What to Do When God Is Silent

BY RELEVANT GOD December 29, 2009

I
have to admit, I usually cringe when someone starts a conversation with
“God told me …” It just makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if they’re one
of the weirdo Christian types or a bit delusional. Sure, maybe it’s a
prematurely negative reaction, but having heard people boast “God told
me xyz” during much of my youth has made me somewhat of a skeptic. It’s
not that I doubt God’s ability to speak to us. It’s that I sometimes
question people’s motive for telling me, or their on-the-money
certainty, or the smug look-how-special-I-am attitude with which they
say it.

In
the church where I grew up, apparently God was telling all my peers who
to marry and which Bible college to attend. Hearing God was quite the
obsession. Because I didn’t hear God telling me things with the clarity
my friends were, I felt like a religious reject. God was more silent
than not. Granted, I’m sure there were times I didn’t listen and other
times when I should have been paying more attention. I won’t be naive
and deny that. Still, He just wasn’t as transparent and as clear to
see, hear and understand as I believed He should have been. I was
plagued with questions. Why was God ignoring me? What was wrong with
me? What did I do or not do? Was I not sincere? Should I pray more? And
on and on.

I’ve
since resolved, or have more peace than not, with the fact that God
doesn’t communicate with me in theatrics, but with a quiet assurance.
Sure, it bothers me every now and then, but I remind myself that it
just happens to be His modus operandi. I don’t have to walk around
thinking I suck because other people are allegedly hearing God talk to
them in flowery soliloquies that could match the length of a novella
and I don’t.

Make
no mistake. I definitely believe God speaks to us. But I also believe
the wires can get disconnected sometimes and His “speaking” and our
“hearing” is much broader and deeper than what human beings experience
in everyday conversation. We need to be very careful in trumpeting “God
told me _____” from our rooftops, especially when it involves other
people’s situations or the pain they are enduring.

I
believe God can speak to us in the still, small voice in our soul,
through words of wisdom from other people, through the indescribable
beauty of creation and through the Bible. I believe He speaks to us
through movies and even reality TV shows (He did speak through a
donkey), when we’re staring blankly into space paralyzed by life
circumstances, daydreaming while mopping the kitchen floor, crunching
numbers and bothered by a case of the Mondays, or while experiencing
road rage in a traffic jam. God can speak to us whenever and wherever.

Ecclesiastes
11:5 puts it this way: “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how
the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the
work of God, the Maker of all things” (TNIV). I’m going to guess His
“workings” include how He communicates with us. Even if we don’t
understand the method, we usually know it when it happens because it’s
so powerful, yet without the theatrics. And it’s usually about
ourselves instead of other people.

I
remember a few years back, sitting on my porch manically puffing on a
cigarette. I was in my chain-smoking phase and was indulging in some
self-destructive behavior, not knowing how to cope with my depression.
I was writing some words to encourage myself because I felt like crap
and I hated myself. Between furiously writing and breathing out the
nasty nicotine, in the depths of my soul, this thought struck me from
out of nowhere. “What are you doing?” That question, which was so
poignant, so genuinely caring and so loaded, prompted me to take some
serious stock of what was going on with me. Do I know beyond a shadow
of a doubt it was God? Of course not. If we’re honest, it’s impossible
to know for sure. But in the depths of my being, I really felt it was
Him.

Most
of us are plagued by the same questions when we feel God is silent. Why
does God choose to keep mum? Why doesn’t He choose to talk to us more
clearly? The truth is, there just aren’t any pat answers. Sometimes
we’re too busy with our own conversations to hear Him. Sometimes His
reasons for communicating (or not) with us are as mysterious as He is.
And the truth is, when we feel we hear God, sometimes we’re right and,
sadly, sometimes we’re wrong. How many bloody wars and senseless
conflicts have been sparked by those who think God told them to do
something clearly immoral? That’s why getting wise counsel and
following biblical principles are critical for guiding us to figure out
what we think God is telling us.

Don’t
base your spiritual walk on how often you hear God or don’t or what
He’s saying or not saying. When Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those
who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29), I think He was
saying something like, “Blessed are you who still believe in me but
don’t hear me all the time, or don’t always experience the kind of
religious pomp and circumstance that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.”

We are blessed because we believe—whether we hear or not.

A.J. Gregory is the author of the newly released book Silent Savior (Revell) and Messy Faith.
She is not afraid to seek out and expose the truth of the inner
life—the good, the bad and the ugly. This article originally appeared
in
RELEVANT magazine.

RELEVANT

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