I have often been through dry seasons. I mean really dry. I haven’t lost my faith and I am convicted I won’t do that since I have tested and seen the goodness of God. I have experienced joy unspeakable, incredible assurance of God’s presence, immeasurable blessings and indubitable hand of protection. But even in all this I have had moments where God’s silence was seemingly too loud and unbearable. And during such seasons I always find myself trying what I can possibly do as a human being to “get things right”, “mend my ways”, “strengthen myself” etc. Quite often than not it has ended in futility.
At some point as a youth pastor and leader I thought something must be wrong with me. And I have realized that I can be in church from Tuesday morning to Sunday evening and yet experience some unendurable dryness. I can have all the study Bibles, commentaries and Bible dictionaries I may need on my table and yet struggle to open any for a number of days…or read and try to study but then struggle grasping anything or hearing God through the same. I can attend all the prayer meetings and plan for some extra time to pray alone and still feel empty.
I know I am not alone in this struggle. Several friends have reached out to me in the recent past seeking guidance on this particular subject. I may have been helpful to some, hopefully, and having struggled with such moments I decided to pen down this article.
Truth be said, God’s silence is a very perturbing matter. Skeptics have always used this as an attack to Christian faith to prove that God does not exist. After all, If He exists, and loves His people why wouldn’t He let Himself known by speaking with His people? Why does He ‘hide’ Himself from His people? If God is a good and loving Father, what good and loving Father seems silent in the face of His children’s suffering?
There’s a sense in which God is never silent. He has already spoken in his word and by becoming man and dying for us on the cross, purchasing our eternal salvation. This is speech, and speech is not silence! What we call God’s silence may actually be our inability, or in some cases (certainly not all) our unwillingness, to hear him. Fortunately, that hearing loss for God’s children need not be permanent. And given the promise of resurrection, it certainly won’t be permanent.
Psalm 19:1 tells us the heavens shout about God’s glory. Romans 1:20 shows how clearly creation proves God’s existence. God speaks not only through his word, but also through his world. When my heart is heavy, talking a walk to the beach and gazing at the beautiful horizon is often better than listening to a great sermon or reading a good book.
Still, when we can’t hear God, we can keep showing up and opening his word, day after day, to look at what he has already said — and done — and contemplate and memorize it until we realize this is not silence but is God speaking to us. Naturally, there remains a subjective sense in which we long to hear God in a more personal way. God spoke to Elijah in “a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).
The problem with low whispers is they’re not easy to hear — especially when all around us the wind is howling! Why does God sometimes speak so quietly that it’s hard to hear him? The answer may be to bring us to the end of ourselves. To prompt us to be still and seek him. And to build our faith and eventually speak more clearly or heal our hearing problem.
Everyone at some point in his or her life, will go through a time of spiritual desolation. Some of our greatest saints experienced years of spiritual desolation and feeling distant from God. Mother Teresa spent 40 years in spiritual darkness. Abraham, the father of our faith, spent 13 years without any communication from God — and his faith only grew stronger. St. Ignatius of Loyola experienced so much of this spiritual emptiness that he wrote the famous “Spiritual Exercises.” The list is endless.
So why does God allow us to experience these times of struggle in prayer and study of His word?
There can be a variety of reasons. It could be God’s way of alerting us to the realization that we’re trapped in a pattern of sin. It could be a way to test and strengthen our faith through trials. God could be alerting you about the need to re-examine your prayer habits. Maybe it’s a great opportunity for you to search the scriptures more. God may seem quiet right now, but He’s already written a love story, just for you, in the Bible. I don’t care if you’ve heard a passage a hundred times before: He always has something new to show you. Such moments also show us the need to reach out for community. Sharing your struggles with others and letting them journey with you may show you the beauty of relationships. It could be a blessing in disguise, with God calling us to be more intentional in the pursuit of Him. No matter the reason, desolate times are an opportunity for growth so we can learn how to find the light in our personal darkness.
We are not ignorant of the schemes of the evil one though, and we know as people of faith that we face constant attacks from the evil one. The devil knows that if He attacks your prayer life and keep you too busy for the word of God you will not enjoy this walk of faith, and he can easily win war against you. That means we need to be careful not to give in to his lies during moments of spiritual dryness or desolation.
God’s apparent silence could point out to a broken relationship between Him and us. The story of redemption as it plays out in scriptures is a clear indication that God is loving and His has always been working to reconcile man to Himself. But man, from time immemorial, has always been rebellious. God speaks through His prophet Isaiah 59:2 that “…your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” It is paramount for us to examine our ways and allow God to search our hearts during such moments. By yielding ourselves God through will graciously help us deal with sins that may be hindering us from hearing Him