The Silence of God

Does He have to say something? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote some opening thoughts on God’s silence. I wish to continue that today by looking at the problem from a different perspective. Our complaints about God with Him being silent usually go like this.

If God really cared, He would not be silent now.
God is silent now.
So God doesn’t really care.

I highly question the first premise. Yesterday, I noted that I think the Bible is lacking in the number of times it has direct interaction between God and man. Usually, this interaction was also done through intermediaries, such as prophets, or even angelic messengers. Of course, this means that God was communicating with some people, but it also means that there were a huge majority that did not get direct communication.

In fact, a number of times, people in the greatest suffering did not get it. The Psalms are replete with this. The Psalmists are usually quite brutely honest about the way they think that God is treating them. I really have no problem with this! If you think God is not being fair with you, if you think He is not being faithful with you, etc., well I think you’re wrong, but I understand why you’re thinking that and one of the best things I think you can do is to go to Him with your concern and express it honestly. There’s no sense in hiding it. He knows all about it after all! The person who truly trusts God is the one that can present all of them to Him, even when it isn’t the best.

There are other times. Jesus on the cross in fact asked God why He had been forsaken. John the Baptist in prison was left there and had to go send word to Jesus in order to get a message that would bring him hope. Christ Himself promised us suffering.

What if we started then at the beginning and thought “Maybe the paradigm we have is wrong and this is not normative for the Christian life.” If God does not owe us personal communication, then He is not being wrong in not giving it to us.

If this becomes a cause for doubt, then this is where I think good apologetics does come in. Now this is not a post meant to argue with the atheist or make the case for Christianity, but it is one to say where the case must lie. If we want to know if Christianity is true, we must look to the person of Jesus. Is He who He said He was? Did He rise from the dead?

If that is the case, then Christianity is true. We must deal with that. If we want to be rational people, we have to go with what is true regardless, even if at particular times we don’t like the idea that Christianity is true, and honestly, for all of us there will be times that we don’t like the claims of Christianity.

If we turn the paradigm around then, we find that God has not been silent. He came Himself in the person of the Son. How is that being silent? Is God doing something in our lives? He doesn’t owe us that He has to do anything, but again, the question is not what is He doing with us, but what are we doing in His life?

Could it be it is not so much that God is silent and hidden, but rather instead the case that we too often are not looking and closing our ears? (No. I don’t mean closing our ears to an actual voice, but closing our ears to His truth that has already been revealed in such places as the Scriptures.)

If you think God doesn’t owe you anything, then that could seem like a scary thought. Actually, it’s a most awesome and liberating thought! It is a thought that once I think you really grasp it, you will see much more of the goodness of God in your life.

Readers know my wife and I are financially strapped right now. So back in February, a friend of ours had a fundraiser selling jewelry with 25% of the sales going to Deeper Waters. We were getting ready to do the podcast and I needed a headset I could use. What was the result of this event? We had two sets of customers come by all night and we raised $75. My reply?

Thanks be to God.

God is in charge. He did not owe me a lot to come in. He was not obligated to give me so much. As it is, we got enough for me to get a headset and it has been a blessing to us ever since then. It has allowed me to do the podcast. Would I have liked more? Yes. Yet God was not obligated to give me anything. That means that every penny I got that night from Him was a gift. If I had gone in there saying “God owes me this much” and not got that much, I would have had indignation towards God for not giving what He never promised and did not owe me.

It is from this kind of perspective that we should start to look at our lives differently. Look at every good thing that you have around you. You are not owed it. It is a gift. It is grace. Your job is not perfect? You have one. The income is a gift. Your spouse has characteristics you don’t like? My wife can say the same about me definitely, and yet we are gifts to one another. (Readers of this blog after all know that I have a constant penchant for giving thanks for Allie.) Your house isn’t the best? You have a roof over your head and a bed you can sleep in.

Every good and gracious gift comes from God above….

With this kind of attitude, come to God then. Give thanks. Learn to study the Scriptures and find out what He has said in them. Our tendency when we think we are hurt by someone is to want to block ourselves away from that someone. That only increases the divide. The best way is to put your foot forward. In our relationships, we usually wait for the other person to make the first move. Let us not do that. Let us do what is right just because it is right. (Since being married, I have often made it a point when I wrong someone to go to them as soon as I can and talk it out with them. Yes. That can also include Allie.)

Perhaps when we return to God, we will find how much He is active in our lives. Does that mean He is “speaking” to us. Not necessarily in the modern sense. It does mean we realize He has spoken and instead of looking for something new, perhaps we should pay attention to what has already been said. After all, if we ignore what He has already said, why should He bother giving us any more?

Could it be again, the problem lies more with us?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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

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