I was asked for help a couple of days ago by a believer that I know walks with Christ and whom I know seeks the Father’s will from time spent in scripture and prayer. The request was for a close family member who has been trying to find employment. The concern expressed in her request was twofold: (1) that her family member’s faith was starting to waver because of the length of time it apparently is taking for God to answer her requests and her need for employment, and (2) that she (the believer that requested help) wasn’t hearing from God through the Word, sermons, or other avenues. She confessed that she was becoming confused because God has never been silent in this manner for such a length of time. My response was that I would pray and think about her and her family member’s need and that I would get back to her.
Well, while I am writing in such a way to protect this believer’s anonymity, I believe that her experience is a universal one to believers across time and culture. That is why I have decided to try to give counsel via this blog so that others may also be encouraged by this family’s circumstance. Without relying upon trite Christian sayings about persevering and patience and God’s timing, I want to use a Biblical example to point readers to some comfort during times when (from our perspective) God is silent. In order to accomplish this, I would like for us to review some material from the book of Job.
For starters, many Bible scholars agree that while Job may not have been written down prior to the first five books of Moses (Genesis thru Deuteronomy), it definitely represents the oldest self-contained narrative that we have in scripture. Many believe that the tale is even pre-flood. So, the themes represented in Job are as ancient as mankind itself. What are these themes? Suffering, Satan’s attacks, God’s goodness, man’s pride, trusting God when He is silent – which in turn relates to the patience. Job trusted and feared God; he respected the Creator of all things. Yet, we find that through no fault of His own, God allows Satan to inflict suffering on Job. Notice that God does not cause the suffering, but rather, allows the enemy Satan to inflict suffering on Job. Why would God allow his servant (as a believer — His child) to go through so many horrible things that affect our lives on this earth? I believe that it was so that Job would come to know his GOD better, in a more real way, not superstitiously but through encounter. Listen to the words of Job at the end of the recorded encounter…
“1Then Job replied to the LORD:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
It is telling that prior to Job’s struggles and his encounter with the almighty that his “ears had heard of God [you, sic.].” But afterward, Job says “but now my eyes have seen you.” Whenever, we experience times of suffering or God’s silence, the first question that we often ask is “why?” Why? Why? Why? Why did he die? Why did I lose my job? Why am I being hastled for doing the right thing? Why does this individual live like the devil with no regard for God or righteousness and get rewarded with material wealth and advancement? The prophet Jeremiah asks the question outright, “Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You;Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” And King David, whom Jesus said was a man after God’s own heart said, “How long, LORD?Will You hide Yourself forever?” It is apparent in even a casual scan of scripture that God’s people sooner or later encounter a time when God is silent toward them and when if they are not careful, the “WHY” questions will overwhelm their faith and cause confusion.
I believe that this is because the “WHY” question is the absolutely wrong question for the believer to ask during these times. I am becoming ever more increasingly convinced that the right question to ask is “WHAT.” What do I need to learn from this Lord? What is it I need to do Lord? Or… perhaps “HOW.” Or perhaps ” WHEN.” These questions imply getting to KNOW the Lord better than you have before. The question WHY is intrinsically a self-centered question that places one’s focus on themself and their circumstance. Thus, WHY creates a tunnel vision that can be hard indeed for any person to come out of or to see beyond. WHY leads to depression, disillusionment, etc. Whereas, WHAT or HOW broadens the circumstance out beyond our own ego-centrism. To put it plainly and simply, WHAT and HOW place the eyes of our heart back on God Himself – on Christ where, in contrast, WHY presumes that God owes you or I an answer and places the attention of our hearts back on ourselves.
The praise song Open The Eyes Of My Heart, Lord proclaims our desire to have our spiritual eyes placed upon the Lord and not ourselves, for example.
SO, what does all this have to do with encouragement for the family member of the believer first mentioned above? What does this have to do with the silence that believer is having from God? What kind of encouragement is all this theological wrangling for these two faith pilgrims? Simply this, there may never be an explanation for God’s silence that is acceptable on a fleshly human level. But, that does not mean that God is not present or in control. Just like Job in the midst of his questions and turmoil over what God was allowing to happen in his life, the believer must determine down deep in his or her soul that, “25For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25, ESV)
You see, even when you or I do not get a direct word of direction or explanation from the LORD GOD, we must determine to go on in faith, trusting God’s promises to us that He has revealed. Even for those who are weak in their faith and struggling with their relationship to God, the only solace we have is in what God has clearly stated in His Word. So, when HE is silent, what can encourage us? How about the following statements that He has made and made clearly:
“35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:35-39]
Or how about….
“29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” [Galatians 3:29]
“20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness ere through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” [Galatians 2:20-21, ESV]
“2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” [James 1:2-4, ESV]
These are just many of such verses in the Word of God. So, here is my answer to the query of the believer who is not hearing from God who is concerned about her close family member. Keep listening, even if you aren’t hearing anything directly. It is in the act of listening that we open our hearts up to a God who delights in those who pursue Him and the Knowing of Him. It is exactly in this time of silence that you are growing in your faith, IF you do not let your emotions, fears, and anxieties overwhelm you. Remember that NOTHING can separate you from the love of God that has been demonstrated in Christ Jesus — not even the silence. Remember that when it is all said and done, God’s plan for you is for your betterment.
“11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” [Jeremiah 29:11-14, ESV]