Have you experienced the silence of God? Perhaps it is a prayer or a question left long unanswered. Or maybe you have felt a spiritual void, empty of the felt presence of the Almighty. In the quest to hear God’s voice, it may tempting to move straight into a study of “I”: “What can I do to hear God’s voice? What can I change in myself to hear Him? How can I learn to distinguish His voice among others?” There certainly is teaching to be brought here, but beginning at this point puts us at risk of passing over a very important though troubling question: Could it be that God is silent?
The silence of God is attested to by the scriptures, the experiences of mighty men and women of God, and perhaps may even be the void that drew you to the title of this article. Knowing this could be the case does not make it any easier and I must admit, I have no comfort to give. Glib platitudes have no analgesic value against the pain that presents itself in the absence of the Divine voice. No advice, however well-meaning and true, can placate the ache to hear some heavenly echo.
That said, there is value in recognizing the silence of God. Admitting to the silence allows us to mourn it, to yearn for the voice, and to wrestle with the frustration of its absence. When we have permission to fill the quiet void with weeping, we leave the realm of spiritual numbness and embark into the hidden pain every human being has felt since the fall. It is the excruciating pain of our separation from God. This is not a sting only felt by the unsaved man or woman. Quite the opposite, it is an agony amplified to the one who has tasted of the heavenly waters only to look down and find his feet still planted on a parched, dry earth. To glimpse the day when God Himself shall be our tabernacle may serve to emphasize the great chasm that stands between the future fellowship of heaven and the present loneliness of earth.
And so, I believe, before we tackle the question of how to hear God’s voice, we must first allow ourselves to grieve the truth of the silence we really are experiencing. Although tears may be enough for some, I have found music and poetry to be two understanding guides and even friends through the process. These two give voice to feelings dry prose cannot touch. King David, a man well known for his closeness to God, was by no means unfamiliar with the anguish we too feel. Repeatedly throughout the Psalms, the poet-warrior turned to song in the silence of God.
He cries: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). He asks “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; And in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1-2). He pleads with God: “Do not be silent to me, Lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 28:1). With desperation he calls out: “Answer me speedily, O LORD; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.” (Psalm 143:7)
As you learn to grieve the silence of God, I would encourage you to read some of these Psalms in full. Some end with a feeling of renewed hope, others end as dimly as they began. All are raw and authentic testimonies to the real hurts God followers like us experience.
Practicing this art of grieving has a purpose and, though not comforting in the moment, it is good to know that the silence of God is not meaningless. It is your spiritual hunger that bears witness that you do not belong to the kingdom of the world but to the Kingdom of God. To mourn the distance between ourselves and the Lord is to testify that He and He alone can comfort us (and He will!). It’s when the ache for heaven overcomes the lust of this world that we put ourselves in the position to receive God’s best. And when we are honest enough to admit that we are morally famished and in need of the Lord’s righteous, loving voice, it is to that parched throat that water is most refreshing and food is most filling. This is the message of the first four beatitudes of Matthew, chapter 5 and it is also the message experience teaches us.
We can easily identify with statements such as “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “familiarity breeds contempt.” Suffering and deprivation seem to grow us while prosperity and success can create spiritual laziness. Even in earthly matters, it is common to find the pursuit of a good thing more enjoyable than obtaining it. And it is when we are denied something that we begin to crave it all the more whether it be marriage, children, freedom, or some other dream.
In short, the silence of God creates within us a yearning for the holy, a yearning for God. Our hunger for many things is purified into one desire, to experience God. And, as Jesus promised, the pure in heart will see God!