Opening Thoughts On The Silence Of God

“Why do I not hear from God?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A reader yesterday suggested one cause of emotional doubt is the silence of God. Indeed, I had been planning on getting to that topic, but since it has been brought up, I might as well get to it. However, this is going to take more than one post. Therefore, consider this just a start to the topic and in fact, one I’m planning on writing a whole lot more on elsewhere.

To begin with, the reason this is such a large problem I suspect is because of a misnomer in the church. In our individualistic society, we have made it so that God is all about us rather than the point that we are to be all about God. It is the question of what God is doing in my life. It is not the question of what I am doing in His.

After all, when we look at the Bible, God is active everywhere! God speaks all throughout it! Miracles are taking place abundantly! Conversations between God and His followers are always happening and shouldn’t we expect the same today?

This is wrong on both counts.

Let’s consider someone like Abraham. Abraham was the friend of God. If anyone was to be having a regular conversation with God, surely it would be the friend of God. And yet at one point in the narrative of Genesis, we find that God is silent for thirteen years.

Thirteen years.

Can you imagine being a good friend with someone, someone you’d base your whole life around, and not speaking to them for thirteen years?

Abraham did.

There’s nothing in the text that indicates that this was unusual for Abraham. There’s nothing about him crying out that God is being silent. One can imagine how God’s regular guidance would have helped Abraham so much. He might have avoided that little situation with Hagar.

The reason the Bible records these times in fact are because they are not the norm. They are unusual. If you’re writing a biography of someone like Abraham Lincoln, you will not say “On such and such day at such and such time, Lincoln sneezed.” No one cares about that. You will record the highlights of his life such as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, his handling of the Civil War, his freeing of the slaves, and his assassination. (Not a highlight in the positive sense, but certainly an aspect of his life worth noting.)

This is the same with miracles. The Bible records these times when miracles happen because they are the exceptional times, and yet the times where they are abundant is rare. There are three such times. One is the Exodus. The next is the appearance of Elisha and Elijah which starts the age of the prophets. The final is the start of the apostolic age. Each of these centers around the new revelation that is coming. (I do of course hold that there are miracles going on today, and this is far more common in the third world and the cause of a number of churches. See Craig Keener’s “Miracles.”)

So I’d like to say at the start that God’s “abundant activity” and “constant speaking” is not really that. Over a period of around 2,000 years from Abraham to Jesus, there is not much if you averaged it out.

Second, why should we expect God would treat us the same way? This is usually part of our own pride in modern times. We are not Abraham. We are not David. We are not Paul. For most of us, the problem is that we think too much of ourselves. It could often be that God speaking to us would cause us to do so more.

Also, if our faith relies on God constantly giving us experiences, then we will never grow as Christians. We need to return more and more to the foundation of our faith, the resurrected Christ. We spend so much time waiting on God to act for us that we don’t often bother to act for Him. I suspect that when people in this position start acting for God more and more, they will find that He is much more of a reality in their lives.

To speak from my perspective, I can think of not one time in my life I have heard God speak. I know people who have and I think those will say it is exceptionally rare. I do not take people seriously who have a “Buddy Jesus” concept where God speaks to them on a regular basis that is practically casual. Too many people justify their own desires by saying “God told me” at the start. Personally, it won’t hurt you to have some skepticism over a message given to you that starts with “God told me.” Why should it? We are told to test prophecy after all!

Yet despite not hearing God speak, God has become more and more a reality in my life over the years. The more I have learned about Him, the more I have seen the great value He is to have in my life and the more I am aware of how much I don’t give Him that value too often. When push comes to shove, it is no surprise that my first thought is to think about what my God means to me. Sometimes it disappoints me that my mind can think about so many other things instead of Him. Take away God from my worldview and everything falls apart. (To which, if you remove God from your worldview and your world doesn’t change, you need to ask how much God mattered for you to begin with.)

Now I realize some of you are still saying that there is a problem. What are we to do when God is silent? Why is this happening? Does God not care? I hear those questions, and I will be getting to them, but that is for another day. For now, I have given some opening thoughts just to put my answers in better perspective. I hope it will help you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

  • Mother Theresa did not hear from God either as her life went along… Early on, yes… Later, no…

    Yet silence is the language of God…

    Listening to silence is discipled in the Church…

    Arsenios

  • Art

    The real question is not why God is silent, but why we are. God brought the entire universe and everything in it into existence. The heavens declare the glory of God. Why don’t we?

    When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the people asked Him to be silent.

    “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20: 18-19)

    So God had prophets speak through the ages of a Messiah who would come as the lamb of God to take away the sin of the world so that we might stand before Him forgiven and loved. By His suffering and death we were forgiven. Through His resurrection we were given the sure hope that death has been defeated. Unbelievers hold their hands over their ears and too many believers remain silent.

    Unbelievers should ask themselves, “Why do I want God to be silent?”

    Believers should answer the question, “Why am I so silent?”

  • Well, when you break it down like that it looks totally manageable. Thanks Alyson.