Before I sit down to update my blog, I pray. I ask God, “What do You want me to say?” Sometimes He’ll speak clearly to me from a passage I’ve read in my quiet times. Sometimes I’ll have a random moment of inspiration, and I’ll scribble down my idea on whatever scrap paper I can find.
This time I heard nothing.
At first I took that to mean that I should just wait for inspiration. But then I realized nothing was the inspiration.
There was a point in creation when God started with nothing. But then he made something out of nothing. And God has been up to something ever since.
Many times we’ll cry out to God – sometimes over and over again – and yet we hear nothing. Eventually we all go through periods of deafening silence from the Lord. Does He not hear our cry? Does He not care?
I’ve put some of the same prayer requests before the Lord for 20-some years. Some people would say that I should give up. But even those of you who only know me from this blog should have figured out by now that I don’t quit easily. Besides, I know that these particular prayers are in the will of God, and so I know that I am simply waiting on the Lord.
Jesus cried out on the cross to His Father: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). Yet God did nothing. But the nothing that He did then resulted in something that transformed the history of the world.
Daniel was in anguish over the terrible fate of his people, and he prayed. Despite his desperation, he heard nothing. Then Daniel had a vision in which an angel explained, "Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me 21 days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13).
So sometimes warfare in the heavenly realms delays God’s responses. I believe God also uses those periods of silence to refine our character and develop those fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – that we aspire toward.
It’s easy to experience peace when everything is going great. But it takes true spiritual muscle to experience peace in the midst of a trial. Similarly, it’s easy to be faithful in good times (think about tithing), but it’s harder to remain faithful in the not-so-good times. Such fruit comes with the ripening of perseverance, and perseverance is the product of hardship (Romans 5:3b).
For most of us, silence is uncomfortable. We like to fill up the stillness with noise and activity, even if it’s meaningless, mindless noise and activity. But then sometimes we miss the significance of the silence.
Have you ever noticed how you can tolerate silence only with those people whom you know best? And how some of your deepest moments in those relationships can be those in which nothing is said? Those moments of silence can speak volumes. Our ability to endure the silence is in direct proportion with our trust and comfort in the relationship. Hmm. Try applying that to your relationship with God.
Often we fear the silence. We fear what’s not being said. Have we lost favor in the sight of that person? Is he or she angry with me – or, worse yet, disappointed in me?
Silence from God doesn’t always mean you’re waiting on Him. Sometimes He’s waiting on you. He’s waiting on you to repent of ongoing sin. Or perhaps He’s waiting on you to take heed of the answer He’s already given you but you’ve ignored because it’s not the answer you wanted.
Or maybe you’re not listening at all. You’re just reciting your honey-do list to God, but you’re not taking the time to listen. Sometimes you can hear from God just through reading the Scriptures; it can happen through meditation or reflection on the Scriptures; or it can happen through just carving out time alone without distractions when you can actually hear His voice speaking to your heart.
Just know this: When God does speak, He will act. Numbers 23:19 tells us, “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”
I’m reminded of the final scene in the 1989 movie Moonstruck in which a husband confronted with his adultery tells his wife something like, “A man comes to a point where he realizes his life is built on nothing, and that’s a crazy, crazy day.” His stricken wife responds, “Your life is not built on nothing. Te amo [I love you].”
But our lives as Christians actually are built on nothing, for nothing can separate us from the love of God – “neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” (Romans 8:38-39).
And with that, I have nothing else to say.