Does God speak to us in modern times? Some Christians say yes; some say no. Some feel that He guides us indirectly through the Bible, counsel from wise people, a feeling of peace in our hearts, plus our circumstances and our God-given common sense.
- Trust God.
- Don’t rely on my own understanding.
- Acknowledge Him in everything.
The first two steps are pretty straightforward, but what does it mean to acknowledge God? Imagine for a moment that you are in a brainstorming session with a group of close friends, and they begin discussing a pressing question in your area of expertise. What if they hash that question over, desperately trying to figure it out…and they never once turn to you and say, “Jane, what do you think?”
Would you feel hurt?
I think I would. And sad, too, to think that they were missing out on the help that was sitting right there.
And so I aim to develop a lifelong habit of acknowledging Jesus in every perplexity and in every decision because, well, He knows everything. The promised result? He will direct my paths. Learning what that direction looks like from day to day has been an adventure that’s taken me up and down the coast of the US, and back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s what I know: God is faithful to guide me. But that guidance looks a little different every single time.
And sometimes, shockingly enough to me, that guidance has meant complete silence: an apparent absence of any directions at all.
A few years ago, I went through a whole season of silence. When I trusted God to lead me through an important decision, He said nothing. Not to me, or to those close to me. As the weeks and months went by, I was deeply disappointed in the Person I love best — and I didn’t know how to process that disappointment.
But you know, the clues did come trickling in to show me, one tiny fact at a time, what He was up to, even in the silence. Even though I still feel far from clear on what God’s silences are all about, I am certain He was up to something: that He had a purpose, and a good one, for me.
Here are some things I’ve learned about the silence:
- Sometimes it pinpoints a break in the lines of communication. When God is silent, it’s right to ask if I’ve pulled away from Him somehow, if there is some sin that’s interrupted my fellowship with Him. This is a problem that can be mended in a moment. If God shows me sin, I agree with Him, and it’s covered. If I don’t see one, I can simply turn the care of my heart over to Him, and confidently expect His help.
- Sometimes, in the pause, it dawns on me that I know the truth already…and it’s simply time to obey.
- Sometimes, it’s just not time for me to know what comes next. “I have many things to tell you,” Jesus said to His disciples at the Last Supper, “but you cannot bear them now.” He was not blaming them. He was not failing them. It simply wasn’t time.
- Sometimes silence is communication. If I was hoping for a change in my responsibilities, it might mean “Carry on, dear. You’re doing great!” If I wanted to take a wild leap of faith, it might mean, “No, dear. Not without a word from Me.”
- Sometimes silence is a test of faith. It’s okay to pour out my heart to God, to tell Him just how much it hurts. But even though it is silence, and painful…I should still remember Whose silence it is. It’s my Heavenly Father’s. And He loves me.
- I wonder if sometimes God’s silence is a sign of His trust in me. Think of the comfortable lull in conversation when two close friends are together. They know one another’s minds so well that neither feels obligated to put his thoughts into words. They’re just content to be together.
- Sometimes, perhaps, God is simply giving me the freedom to choose what I think will delight Him most. Recently I was so encouraged to hear the testimony of an older man, who wondered why God had seemed to call him to marry one woman…but it never came about. Today he is happily married to someone else, but the puzzlement remains. Or at least it did until recently, when God reminded him of how he seeks a Christmas present for his wife. Does he corner her and demand an exact list of her desires? No, he remains close to her, so close that he already knows what will bless his wife.
It’s the Christmas season. In a season where everyone’s expected to be festive, generous, joyful, and even downright jolly, it’s easy for some folks to feel left out, if not doubly gloomy in contrast with the merrymakers who surround them. In a time of year where we hear the nativity story with its heavenly choirs, angelic messengers, and divinely-sent dreams, the silence of God in our own lives could be doubly devastating.
But I honestly think that this season is for you: the depressed, the downcast, the seemingly forgotten. That’s the message of Christmas: light shining in deep darkness to people who felt unseen. The Jews, wondering how in the world a good God could leave them under the thumb of Rome. Anna and Simeon in the temple, watching decade after decade for the promised redemption. Some random shepherds in a back pasture.
I’ve written in the past about how snow and candlelight both illustrate the power God shows…in absolute silence.
Sometimes silence is meant to help you slow down long enough to look up. To show Jesus the look of trust on your face. And to see the incredible love on His.