him (Genesis 22:9-11). God put Abraham to that decision, with the intention of rewarding His obedience.
It is possible one will be tempted to soothe God’s silence with sin. We need to hold onto the fact that even in the midst of God’s silence, He will not abandon us. God’s promise to give us a way out of temptation will still apply if we choose to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Have you ever said to someone you love, “if I had to do it all over again, I’d choose you?” It’s a sweet sentiment. In the same way, God grows us through silence so we can come to the same conclusion about choosing to follow Jesus Christ.
Moving Out of God’s Silence
Even though God grows us through silence, God will not be silent forever. If His silence is to teach us, eventually we will come to appreciate our desperate thirst for Him, as God quenches it with His presence once again.
We’ve used the word a couple of times now, but the lesson we need to learn in times of God’s silences is that of endurance. And not for endurance’s sake, but to continue to trust Him, to accept He has a purpose in His silence.
It is natural for us to wonder if we have grieved God somehow when He is silent, but the truth is, God uses His silence as a teaching tool far more often than He does as a corrective one. When you look at examples in the Bible, God is actually quite vocal when we have failed to walk in obedience or holiness. The ministry of conviction continues through the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the world (John 16:7-8).
When climbers attempt to scale Mt Everest, they are not able to go all the way to the summit on one extended climb. They have to stop at intervals and acclimate themselves along the way, adapting their bodies to the changing conditions. Without taking these steps, they are less likely to reach the summit.
We can see the parallel in our faith. Sometimes God uses His silence to give us time to acclimate and prepare for what’s coming next in our lifelong journey with Him. The purpose in God’s silence is to prepare us for the next time He speaks.
Remember that God’s silence is worth it, because ultimately, God grows us through silence.
More Bible verses about God growing our faith:
John 4:23; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 2:6-7; Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:18