WHEN GOD IS SILENT
by Lyn Packer
“Do you have a prophetic word for me?” This is the question I was greeted with when I answered the phone the other day. Not “Hi, my name is…” or “I’m ringing to ask a question…” or some other polite way of entering into a conversation and request for a prophetic word. It seemed to me, at the time, a stark, rude, demanding question. I have to admit, looking back, I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked, and I’ve had to process that through with the Lord and learn some things from it. And out of that learning has come the content for this article.
God’s not speaking – I need a prophetic word
Why would someone do that? What would make them ring a prophetic person, seeking out a prophetic word? Let’s start with an assumption that is actually true in most cases. People don’t usually go to a prophetic minister as their first point of call, out of laziness, or because they collect prophetic words (although some seem to). It’s usually because they can’t seem to hear God for themselves on a certain thing. That feeling of not being able to hear from God can cause many things to happen in our lives, and sometimes in order to alleviate how we feel we will do what seems to make sense to us at the time; we go to a prophetic person and ask for a prophetic word. While this can seem like a good way out of the situation, it is in reality often working against God’s best for the situation.
So next time you enter a period of time where God seems to be silent, before you go rushing off to a prophetic person to ask for a word from God, consider the following things…
God has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut 31:6; Matt 28:20; Rom 8:38,39; Heb 13:5). That is a promise that is true and will never be broken, and this time of God’s silence is a chance to step into the reality of that promise at a deeper level.
Chuck Swindoll says, “God’s silence doesn’t mean his absence. Silence is God’s call for you to grow deeper.”
God’s silence and hiddenness can be times of great revelation in our life, or they can be times of great despair, discouragement, and fear. The enemy’s purpose is plain if we recognise it – to bring us into a place of unbelief, fear and doubt about God’s nature, character, and the truth of His promises to us. God’s purpose is for that same time to be a time for building in our lives, for us to grow in our relationship with Him, our understanding of His Kingdom, and of ourselves as well.
Most of us, if we’re really honest, would love God’s presence to be tangible in our lives all the time. We love it when we feel His presence, when we sense that He is close to us, and we feel somewhat at a loss when we don’t. But that feeling of loss is not necessarily negative; it depends on what we do with it, whether we recognise its true purpose, how we process it and walk through that time. God has a purpose for the things that He does in our lives, and His seeming silence and hiddenness is full of His purposes.
There is much beauty and richness in God’s seeming silence and hiddenness if we understand it. The following quote from Graham Cooke gives us some good understanding on the purposes of God in being quiet in our lives.
That one sentence alone explains so much about God’s purposes for being silent or hidden in our lives. His silence, or hiddenness, is for our benefit, to build us up and do us good, not to scare us, discourage or reject us. God’s silence is an invitation, not a rejection; it’s an invitation to discover more of who He is, how His Kingdom works, and to know more about ourselves.
What to do in the silence
So, what do we do in times of silence? How do we approach them and use them to grow?
Understand the different ways that God communicates. Sometimes we can think that God is silent when He is not. If we don’t understand the different ways that God communicates we can expect Him to communicate only in a certain way. When He doesn’t communicate in the way that we expect, we can feel that He isn’t actually speaking to us, when He really is. For example, we might be expecting to hear the audible voice of God when He may be speaking to us through our dreams, or we may be wanting to see a vision when God is speaking through our friends. Our preconceptions can make us miss seeing God at work in our lives. For an article on the many different ways God speaks to us see my article “How God Communicates”
Know that you are not alone in experiencing times of God’s silence and hiddenness. In Scripture we see that many of God’s people experienced periods when God was silent – sometimes for years. Elijah, for example, thought that God was silent and that he was alone (1 Kings 19), yet it was not true. Part of the reason for that silence was that God was wanting to extend his understanding of the ways He communicates. Sometimes He communicates in overt ways and sometimes in quietness. Abram and Sarai experienced nearly twenty-five years of God being silent (Gen 12 – 18). All those in Scripture who experienced God’s silence had to walk by faith, holding fast to His promises to them. Many of God’s children alive today have had times of silence in their lives, too. Like you, they would have had times of questioning, of fears rising in them, and doubt. Like you they had to anchor themselves in God’s nature and character, His promises to them and His love for them. And for each of them – those in Scripture and those alive today – that time of silence did not last forever. Let the fact that you are not alone in this bring you some comfort and hope that you will hear from Him again. This is not forever.
Know that God has a purpose for this time. God has plans and purposes for your life – to do you good and to bring you into living a life of purpose, fullness and abundance in every way (John 10:10). God is not being silent on a whim or to play with your emotions. As we’ve seen earlier, His silence is actually an invitation to growth, and a time where He wants to build some things into your life.
Recognise that this may be a time of testing. Testing isn’t always bad; in fact testing is necessary in the development of things. One reason is that testing shows how strong something is and where it’s weaknesses, or breaking points, are. Testing our faith shows us how real the faith and trust we have in God is, and where it is weak. Rick Warren said this about the silence of God - “The instructor is always silent when a test is given…When God is silent in your life, you are being tested.”
