The silent God

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.

Silence.

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.

I think these "wilderness" experiences are common to our lives. I don't pretend to understand the reason for them, though I have some ideas. But they are a given: It's a matter of when they come, not if, for anyone who is serious about knowing and serving this God. And the big question is, what do we do when we find ourselves out there, alone, and with no sign of God?

I grew up in Colorado and spent many days wandering the mountains, sometimes without seeing another person or sign of civilization. And I learned some fundamental rules of survival. One is, when I don't know where I am, stop. Don't go anywhere, don't panic, but sit and wait calmly, thinking carefully about the situation. Rushed, panicky actions result in dead people.

The spiritual wilderness is no different. When life is confusing, don't run. Stop. Wait.

As I consider my situation in the mountains, I review what I know about both mountains and myself. Turns out, I know a lot, and often I find myself not as lost as I thought.

As I consider my situation in the wilderness, I review what I know about both God and myself, and I realize that I know quite a lot.

First, God has a long history of letting people wait without his evident presence. Second, God has over the centuries said some important things: that he will never leave us, never forsake us, and more. Third, 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. Fourth, 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. Very important to know.

A cardinal principle then is this: Be calm. Be cool. Wait on God. He's there, and he won't fail.

Years ago, I was the principal of a private school. It was a high energy environment that could test anyone's ability to remain calm. So I went to the local FedEx office and got from them some pin-on advertising buttons. I gave one to every faculty and staff member in the school, and the buttons sort of became our operating motto. "Don't Panic."

So, I don't panic. I remain cool. And I let God do his thing with me. Sometimes I don't like it, and sometimes it's difficult. But the alternative is unthinkable. God is faithful, and can be trusted. Even in the wilderness.

13 Comments

First, I feel for you. People somtimes see me as legalistic, or....throwing salt on the wound, but I only say what I say because I want to help. I want others to have their eyes opened, so that they can have the peace that surpasses all understanding.

I'm not going to give my opinion to your concerns. All I am going to do is copy and paste the word of God. If you believe that I may be taking a verse out of context, please
read the entire book that the passage is taken from. I would love to carry on this conversation in further posts, because I know that you will be helped. I have felt that way in the past, but I no longer do.

Heb 13:5 [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

To whom is this promis made??

1 Pet 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and his ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil.

1 Pet 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Isa 1:15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

John 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

!!!!!

Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

Eph 1:15 - 1:17 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Jam 1:5 - 1:6 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Pray for wisdom and understanding of his word, and set your heart towards doing God's will, and read, read, read. Goto blueletterbible.com for a free speaking bible...it only takes about an hour to listen to an entire book of the bible, (most books).

If you want God to speak to you, you have to change your mind about what God demands of you. God will not hear the prayers of sinners unless they are asking for understanding or wisdom. Don't take my word, try it.

I have found the replies on this thread interesting. However, they have been less encouraging than interesting. 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.

However...

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? Perhaps it's 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.

It's hard to contend with the evangelical 'school' when thatls just about all this generation knows. Their answers are pat, and predictable - and uncomforting to the point of unwitting cruelty. It is a black and white worldview without shades, and the inquirer has little chance of psychologically surviving, save reason and logic. I am now post- evangelical because of the simplistic answers its purveyors retch forth. The great movement which attracted so many to Jesus in the 60's and 70's has since blown its own foot off with scriptures. The silence of God is likely the most prevalent subject of a seeker's heart which reveals the gross immaturity of American Evangelicalism . It became, in the end, unbearable to me.

I am silent so as you, the humans, will continue
evolving and creating without interference.

Hey Silent,

One might hope that God has a sense of humor, or at least patience, about folks who impersonate him. Otherwise...

I think "The Silent God" makes a good point.

If God was too vocal and spoke to everyone, we would always be asking him what to do, where to go, what to wear, what to eat, all because we might fear that we're not doing something that God wants.

On the one hand yes, it would be more personal, but on the other hand, we would not be able to develop as human beings or become independent.

We would become like the needy girl/boyfriend that has to ask their loved one everything! Someone needy becomes very annoying and you start to wish they could think for themselves. If God is silent, we don't become needy and irritating.

I don't think God wants to interfere with our development unless absolutely necessary.

Also, if God showed up to everyone on earth, telling us all that heaven was a wonderful place - better than anything we could ask or imagine, everyone would then have all the proof they need to commit suicide.

This life is awfully difficult for majority of the world. Most people live in poverty and struggle. If God turned up and said "Hey everyone, don't worry, when you die there's a heaven where there is no pain, no tears and no evil." What would happen? God would inadvertently cause mass suicides to take place, and the billions of people who are currently suffering would all pray to die as soon as possible. And if they didn't commit suicide, we would probably all try to live as dangerously as possible in the hope of an 'accident' taking place.

If God was not silent, we would all spend our time focusing on the next life.

So be glad that God is relatively silent. It's probably one of the major things keeping you alive.

