Over the past month, we have shared a lot of principles and truths about hearing God, recognizing His voice, and acting on what He says. God wants us to know His voice because He desires relationship with us—we can be close to Him.
But what about when you cannot hear Him? What about the times when He feels so far away and so silent?
It is always important to consider that there are things that can block our ability to hear God’s voice, and we should be willing to make those things right. The hard part though, the part we can have a very difficult time admitting or addressing, is that sometimes we do all the “right” things, and we still can’t hear. Sometimes we repent, forgive, obey, read, pray, fast—and silence echoes around us.
To make it harder, these times seem to happen when we are most desperate for answers and hope. And there really, truly is no formula, so what do you do then?
Even as I write these words, my heart is aching for those of you who find yourselves in this place. I ache because there are no easy answers. I ache because I know the agony of this place better than I ever wanted to. I ache because I do not want you to give up.
My husband and I have just walked through a very long period of time—too long to be called a season—where God seemed so far and so silent. We have experienced tremendous loss and struggle over the past five and a half years. At times, it even seemed God Himself flat out betrayed us.
While a shift seems to be happening (finally!), the truth is there have been many moments when I was not sure if my relationship with God was going to survive. His words are life, and when we can’t hear them, or it seems His actions are not lining up with the promises in His written word, things can look so bleak and hopeless.
So what do we do when we cannot hear? How do we keep going? The thoughts below are not offered lightly, or as a flimsy band-aid. And they are not necessarily easy. But I think I have learned some things through this painful process that I hope with all my heart will sustain you until you hear Him speaking again.
It is easy to become so focused on difficult or painful circumstances that our perspective becomes very narrow. While the last five and a half years have been brutally hard, the reality is that if I look at my 32 years of life in their entirety, they are marked by God’s faithfulness. There are miracles. There are gifts. There are moments when God was undeniably orchestrating amazing things on my behalf.
I have had to ask myself again and again, “Do the current problems and disappointments negate all the other moments of God’s goodness that I’ve seen?” The answer has always been, “No.” We cannot forget all the times we’ve seen Him and heard Him just because we feel far from Him now.
2. Keep showing up.
Many times I have wanted to quit—quit praying, quit being in church, quit fighting for breakthrough, quit trying to hear Him. But in the depths of my heart, I know that if I don’t have God, I have nothing.
There have been so many days when my “prayer” time consisted of me sitting in a chair and saying, “Ok, God, I’m here. I don’t know what else to say to You, but I’m here.” I have dragged my heart reluctantly into worship, even if all I could do was sit there and weep.
Sometimes it was painful because it seemed all my efforts were met with more silence. But sometimes, I would hear a faint whisper: I’m here. I’ve got you. It is amazing how long a few simple words from Him can sustain you.
I learned to treasure even a single word from Him; the gift of being able to communicate at all with the Creator of the Universe has a worth that cannot be measured. We don’t always realize this until His words have been hard to hear.
3. Look for someone else to encourage.
My own struggles have made me far more compassionate toward others. Critical, legalistic attitudes I didn’t even realize were in me have been uprooted. And any time I have asked God, “What do You want to say to that person? How can I encourage them?,” He has never failed to answer.
I have to admit, this frustrated me more than a few times—that I could hear God for other people, but not for myself. But at the same time, it was strangely comforting. I didn’t understand everything happening in my life, but I knew I wasn’t just missing Him or getting it wrong. I was certain I still recognized His voice, even if He wasn’t saying what I hoped He would.
4. Don’t let anger turn into bitterness.
It’s ok to be angry at God. It’s ok to tell Him you’re angry. There are even examples in Scripture, like the prophet Jeremiah saying he felt like God had deceived him (see Jeremiah 20:7).
But bitterness is more than an emotion; it’s a poison that affects every area of life. It twists our hearts, our thinking, and our perspective. It’s dangerous. The only way to avoid it is actually to keep laying your heart bare before God. Don’t try to bury the disappointment and frustration; He can handle the full intensity of your emotions.
I will never forget the words one mentor shared with me out of her own struggle: “I will not become embittered towards the only One who has the power to save me.”
Keep pouring out your heart to God, and it will keep you from hardening your heart to God.
A Perspective of Hope
I know it doesn’t feel this way right now, but the truth is, God is never far. He can’t be, because He’s everywhere.
I don’t understand the periods of silence. I don’t understand why He can seem so distant. I don’t understand why, in certain seasons of life, we are so sharply aware of His nearness and then in others, we feel abandoned. But He has promised that His unfailing love for you cannot be shaken and that He is with you (see Isaiah 54:10; 41:10).
Don’t give up. You will hear Him speak again, and when you do, you will experience a new depth of knowing Him and a new level of confidence in who He is. The silence will not last forever.