Many have endured God’s silence.
At Genesis 15: 13 God tells Abraham that his descendants will serve in a land not their own and be afflicted for 400 years. While there is some dispute over the actual length of the Egyptian captivity, we can be sure that the Israelites prayed daily for relief. Yet generations were born, grew old, and died without a deliverer in sight. Another 400 years during which God was silent passed between the Old and New Testaments.
At times, God’s silence is a response to sin on our part. God’s silence does not, however, imply His absence. That is the lesson His silence teaches us.
The process by which our faith is strengthened is painful. We can hear the anguish in psalms like the following:
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears…” (Ps. 39: 12).
“Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head…” (Ps. 83: 1-2).
“O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave…I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead…Lord, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? …” (Ps. 88: 1-4, 14).
Gradually, we come to recognize that God is always with us, whether we can sense His presence or not. Even when our faith falls short, He does not abandon us.
“Now when He [Jesus] got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. ” (Matt. 8: 23-26).
Like forgiveness, faith is as much an act of will as it is a feeling. On the sea of Galilee, when Jesus invited Peter to walk on the water, the apostle stepped out of the boat and did just that (Matt. 14: 28-29). Logic would have warned against so perilous an action. Indeed, when Peter saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid and began to sink (Matt. 14: 30).
We, too, are invited to step out in faith. Sometimes enthusiasm carries us forward. Other times we proceed with quaking heart, in the face of God’s silence. Our role is to seek His guidance, but remain steadfast in our belief, even when in rough seas, uncertain of our course.
In this, we have the tremendous advantage of knowing with absolute certainty that Christ is “a fact and not a belief,” to borrow Quaker Jane’s phrase. He is the Alpha and Omega, the King of Kings, the Light of the World, and our Redeemer.
Silence on God’s part or not, we should be willing to shout that truth from the rooftops…another thing Paul would consider solid food (Heb. 5: 13-14).