Rene,

Thanks for your comments. Interesting thoughts. One question, however: If it's to our benefit that God be silent so that we will more readily develop to maturity, then, by the same reasoning, could we say that a parent should ignore and even separate from his or her child, so that the child might grow up more readily? Doesn't seem the case to me. In fact, I would argue that we are designed to be in relationship with God, and that we cannot grow to our full potential except in conversational relationship with him. What do you think?

Hi Larry,

That's a good question. Should a parent ignore their child?

Although I understand where you're coming from, I think that there is a big difference between the love of a parent and the love of God.

One problem is that many humans limit God to a human personification and think that God should act like (a) a Father/Parent, (b) a King, (c) a Judge etc.

The problem here is that these are all limited human characteristics.

When we talk of God, we speak of a personal something that is beyond singular/plural, beyond both good and evil, beyond understanding and comprehension, beyond time and space, and beyond animate/inanimate subjects and/or objects. This God is beyond our concepts of Life and Death and Right/Wrong and even beyond our limited human understanding of what a 'person' is. We are talking about a God who has the power to bend and break all known laws of reality, and on occasion has done so with different individuals. When we speak of God, we speak of a terrifying and powerful mystery...I say terrifying because anyone who has ever been confronted with that immense power is usually terrified - whether one is an OT/NT prophet or a modern day mystic. Even Jesus referred to God as the 'Power'.

At the same time, this terrifying Power...is Love, and the source of all Life and Love in the universe(s). This God who is Love is everywhere, in every dimension of existence, behind our eyeballs, inside our brains, and within every cell of our bodies, like an electron/proton/neutron. This God is smaller than the smallest quark and larger than the largest universe and/or multiverse.

There is no material or immaterial location where God is not, for God is everywhere. As the Psalmist says, "If I ascend up into heaven, you are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there."

This Love is everywhere and in everything. But this Love is personal something. Even calling God a 'person' is a limitation of God.

God is not lov-ing, as if he is a loving parent. God actually IS Love. While a father/parent may be loving, we cannot call our parents Love.

When we refer to God as a father or a king, it is not because it is literally so. To do that would be to diminish what God actually is. But when we call God a king, what we mean is that God is in charge...God is the 'Boss', so to speak. God can break all the 'rules' if God so chooses. This is what it means to be 'sovereign' or the 'King of the Universe'. There is no written or unwritten law that God MUST obey.

Many humans try to limit God by using a human personification, and many say God 'cannot' do this or that, because they have limited God. Sometimes people will say God 'cannot'or 'will not' oppose our Free Will, or God 'cannot' or 'will not' contradict the Bible.

However, the moment we do this, we fail to respect God's ultimate sovereignty. God can UNMAKE us if God so chooses, and God eliminate Free Will if God so chooses, and God can contradict everything that God says about God if God so chooses.

This is what we mean when we say "God is King". There is no literal throneroom, or literal crown, but God is the ultimate authority. Over good, over evil, over life, over death, over all.

When we call God the 'Father', we understand it in the light of ancient Israel's patriarchal society - God is the one with the foremost authority and from whom we inherit everything we have. God is not a Father, but is 'like' a Father in some certain respects but not all.

God does not seem to 'chat' to most of us, like a father does. God does not 'call to see how you're doing' or 'invite you over for a quick bite to eat'. In these respects, God is not like a Father.

But in terms of the ancient Israelite Father who cares for all his children, who is the common ancestor of all, who retains the highest honour and place within the family, God is like a Father.

Which is why God can be silent because it is best for humanity...not because that is what a loving human father would do for his human child.

Unlike a human father, God who is beyond time and is not shocked or hurt by anything that humanity can ever do because our Future is God's Past.

The way things are is the best plan for humanity. Every action and reaction in our Future is in God's Past, although God experiences it all as Past/Present/Future all at the same time - in the eternal NOW.

So God is in fact nothing like a human father while at the same time being very like a human father in certain contexts.

We may not 'feel' that God is Love, because of the complexity of God's Plan...a grand tapestry where every single atom has been co-ordinated by God to create the Final Picture - which is Love.

Whoops...sorry for the long response...to me, God is the most amazing reality I have ever thought about. The more I think of God, the more amazed I become.

I just see God and a human father as incomparable. :)

By the way, I used to complain to God all the time that we should be having a 'personal relationship', and that our conversations felt very one-sided. I kept praying that God would speak to me audibly. I remember praying that when I was 19 and nearly all the time.

When I was 28, God audibly spoke to me for about half an hour. It was the most amazing experience of my life, which ended with God literally throwing me out of my 3rd floor bedroom window, and me hitting the concrete ground without any broken bones, just as a display of God's power. Although I had a huge bruise on my left leg from internal bleeding, I did not have a scratch on my exterior.


But that experience proved God's reality without a shadow of a doubt. However it made me realise how limited my understanding of God was, and how much beyond our comprehension God actually is.

Based on my experience of God not being silent, I really do believe with all my heart that it is better for humanity that God is silent, which is why God is silent for most of humanity. God really does know what He's doing, but even I complain to God regularly that He should show up more. God infuriates me by his lack of 'turning up', and I make my annoyance known to God very vocally.

