Day 28 Psalm 131
The silent treatment. Ask a group of husbands what are some things that their spouses do that drive them crazy and you will likely hear these three words repeated. For a variety of reasons, the respondents’ wives choose to shut down and not talk with their husbands, leaving the men frustrated, confused and angry. Communication comes to a halt until both sides can be persuaded to talk through the issues at hand. (And, by the way, I am not saying that the wives’ never have reason to respond in this way; Just pointing out what it is like when it happens.)
In any relationship, communication is crucial for the connection to be strong. That is why it can be very disconcerting when God seems to be giving you the silent treatment. You pray and there is no sense that your prayers are being heard, let alone receiving an answer. You call out to Him and God doesn’t seem to respond. It can feel like He is a million miles away and like a husband receiving the silent treatment from his wife, you begin to feel frustrated, confused and even angry.
At such times, we may want a reason for God’s apparent silence but not find one for a very good reason: God is God and doesn’t have to give us a reason! Nevertheless, because we are human, we will continue to look for a reason for God’s silence and may even feel that we have learned why. However, as you seek an answer, be careful not to let your conjecture drive you down a road of despair or fatalism that can only serve to drive you away from God and not to Him. That being said, there are some reasons for God’s silence that, once we are aware, we may be able to move forward until the silence ends.
The first reason may not make us feel better but may help us understand God’s silence in that moment. As noted above, God is not obligated to speak to us. He is God. He created all things and rules over all things. So, if He chooses to remain silent, that is his prerogative. We might call this the silence of sovereignty.
In the story of Job, we are privy to what led to Job’s multiple trials as the first chapter of the book gives us the background. Job, however, did not know why he went through all that he did. Even though God did not speak to him when Job was initially attacked by Satan, Job recognized that God was still in charge. In fact, rather than rail at God over the circumstances as his wife did, Job said, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Job accepted God’s complete sovereignty and trusted him, regardless how it looked or the outcome. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). Job, while he acknowledged God’s right to do whatever He desired, also believed that God was just. So, since Job believed that he was not guilty of any sin that would cause his troubles, he trusted in God’s goodness. He knew whatever God chose to do or allowed to be done to him, that it would be right and proper.
Job wasn’t being fatalistic. He was continuing to live out his faith in the midst of his personal storms. Likewise, when we are facing trials in our lives and God seems to be silent, we can choose to trust Him and keep living our lives in God-honoring ways. In fact, we can have the same attitude that James expressed when he wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Our sovereign God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us. He may choose to remain silent even when we are going through difficult times. It may be so that we can grow in our faith.
When my girls were first learning to ride a bike, I would begin by running alongside them, holding onto the bike. As I sensed that they were getting their balance, I would begin letting go of the bike for short periods of time, usually without their knowing. Eventually, I would stop running next to them and let them ride on without me. I would sometimes watch as they realized I wasn’t there and, because of their loss of “security,” they would slow down and fall. Then, I would help them up and we would try again, following the same pattern until they realized that they could ride without me holding tightly to the bike. I was still there, but they were gaining their balance and confidence as I would let go and let them ride solo.
Sometimes God takes us through times of testing where we learn to gain our balance and grow in our faith. Like a father letting go of a child’s bike, God sometimes watches us in our circumstances without saying a word. He does not intervene but lets us stumble, experience the pain of the situation, so we can learn and grow. Do we like going through such times when it feels as though God is absent and silent? No. Are these times necessary for us to learn and grow? Yes!
What can we do, then, to prepare for the silent times? First, we can memorize scripture so we can remember God’s voice even when He doesn’t seem to be answering us in the moment. There was an American POW during the Viet Nam War who was put into solitary confinement. He shared that, even though he called out, God remained silent. So, the soldier would spend hour upon hour remembering scriptures he had committed to memory and this, he said, was what saw him through his time of confinement. “What I discovered,” he said, “was that while it seemed God was silent and not answering my prayers, He was actually speaking to me through the scripture I had memorized.” Likewise, when it seems that God is giving you the silent treatment, we can still hear his voice through His Word.
That American POW was kept in isolation. Sometimes we may tend to isolate ourselves. If we don’t seem to be able to hear from God, such isolation only serves to magnify the silence. Instead, stay connected with the Body of Christ. When we go through times when God seems to be silent, if we are already in fellowship with other believers, we can find encouragement that God is still with us. Even if we are not hearing His voice directly, we can hear it in the words of others and be reminded that God is always there and His silence will not last forever.
During World War II, a group of Jews were hidden in a cellar in Cologne, Germany where one of them wrote these amazing words on the wall.
I believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when he is silent.
When God is silent in your life, will you still believe in Him? Hold on by faith to what you know in your heart. God, even in the times of silence, is still with you.