Thank you so much for your honesty. It takes a lot of courage for us to be real and vulnerable about where we are at in our personal walk with Christ, I commend you for that. I also want to encourage you, with the fact that you are not alone in this struggle. Throughout human history people have struggled with the silence of God. There are prominent characters and chapters in scripture that speak of similar feelings to what you have described. It’s so important that we take time to talk about this in christian community because, as you say it can be such a hard thing to explain or feel comfortable speaking about that too many brothers and sisters in Christ end up struggling on their own.
One of the first things that I think we need to be aware of, is that some of our struggles with hearing, sensing or feeling the presence of God can be attributed to either comparison with other’s stories or unhelpful language that the Christian community uses to describe or define closeness with God.
This summer I was with a few of our other speakers at a conference called Creation Fest. At the end of a seminar a woman came to speak to me and @Alycia_Wood. She was thinking of giving up her faith because she could not hear God speak to her and she because she could not feel God. We spoke to her at length, without going into any of her personal story, it was clear that many of her expectations about the nearness of God and hearing God’s voice came from listening to other people’s experiences or from common phrases used in preaching that can be helpful to describe God’s love and desire for relationship, but can also set unhelpful expectations for all of us at times.
It is true that the Bible tells us that God loves us as a father, that he is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, that he desires that we draw near to him with faith, and when we call to Him he will answer. This is why there is so much good biblical teaching on the discipline of learning to hear and recognize God’s voice and what is on offer to us as believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our comforter. However, we also need to recognize and teach the parts of scripture that speak of the silence of God, times when we feel like we are in a spiritual desert, or even that we have been forsaken.
I grew up in a church tradition where there was a lot of practice with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The people who I looked up to the most seemed to have a directly line to God, they heard his voice, felt his presence in ways that were at times physically overwhelming, they had amazing dreams and saw many miraculous things. I am still in touch with many of these bible believing and God-fearing men and women today. For as much as I could see or judge, all of what they described or saw was real and authenticated not only in their lives but also in the lives of others who encountered Jesus Christ through them. Although I had the blessing of witnessing so much of this first hand, in many different countries and in various church traditions, I often struggled with the fact that I did not have the same experiences in my relationship with Christ. I spent many hours begging God to show up for me the way that I believed that He could and in the way that I had witnessed in these close friends and mentors. Yet, in truth I never felt that he actually did.
You are not alone in this struggle. Many hero’s of the faith who have gone before and many brothers and sisters in Christ today are absolutely confident of who God is and that they belong to Him and yet yearn for a more tangible sense of His presence. The best thing that I have found to comfort my soul and others in this time is to turn to the places in scripture that puts words to what I cannot. The scripture not only validates our struggle in this area, but it gives us the words to pray and promises to hang on to in the dry or silent seasons. Job, David and even Jesus himself all struggled with feeling unheard, abandoned or forsaken by God. I encourage you to do a study on the silence of God, there are many good resources on line where you can search the bible for themes or verses. Here are just a few of the verses that I have found helpful.
Psalm 28:1 To You, O LORD, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.
Psalm 83:1 O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.
Job 13:15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
The truth is that we have the witness of Jesus’ live, death, and resurrection as historical evidence that is proof enough that there is a God, He is real, He loves us more than we could ever imagine, and that He is alive today and at work today. Even if we never hear or sense him the way we would like to, we can hold onto the the historical witness of God in Christ, and cling to His words He has given us in the Bible. Also remember to keep speaking to Him, even in the silence. Just because we cannot sense His presence or hear His voice, it does not mean that our all powerful God cannot hear us, isn’t listening, or is not near. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and we can stand on His promises because He has proven himself faithful in Christ Jesus.
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers also encourages us to think differently about the silence of God in our lives. He says, “when you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible — with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.”
Do not be discouraged Eric, you are not alone. God is with you, He is for you and not against you, and you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who chose believe even when they did not see or receive the promises they hoped for. They are cheering you on from eternity and we, your brother and sisters in Christ, are standing with you at this time.
Grace and Peace,