I appreciate you reaching out and can sense the desperation in your message. First, let me tell you, you are not alone. What you are experiencing is something I’m sure every Christian goes through. In fact, there is a term for it! It is called the Dark night of the Soul.
Check out this paragraph from R. C. Sproul:
“The dark night of the soul. This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.” It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him”. (1)
I show you that quote by Sproul to say that what you are experiencing is actually normal for a Christian. And I also must tell you that we often go through these periods as Christians more than once in our lives. We feel like God is far. That He doesn’t care. That He is not listening. That He has abandoned us. His silence can almost feel like death- like a big, long and dark spiritual death.
I think that there are several ways in which we as Christians can know how we have grown in our faith. For some people, the minute things get hard (life circumstances), the minute they say forget this Christianity thing. That often shows the depth of their belief. That maybe it was more shallow than they realized. For others, when they don’t get a particular answer to prayer (maybe a family member who was sick dies), they decide that there is no God that is listening and answering prayers or else that family member would be alive. Once again, a possible reflection of the strength of their belief. For others, it is these dark period where we feel that God has abandoned us through “no fault of our own” that makes us question His existence or goodness. But, I think this is where we can move to a new level in our knowledge and relationship with God- trusting Him even when we don’t feel Him. Even when we feel lost.
So, how do we deal with this? I think in several ways. First, know that God’s existence or His hearing our prayers isn’t based on our feelings of His closeness. We cannot always trust our feelings. In those moments when we feel God is far, or when our feelings are making us believe things that aren’t true, we have to decide to trust verses like, Matthew 28:20 where Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV). Or Hebrews 13:5, when the author of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 where God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (NIV). There are times as a Christian where you have to verbally speak truth to yourself to help yourself believe it.
Second, we need to realize that is seems that this is the way God has always interacted with His people. Philip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment with God, (a book that I would highly recommend), says: "Genesis closes with a single family, small enough for the Bible to name all its sons, settling into the friendly haven of Egypt. The next book, Exodus, opens with a swarm of Israelites toiling as slaves under a hostile pharaoh. Nowhere in the Bible will you find an account of what happened during the intervening four hundred years. I have heard many sermons on the life of Joseph, and many more on Moses and the miracle of the Exodus. But I have never heard a sermon on the four-hundred-year gap between Genesis and Exodus. (Could some of our feelings of disappointment stem from a habit of skipping over times of silence in favor of the Bible’s stories of victory?)”. (2)
And of course, what about our dear friend Job, who went through a long period of time before God broke His silence! The story of Job is a wonderful story. In fact, it is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I think many people share my love for the story, but I wonder if in some way our appreciation for the story is somehow influenced by the fact that we know the ending? We greatly rejoice over the beautiful way God breaks His silence in chapters 38-42, that we can somehow forget all the chapters before where God spoke not at all. And being in this position, where we are able to read the story knowing how good it ends, seems to skew our ability to experience the hardship in it. In that moment, it might be helpful for us to remind ourselves of how Job felt in chapter 6. Or chapter 26. Or chapter 36. My friend, considering that God is silent with His people throughout the Bible, just may mean He still at times is silent with us. The story makes it clear that Job was not going through all of this because of anything he had done wrong! God’s silence isn’t necessarily an act of punishment. It might just be a way in which he helps us grow in our relationship with Him.
As I write this reply to you, you may be like Job; begging God for a hearing. But can I suggest to you that perhaps you are only in chapter 6? Perhaps, you, like Job, must learn to worship and serve God even when you feel like you are talking to just air. God hears all, but for whatever reason is choosing to be silent. Regardless, your ability to continue to serve Him well in the silence will significantly help your growth as a child of God. Listen to truth, not to emotion. Hold on. Chapter 38 will come.
Finally, I want to remind you that God speaks in a variety of ways. Through a still small voice, through others, through a dream, and through His Bible to name a few. Don’t focus solely on the way that you expect God to speak. If you don’t hear Him, and are regularly reading your Bible, praying and living for Him, ask Him to guide you as you are making decisions. If you get it wrong, ask Him to pick you up and put you back on track. God hears you and sees you and has the ability to redeem even our failures.
Hope this helps,
(2) Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God p. 69