Back in October, I posted an article about God's silence. I want to revisit the subject, because I think it's a badly misunderstood topic for most modern western Christians. Here's some of what I wrote originally:
"Where is God? I mean, if God is everywhere, as theologians teach, and if God loves me deeply and wants a relationship of intimacy with me, as theologians also teach, where is he? I talk, talk, talk to him, and he is ... where? He says nothing. The conversation is decidedly one-sided."
"How do I deal with God's silence, his seeming absence? It's clear that he is often silent, though he has shown himself quite capable of conversation. David the Psalmist wrote of God withdrawing his presence (Psalm 51:11 and others), and cried out in anguish over it. Abraham, according to the biblical account, apparently went many years without a word from God, though he was asked to do some highly irregular things. Through history, Christian mystics have written of God's tendency to "withdraw himself" from us. St. John of the Cross wrote of the "dark night of the soul." Back in the 1970s, Christians used to talk about the "wilderness experience," a time - sometimes years - marked by God's apparent absence.
"As I write this, I confess to being depressed and discouraged. I have cried out to God, seeking his voice both in direction and reassurance that I have heard him, that I am in the place he has prepared for me, that I have significance and can look forward to a future with him.
"Why? Would it hurt God to let me in on what's going on in my life? It only seems fair, since I am, after all, the one who's living it. Perhaps it would be easier if it made some sense to me.
"...God has a long history of letting people wait without his evident presence. ...God has said some important things: that he will never leave us, never forsake us, and more. ...People through history have written of times in the wilderness as times of deepening and growth. The wilderness can kill us. But it can also focus us and heighten our senses. The choice is ours. We can panic and run -- likely to our death -- or we can wait calmly for God's purpose to be complete, when we once again move on, but at a deeper and more intimate level. ...God never really goes away. A fundamental principle of theology is that God is everywhere present. He is there with us, whether we can sense his presence or not."
Now, an update:
I have found the responses I have received, online and off, interesting. However, they have been more interesting than encouraging.
Most seem to assume that God is ever present, that if we are unaware of his presence, there is some fault in us, etc. Theologically, it's true that God promises never to leave us. We can and should have certainty in our faith and relationship with him.
There are many through history -- including the biblical psalmist -- who have cried out in anguish over God's silence, and his removal of his apparent presence from us. Some have called it "the dark night of the soul." It exists, and it is not necessarily the result of sin in someone's life.
Some psalms reflect this:
This You have seen, O LORD; Do not keep silence. O Lord, do not be far from me (Psalm 35:22).
God, create in me a clean heart, renew within me a resolute spirit, do not thrust me away from your presence, do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. Give me back the joy of your salvation, sustain in me a generous spirit (Psalm 51:10-12).
So the question, I think, is why? Why would God go silent?
Could it be that we might know him more deeply, more profoundly? We are beings who love superficiality. It's easy. It's uncomplicated. But God is not superficial, and seeks something far deeper than that for us. And so he becomes silent, seemingly withdrawing from us, and lets us realize something of our need for him.
We are not required to endure these times, however. The choice is ours. But the alternative is superficiality.