I never would have guessed a plane ride would launch me into a significant time of growth in my spiritual life. With the deafening sounds of jet engines in my ears, I certainly wouldn’t have expected that growth to come from something quite the opposite–silence.
A few years ago, I left right after my college semester for five weeks studying and touring in Europe. My now-husband Mason and I had been “talking” for a while, but we parted ways for 40 days with not much more than notes to keep in touch. I wanted so badly to return from Europe with an answer as to whether or not I should date him.
Almost every afternoon I was in Scotland I would grab my Bible and head for the open country outside our house. I would stay outside for hours—talking, praying, thinking, reading. By my fourth week away, I gave up on hearing a direct answer from God. He seemed silent on the issue. And I was content with that. So I spent the rest of my time in Scotland talking to God about other things.
Guess what? When I was quiet, it turns out He had a lot to say to me that didn’t have to do with Mason. I can still remember God convicting me of my own pride and narrow-mindedness. I remember feeling burdened for the lostness on my college campus. I remember praying for friends and family like I hadn’t in a long time.
To this day, I treasure those Scotland walks as some of the most important times of knowing God and His character and allowing Him to scrape off all the gunk that was distracting me from Him.
One day at the end of my time there, I was taking a walk and praying as normal, and felt the Lord clearly impress on my that I was to continue my relationship with Mason–that he was to be a gift to me.
What? Had God just answered the very request I had surrendered days and days before?
Never had I realized that seeking God’s will could potentially distract from me seeking God Himself!
This experience reminded me how much we resent God’s silence! But why? As I was planning what to write on the blog in 2020, my mind kept coming back to those of you I know have been struggling with situations where God has not given clear direction, and then it hit me: I need to talk about silence.
Drawing from both my experience in Scotland, and a passage of Scripture, let’s piece together how to prepare for spiritual seasons of silence and how they can be used to grow our intimacy with the Father.
God’s silence can mean many things to many people. To one person, it may be having no direction about a job or next step to take in life. To another, it may be God holding back a response on a loved one’s health progress. To another still, it may mean God’s seemingly unclear answer on gray area or lifestyle. For me, it was an answer about a future spouse. How can we respond when God is silent?
The answer begins in Psalm 62. This Psalm was written by David in the midst of Absalom’s rebellion. Absalom was one of David’s sons who had his servants murder his brother for assaulting his sister. Absalom went away for a while and came back and ended up rebelling against his own father. Needless to say, David was dealing with his own family and spiritual warfare.
Here is what Psalm 62 teaches us about silence:
God breaks His silence when we are silent.
Verses 1 and 5 speak of “waiting in silence” for God. Why? David knew that it would be difficult to hear direction from the Lord if he kept talking. And it makes sense, right?
How many of us, with good intentions, keep talking and talking and talking to God about our problems and never stop long enough to give Him the opportunity to speak back? Think of the last time you sat in silence and waited upon God…contently. Didn’t speak. Didn’t complain. Just waited. It’s probably been a while. But David knew the key of humility and hearing from God. Give Him room to speak!
I experienced this in a practical way that summer and have encouraged others since: stop focusing on “the thing” and instead focus on God.
I fear that so many of us are on this mystical hunt for “God’s will” and “God’s perfect plan for our lives,” which in and of itself doesn’t seem bad, but when it distracts us from experiencing God Himself, we have totally missed the point of our existence.
Our purpose is to know God and make Him known. But we live in this oxymoronic culture that tells us to “do, do, do” and we find ourselves trying to make known a God that we have never truly known.
If you are currently dealing with a situation, or find yourself dealing with it in the near future, where God seems distant or even non-existent, ask yourself, “When was the last time I sat quiet before the Lord and asked Him to speak?”
I can’t wrap this up without the disclaimer that silence isn’t easy. And it also doesn’t mean we have to be like a monk who meditates hours every day. Silence can look like 30 minutes of set aside time to praise God–not just requests. Silence can look like 30 minutes in the Word. Silence can look like 30 minutes in nature observing the Lord’s creation. My silence was a sort of compilation of the three. But the hardest part for me was laying aside my persistent pursuit for answers and growth and His will so that I could allow myself to seek Him instead.
Make goals now to include silent time with the Lord in your daily routine (see The Pursuit of Change for more thorough goal-setting). As we continue the journey of seeking God despite seasons of silence (parts 2 and 3 to come), don’t give up! Knowing Him is always worth it.