“Why do you stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do you hide Yourself in times of trouble?
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?”
(Psalm 10:1 & 13:1)
There’s something about silence that perplexes us. It can seem peaceful yet restless, eerie yet calm. Have you ever experienced a power outage? And hour after hour passes without noise? No hums, no whirls, no buzzes, no nothing? Was it strange? Did you like it? Did you hate it? Indeed, silence is a strange thing. It seems there are few places we can go to find silence. We’re so surrounded by noise in our everyday lives. Even the automobile is compromised, no matter how hard we try to stay silent. When you drive in your car with the radio off, does your brain fill in the silence with noise? Do you think constantly or are you able to stay quiet, inside and out? For me, I know that I cannot stop my brain from yapping, no matter how silent things are around me. It just wants to chat and chat.
Silence is perplexing. But silence is perceived. There are few places in the universe truly void of noise. For decades scientists have pointed microphones and radar receivers at the heavens. What they have found is noise. Even stars emit noise. Go out to the country. Maybe walk down some mountain path or sit beside a forest pond. Is there silence? Not likely. Just different noise from the city. So silence is perceived, but not necessarily real.
Let’s turn our attention towards God. Is God ever silent? Truly silent? You know, that I’d rather die than bear this silence silent? Is He? I don’t think so. But we can perceive Him to be silent. Especially when it comes to prayer or guidance. David perceived God to be silent during periods of His life. Look at his cries in the psalms. Where are You? How long will you wait? Why won’t You listen to my voice? Answer me quickly! David dwelt in the perceived silence of God. When you’re an innocent man running for your life, instant answers are vitally important. Get this: David had a priest with him during his wilderness wanderings. Priests were intermediaries between God and men. Even with a priest at his side, God seemed silent to David. The king-to-be longed for safety, longed for guidance, longed for resolution of his troubles. He was in a tight spot. But was God silent? Did God go on holiday? For 15 or more years? Not at all! Even though David longed for certain answers, God still worked in his life, preserving him and bringing him across situation after situation that needed the judgment and leadership of a king. God was guiding. God was working. David heard silence but God was speaking.
The same applies to the prophet Habakkuk. He cried out for God to hear him and looked but saw no action on God’s part (Hab 1). He assumed the silence of God. Then God decided to speak in a way Habakkuk understood. And He put the prophet in His place. God was not silent. He was working to answer the prophet’s cry by mobilizing the nations (Assyria, then Babylon). “Look among the nations!” God said with authority (1:5). “Be astonished! Wonder! because I am doing something in your days — you would not believe if you were told.” Could it be that the perceived silence of God comes because He is doing something in our lives or in our circumstances that we wouldn’t believe if He told us? That His ways are — gasp — not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts? God is working in the silence.
It hurts to not receive the answers we seek. Trust me. I’ve been there a lot. And I’ve hurt a lot. I think you have, too. Joseph spent 10 years in slavery and years in jail before God elevated Him to vice regent of Egypt. Job suffered emotionally AND physically in addition to financial ruin. He cried out to God and received silence. Then God spoke up with authority in Chapter 38. His answer? How dare you? I’m not silent. There are many who teach that God was silent for 400 years between the testaments but I don’t buy that. I think he was working and speaking, just not in a canonical way (through scripture). Look at Israel’s history between the testaments. There is no doubt God was working.
What do we do when we perceive the silence of God? I’d suggest taking a page from David’s playbook. After he cried out to God he would always recall the known character of God and the personal relationship He had with His people.Maybe that’s where we need to go, too. The pain may not completely go away but the soul WILL be satisfied. And look for His answer, always aware that His answer may be “no” or “not yet.” Or maybe He’s speaking to you in a voice or answering through a method you’re not expecting. I know that’s happened to me more than once. Remember that quote I used above? David cries, “How long?” He hears silence. This is the end of his psalm:
“But I have trusted in Your loving kindness (loyal love);
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord for He was dealt bountifully with me.”
May God bless you as you wait on Him.