But because I know what God CAN do, I trust that God knows God He's doing. Which is why I believe it is better for God to be (on the whole) silent. And I thank God that God doesn't talk to me all the time (although once in a while would be nice). lol!

:)

One more thing...and I hate to say it...but all throughout the Bible, in the examples of Christian mystics throughout the ages, and through my own personal experience, there is often a cost for having a close encounter with God.

Whether you call it Paul's Satanic thorn in the flesh, Job's Satanic torment, Jesus' temptation by the Devil, or St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul, the price for experiencing the wonderful intimacy of God is sometimes a most terrible and demonic experience.

Many Christian mystics who have experienced God intimately have had to wrestle demons and have a close encounter of the devil. 8 months after my intimate encounter with God, I myself had to endure one year of non-stop demonic torment, day and night, wrestling with something that called itself the devil who said there was no God and no Jesus. It seems I got off lightly when compared to some of the ancient Christian mystics who battled for YEARS with a constant demon or the devil.

Such a profound experience of the reality of God was followed by such a torment that said that God was not real.

But all of us have to experience this. You do, but on a different level.

You are facing depression and sadness at God's silence. Jesus had to do the same. So did Job. So do I.

The price I've had to pay for a half-hour 'personal relationship' with God is a one-year long demonic torment, alienation and lack of understanding from church and Christian friends, a complete restructuring of everything I thought I knew, and inability to say anything of what I have experienced to most people for fear of condemnation.

To be honest, if I had known before-hand all the painful things that would happen to me as a result of half an hour of intimacy with God, I wouldn't have agreed to it. The price was much too great, and the pain and sadness I felt and even still feel is difficult to bear. Yet...I am torn...on the one hand I wish I had never experienced anything of God, but on the other, part of me feels it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So...my conclusion I guess is this...if you can take the pain and suffering and all the most awful things happening to you, then seek to experience God, and you will experience something most amazing. Just don't say I didn't warn you...there will be a price to pay. You will recover from the pain and suffering but it will take a LONG time.

:)

Rene,
Your descrption of God is exceptional and very amazing. After reading your article I spent the whole week reading about the "Sovereignity of God" from various sources.

It is a pity that I have just come across the Theology Website just about 3 weeks ago and missed this discussion while it was still lively. I read the discussion just when I had gone through difficult times and had sought God's intervention.

I have heard Television Preachers who give testmony of being able to have a dialogue with God "at will" on daily basis and without serious consequence as you have experienced. In fact, I had spent two nights trying to cox God to speek to me in the "small still voice". After reading your article I abandoned asking God to speak to me for being afraid of being bruised as yourself.

Now, Rene tell me, if you can, are the television preachers cheats about being able to speak to God at will? Or God acted violently with you because you are not the Lord's annointed?

Lastly, I would like to get your personal e-mail address so that I can continue seeking information from you regarding your experience with th Almighty.
Mbwale

Mbwale,

The idea that we can talk with God at will is a good one, and valid. The Bible encourages us to pray always. We cannot, however, compel God to talk back. Nevertheless, I believe he speaks far more often than we are listening.

I reject the idea that in order to hear the voice of God we have to submit to being beaten and bruised. There is nothing in the Bible to support that, and very often our bruises are self-inflicted. I have to take exception with Rene's posts, and say not everyone experiences what she has.

Rene is most likely not reading here anymore, but for anyone who does, I want to add my opinion. I too experienced a long period of time of being demonically tormented mentally and emotionally.

My opinion is that this sort of thing doesn't happen because we've been close to God, but because we've opened ourselves up to demonic torment by a wrong idea about God.

By thinking wrongly about God in a way that allows demons to step in and pretend to be the voice of God, or if we realize they must not be, we talk to them instead of talking only to God with peace of heart that God will take care of the situation.

When I finally stopped trying to reach God in the way I was doing, I stopped being open to demonic oppression.

They kept trying, but I refused to pay any attention to the thoughts and feelings they were giving to me. I just kept faith that God was with me and things were fine between us and went about my business. When I prayed, I trusted. They disappeared. No more harassment.

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  • Jen said:
      Rene is most likely not reading here anymore, but for anyone who does,...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Mbwale, The idea that we can talk with God at will is a good one, and...
  • Mbwale said:
      Rene, Your descrption of God is exceptional and very amazing. After re...
  • Rene said:
      One more thing...and I hate to say it...but all throughout the Bible, ...
  • Rene said:
      By the way, I used to complain to God all the time that we should be h...
  • Rene said:
      Hi Larry, That's a good question. Should a parent ignore their child?...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Rene, Thanks for your comments. Interesting thoughts. One question, h...
  • Rene said:
      I think "The Silent God" makes a good point. If God was too vocal and...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hey Silent, One might hope that God has a sense of humor, or at least...
  • The Silent God said:
      I am silent so as you, the humans, will continue evolving and creatin...

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