Published September 15, 2015

Paul's Epistle
"When God Seems Silent" - Part 1

Have you ever prayed earnestly for something? Perhaps an answer to some problem? Perhaps for God's direction in some decision you must make? But you just seem to get no answer at all from God. He just seems ... silent.

As Christians, we rely on God's direction. We want God's direction for our lives. We want to do God's will. So God's apparent silence on an issue is perplexing, frustrating, and perhaps even frightening. Why am I not hearing from God?

This is not a new question. The Psalmist was especially concerned about this. In Psalm 22:1-2 he writes, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear..." You'll recall that Jesus Himself quoted those words while he hung on the cross (Matt. 22, Mark 15). Another plea is in Psalm 83:1 "Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God!"

Job is another example of this. Job complained to God, "I cry out to You, but You do not answer me..." (Job 30:20). The cry was, "Oh, that God would speak..." (Job 11:5). But through the first 37 chapters of Job, his cries for help from God were met only with ... silence.

If you're struggling with this, the first thing you need to ask yourself – quite honestly – is this: are you actually listening for God's answer? "Hearing" is passive. "Listening" is active. We must do it. We must pay attention. I might hear something Shelia is saying to me, but if I know what's good for me, I'll also be listening!

So, if we're listening, what are we listening for? How do we actually hear from God? There are several ways.

First, you may hear God's words through other people. Christian friends, Sunday School teachers, preachers, radio Bible teachers, etc. That's one reason we come together in church. (See Hebrews 10:25.) Christians draw strength from other Christians. Christians who testify about what God's done in their lives can provide answers for other Christians who are dealing with similar matters in their lives.

Another way God communicates is through what's called God's "still, small voice." The term comes from the story in 1st Kings 19 where Elijah was on the mountain seeking comfort – seeking an answer – from the Lord. There was a great earthquake, but God wasn't in it. There was a great fire, but God wasn't in it. Then came the "still, small voice" of God to speak to Elijah. God prefers to communicate with His children individually, quietly, without a lot of noise and spectacle.

I like the term David used in Psalm 42:7 – "Deep calls unto deep." Now, although I'm taking this a bit out of context, I think this could be taken to mean that the "deepness" of God – His Holy Spirit – communicates with the deepest part of our being – our soul, our spirit. And this communication with our subconscious produces a growing awareness in our consciousness of God's will in a particular circumstance. No, that "still, small voice" is not actually audible – usually – but that voice communicates with us, nonetheless.

A third way, closely tied to the above, is prayer. Prayer is how we make our requests known to God. "...this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14). If there's nothing blocking your prayer – such as unconfessed sin – God hears you! And then John says, "And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (v 15).

During prayer, God has an amazing way of speaking to your heart – providing answers. But note this: If we're talking all the time, we can't listen very well. Talk to God – then give Him time to answer.

The fourth way God speaks to us is also pretty obvious – through His Word, the Bible. That's why God has given us the Bible. That's why we're instructed to study the Bible. Maybe, through His silence, God is simply waiting for you to read the answer He's already provided – given in His Word, the Bible.

As we listen and pray and study, what kind of answer are we looking for, anyway? And what kinds of answers does God give? We'll consider those questions next week.

- Paul

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