Use this time to deepen your understanding of God’s nature and character. When you know what God is truly like many of the questions you have disappear, or they become something that is far easier to deal with. Dig into Scripture and discover who God is. In using the word ‘God’ I am referring to the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Find out what their nature and character is like and what they have promised you in the Covenant that they made in Christ. Listen to other people’s testimonies that describe what they are like – their faithfulness and trustworthiness, their love, their provision etc.
It’s a good time to deepen your relationship with God’s written Word. Do you need assurance of His trustworthiness and faithfulness? Do you know the things that have been promised to you? Do you understand how His Kingdom works, or the Covenant that you are in? Scripture is a place where you’ll find the answers to those things. There is great invitation in His silence, an invitation to discovery. When God is silent it’s a good time to go back to Scripture and do some study to receive further revelation and understanding.
The time of God’s silence is a place of building and establishing things. We get to choose what will be built and established in our lives during this time – faith or fear, the promises of God or the lies of the enemy. Choose wisely during these times because what you choose now will affect your next season.
It’s a time to stocktake. A time of God’s silence is a great time to stocktake - look over the things that He’s promised you and see if there is anything from those promises, or anything He has previously asked you to do, that you haven’t followed through on. Sometimes God won’t give us new assignments if we haven’t followed through on things He’s previously asked us to do.
Learn to recognise what’s happening within you. A time of God’s silence or hiddenness is a good time to evaluate your life and your reactions. When you can’t seem to hear God speak in a certain situation some things will happen within you. Holes in your understanding of God, His nature and character, or unrecognised fears, that normally are hidden may begin to rise to the surface in you, making room for the enemy to go to work on you if you let him. Are you choosing to believe the enemy instead of believing in God’s goodness and faithfulness?
Examine your reactions. Are you walking in your new creation nature or accessing old habit patterns and beliefs from your old nature? Are you accessing the mind of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit – for example are you choosing impatience when patience, trust and rest are available for you to walk in?
Recognise what are feelings and what are facts. Feelings can be powerful persuaders if we let them. Sometimes our feelings will tell us the truth, and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes our feelings are fears in disguise. When those fears arise, you can make some assumptions based on those fears. Most of the time those assumptions will be wrong because they are founded on fear, not truth. What fears have risen in your life during times of silence? The fear that God is not with you? The fear that you are being punished? The fear that you are not acceptable for some reason? Examine those beliefs that arise and apply the truth revealed in Scripture about God’s nature, character, and ability to keep His promises to them. God knows what lies you are believing about Him, and about yourself and He wants to change those, bringing you into truth.
It’s a time to encourage yourself in the Lord. In times of silence you need to encourage yourself in the Lord. You can do this by bringing back to mind the good things that He has done in your life before. You can declare the promises that He has given you in the past, either through Scripture or personally through your times with Him, or in previous prophetic words. Take those words and war with them, declaring who God says you are and what He has promised you. This is a powerful weapon, as is the next point.
Pick up and use the weapon of praise. Use praise as a weapon during times of silence and declare who God is! Declare His mighty deeds, His faithfulness, His goodness. Psalm 50:23 says “He who offers thanksgiving honours me and prepares the way for me to show him the salvation of God.” The word thanksgiving has an interesting meaning – part of what it means is “to give thanks in advance for things not yet received”. That sort of praise is powerful and prepares a way in the Spirit for God to act in our lives.
It’s a time to step into a place of walking in faith. This is the time to dig deep into the abundance of promises that God has given us, to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (peace, patience, self-control etc. - Gal 5) and other things like hope and trust in Him. It’s a time to access those things by faith, even when there are no emotions or feelings of His presence to support us. Faith sees what God wants to do, agrees with it, speaks it out, stands firm in it and takes action in line with what God has shown us.
God’s silence is a place where we learn rest and peace. If God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us is true then we can know rest and peace, even when it seems that He is far away. Separation from God is an illusion and a lie; and when we know that, our peace and rest become weapons of mighty destruction against the enemy’s plans to destroy our faith in God.
Prophetic words are great to receive, and I love it when God gives someone a prophetic word for me, but we need to understand that we can short-circuit what God is wanting to do in our lives if we make seeking a prophetic word our main response to God’s silence.
God is good and if you truly need a prophetic word He is well able to send someone your way to give you one. He knows what you need and when you need it. If you haven’t got a prophetic word yet about your situation then maybe it’s because God has other plans, other ways that He wants to do a work in your life during this time.
Use the things I’ve shared above, let the situation and God’s silence draw you into a place of discovery and growth. What you discover and establish in your life during this time will not only be a blessing to you but it will be a blessing to many others as you share with them how to walk through times of God’s silence.
Lyn is recognised as a Prophet within New Zealand and other nations she’s ministered in. Her ministry is revelatory and catalytic, propelling people into encounter with God. The governmental prophetic gift she carries is expressed through prophetic, revelatory insight and strategy, prophetic words (personal, corporate and national), teaching, art, and writing. Click here for more info...