You know how it feels.
You’ve trudged up a lonely mountain, sat cross-legged for five hours with a Bible in your lap and prayed intently for answers until your knee joints are screaming.
Or you’ve knelt endlessly at the altar, read the Scriptures and repeated the prayers; you’ve asked, sought and knocked during every sermon, liturgy and devotional reading you could find.
You’ve waited in faith and expectation, shouting hallelujahs, whispering quiet amens and pleading the Lord’s Prayer in reverent refrain.
And there is nothing. Zip. The heavens are steely cold. The airwaves are silent. The divine Internet has run out of data.
What on earth is going on? Why is God not saying anything?
At this point, one could go into detail into what the ancient mystics poetically termed “The Dark Night of the Soul” or how God’s silence is a divine strategy to draw us closer to Him. But though I love some of the ancient ponderings, we should first check off some other possibilities that have been tried and tested when God is not speaking in my own God-Conversations journey.
Here’s three possibilities to always consider when God seems silent:
1. He Has Already Spoken, But I Didn’t Listen.
This one is probably the most likely. We don’t listen because we don’t like what He said. It didn’t pull enough punch or He didn’t say what we wanted to hear. There are times when I’d hear something from God and maybe even write it down in my journal as an offhand thought but, in my desperation to hear something better, I’d promptly forget it. It was only weeks later when my Facebook news feed got boring that I rediscover it and realize it was worth taking a closer look.
2. I Haven’t Responded to the Last Thing He Said.
Perhaps we listened, but listening is not just hearing in God’s economy. Listening means fully taking in what He has said.
God’s Word is like food: We can’t just chew it and spit it out, we have to swallow it and digest it until it becomes a part of us. That takes time and effort. Often it requires action—meditation on His words, obeying what He said, living out His words in our lives.
“Eat this scroll I am giving you,” God said to the prophet Ezekiel, “and fill your stomach with it” (Ezekiel 3:3). We need to let His words fill our hearts before we are ready to receive more.
3. I’m Not Ready to Hear His Answer.
One of the darkest times in my life took place when I was 27 years old. It was one of those confusing incidents where it looks like God has failed, where it’s hard to believe He’s good and in control. Everything I believed about God fell apart.
So I did what everyone else does in those times and screamed out “Why?” with long and loud emanations. God eventually spoke, but what He said didn’t answer my question. His message mirrored Jesus’ words to the disciples during His farewell speech: “I have much more to tell you, but you are not ready for it”(John 16:12). You cannot understand my purposes in this. You cannot receive what I have for you. You are like the third grader trying to understand Pythagoras Theorem. First you must finish learning your times table.
It was a full year later when God finally answered my question. By then I was mature enough to understand His perspective. I was ready to hear what He said.
God’s wisdom means not only knowing what to say, but when to say it. If God appears to be silent today, be reassured by your knowledge of His character. His loving kindness is never failing even when we can’t feel it.
Then check yourself. Are you prepared to hear whatever He wants to say? Have you responded to the last thing He said? We may be waiting for Him, but sometimes it is He who is waiting for us.
Tania Harris (B.Ed. MA.Min) is an Aussie pastor, speaker and founder of God Conversations, a ministry that equips people to recognize God's voice. She is the producer and presenter of The Other Side of the Conversation study series and the author of The Easy Way to Hear GodÕs Voice, available free when you subscribe to the weekly resources blog at godconversations.com. Find Tania on Facebook and Twitter.