Published September 22, 2015

Paul's Epistle
"When God Seems Silent" - Part 2

Last week in this column I mentioned how so often, although we ask God for answers to various questions, answers simply don't seem to come. I discussed several ways we can hear from God, such as through prayer and by studying Scripture.

But when an answer finally does come – and it will – what might the answer be?

One answer we might not like is the most common: God says "No." One of the first words many children learn to say is "no" – because they hear it so often from their parents. Parents don't enjoy saying "no" to their children, but understand that some requests are not in the child's best interest. God, our Heavenly Father, says "no" for the same reason.

Interestingly, God's "No" often opens the door to a greater blessing. The Apostle Paul begged God to remove his "thorn in the flesh." The answer was always "no." But God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Another time, God might simply answer, not with a definite "no," but with what is essentially "not now." Perhaps this isn't the right time. God knows that. We, on the other hand, have no idea what's ahead. We need to trust Him – always – even when the answer is not what we expected – or, it seems, any answer at all.

If you're a long-time Christian, you most likely could give examples of how God has answered prayer in your life. But how many of those prayer answers came immediately? How many of those prayer answers came exactly as you had requested? How many of those prayer answers became apparent to you only much later, in hindsight?

Mary & Martha got word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was close to death. They didn't understand why Jesus didn't come immediately. Jesus seems silent on the issue. Then Lazarus, as you know, died before Jesus got there. But then, on His schedule (not the sisters' schedule), Jesus did arrive and raised Lazarus from the dead.

Tell me – which has more of an impact on our faith today – Jesus arriving immediately to cure Lazarus of some dread disease ... or ... Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead?  The latter, of course. God knew that. We must simply trust Him.

Sometimes when we think God is silent, He isn't – but He's giving us an answer we didn't expect, or perhaps it comes in a form we didn't expect and so we don't recognize it.

Matthew 11 has the story of John the Baptist, who was in prison, sending two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are You the Coming One [the Messiah]...or do we look for another?" Now, that sounds like a "yes" or "no" answer to me. But Jesus didn't answer that way. In verses 3 and 4 of that chapter, Jesus says, in effect, "Just look around you. Look what I've done – cured diseases, raised the dead, preached the Gospel. Look what I've provided. Look at the miracles I've performed."

Many times when we ask for an answer from God, we have a "yes" or "no" in mind. But perhaps God is simply saying to us, look around, look what I've done for you already, look at the miracles I've already performed in your life. He's saying, "Don't you trust Me now to get you through this time of questioning in your life? You know I can ... just look around you."

Here's something else to consider. Perhaps God has, indeed, answered you in some way. Perhaps He hasn't been silent, after all. But you just didn't like what He said – and, consciously or unconsciously, simply choose not to accept or believe it.

God does answer prayer. But that brings us back to this series' original question: why does God sometimes seem silent? I'll have some reasons – perhaps surprising – in next week's series conclusion.

- Paul

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