“I believe in the sun when it’s not shining, I believe in love even when I feel it not, I believe in God even when he is silent.” – Author Unknown –
I got a little tearful today. In public, no less. Relaxing by the Gulf waters here on Florida’s West Coast, I was watching the pelicans perform their aerial ballet; endlessly swooping down from the pilings to dive for their daily bread. In spite of the peaceful surroundings, my mind was busy sorting through the details of the latest tragedy to dominate the news cycles and the inevitable discourse in the arena of public debate. That’s when it happened. I could not help myself. The salty pools filled my eyes as I softly whispered “Where are you God? Why do you remain so silent?” I know better than to ask that question, but I still do it.
A friend of mine lost a loved one to the Grim Reaper this week. Through sorrow and tears he posted this observation on social media:
“It always seems to feel like a defeat when we pray and the outcome does not change. It is hard to understand why. But, God says to pray and that is what we are to do even if His plan is different from our own…”
I understand his frustration. It is difficult to see the goodness of God when we feel like He has let us down. But has He really failed us? I think not. Still, that’s how it feels sometimes.
Musician and author Andrew Peterson said it well in a song entitled, “The Silence of God”, penned in 1998:
“It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God.”*
Wow. Moaning for some comfort, and the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God. I’ve been there a time or three myself. If you are a contemplative type, just nod your head, as I am sure you have experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer as well.
Clearly, unless God chooses to explain Himself to us, which quite often He does not, His motivation and purposes are beyond the reach of mortal man.” – James Dobson
Have you ever felt like God was playing hard to get? I sure have. I’ve become angry and cursed when my prayers were not answered (or more truthfully, when I didn’t like the answer). I’ve walked through many a valley and spent seasons in the spiritual desert. I’ve doubted God and even wondered if He really exists. In those desperate moments, as far as I was concerned, God had let me down.
“Oh but brother, God will never let you down. Just keep on waiting. Hang in there. Don’t go by feelings. Doubt your doubts…not your faith. Seek the Lord. Keep on believing. Call those things which are not as though they were…”
Thank you. I’ve heard all that a thousand times before, and for the record, I agree. Yes indeed, no matter how unbearable my problems seem to be, “…Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27b) The power of the Almighty can still heal the woes of mankind today – including yours and mine. But knowing that truth does not mean we will never feel cast off.
Tell me, what happens when you are sitting at lunch with someone who looks you straight in the eye, struggling to hold back tears, and they say,
“I love God. I go to church and I even tithe. I talk to the Lord regularly about the things that weigh heavy on me. In my prayers, I ask… I seek… I knock. Then I wait and wait and wait some more. In the end, God remains silent. He takes no action that I can see. Instead, the awful often happens. I am hurt and angry. I don’t understand why he chooses not do things that seem so clearly right to me. Why doesn’t God keep His word like the preacher said He would? What happened to all those exceeding great and precious promises that I read about in His book?” I’m confused and empty inside. God has forsaken me.
Clearly this is a sincere human being who is very disillusioned. From where he sits, it feels like God has left the building. And he is not alone.
- “Why did I pray so intently for my husband’s healing… and he died?”
- “Why did I ask God for a child for twenty years… but I never conceived?”
- “Why didn’t the Lord help me raise the money to save my home?
- “If God is so good, why is His world so miserable and unhappy?”
There are no easy answers to any of these questions or countless others like them. The uncooked concerns of real life are painful to confront. It’s easier to suffer in silence as we live under the pretense that everything is going to be just fine. We keep telling ourselves, “God is going to make all this crummy stuff disappear one day soon and everything will be much better.” What happens when “someday soon” never seems to come?
Hiding your hurt, anger, and disappointment behind facades of God-speak and mechanical piety is poison to the soul. Your spirit slowly fills with a contagion that destroys your genuine faith in God. If perception is your reality, then I might as well just say it; from where some of you sit right now, it sure appears that God has gone silent.
But here is what I believe; it’s your imperfect expectations of God that have been dashed upon the rocks of disappointment. And now, it’s hard to navigate the waves of this life with a faith that has run aground.
When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is… Remember, the teacher is always quiet during a test.” – Author Unknown
Unconsciously, we absorb many erroneous and unconfirmed “facts” about the Almighty in the course of a lifetime. We read books about what He (supposedly) has promised to do for us whenever we pray. All of the sermons, seminars, and a million casual conversations have molded our interpretation of what we can expect from the Creator. Some of these expectations are spot-on. Some are not. The trouble begins when things don’t go the way we believe they should. Uncertainty and hesitation starts to replace our confidence in the plan of God. Over time, our faith may even grow steadily weaker.
Actually, it is okay if you occasionally feel like God has grown silent and even turned a deaf ear in your direction. It can really have a positive effect on your spiritual growth. Why? Because when God appears to be silent:
- We tend to cry out to Him more frequently and with greater intensity.
- We listen more carefully for His still small voice whispering to our spirit.
- We realize that the well intentioned advice of “others” sometimes just isn’t good enough.
If it seems like God is just not there for you, or worse, like He doesn’t care – consider this: In the Bible, Joseph waited 13 years, Abraham waited 25 years, and Moses waited 40 years for the clear direction and purpose of God to unfold in their lives. If God is making you wait, you’re in good company.
Look, when you’re suffering the silence of God – take a deep breath, have a good cry, scream out loud if it will make you feel better, but don’t give up. In reality, the Creator is never truly silent or absent from our lives – it just appears that way. I know this both from experience, and because He so plainly promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and His word is always good.
Do me a favor, listen carefully as I recap some important spiritual realities that you may or may not have learned on your journey thus far:
- Life on earth isn’t fair and you cannot change that. Get over it and move on.
- Praying to God isn’t a mystical process for getting things to go your way every time.
- Pain and struggle cannot be removed with a quick plea of faith and a votive candle. Generally, our Creator doesn’t wave a supernatural God wand and instantly change things just because you think He should.
- God exists outside of our dimension and, because we are chained to the illusionary ticking of the clock, He will often seem to move agonizingly slow in our present reality.
One day, a long time ago, when the great Liberator Jesus walked the earth, He encounter a man who had struggled for many years. His son was a mute, and prone to awful seizures which were attributed to demonic possession. The man had tried everything to help the boy to no avail. Until one fateful day when the Liberator Jesus said to him,
19 “…Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy, but when he saw Jesus, the demon convulsed the child horribly, and he fell to the ground writhing and foaming at the mouth.
21 “How long has he been this way?” Jesus asked the father.
And he replied, “Since he was very small, 22 and the demon often makes him fall into the fire or into water to kill him. Oh, have mercy on us and do something if you can.”
23 “If I can?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if you have faith.”
24 The father instantly replied, “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more!” (Mark 9:19-24)
It is easy to say “I believe in God” or “I have faith” when your life is sailing along on an even keel. But when that “trust” is severely put to the test, then what? Perhaps it takes those seasons in the wilderness, suffering the silence of God, for us to come face to face with the doubt and unbelief that still lurks within our own human spirit. And just like that father who cried out in despair “I do have faith; oh, help me to have more”, we too may need assistance believing from time to time.
Just remember, God is listening – even when it seems like He isn’t. The Biblical writer Paul told the faith community in Rome, “28And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” (Romans 8:28 TLB) Humanly speaking, your present circumstances may seem unbearable and impossible to overcome, “but with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26) I really do believe that. I do, I do, and I do! Lord, help us in those silent moments of doubt and despair. Strengthen our spirit so that we might have more faith in you. Amen.
*P.S. Listen to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cY4SJ_aBnY
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656