Search This Blog

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What do you do when God is silent?

Recently my wife, Kathy, was sharing with a sermon she had heard Dr. John Ortberg share at a conference about the “Saturdays” in one’s life.  On Friday, the some of the disciples watched Jesus die on the cross.  On Sunday morning overwhelming joy replaced every other emotion they might have had. But Saturday was a long day.  There was no hope of deliverance. They all were hiding, most likely sad, confused, broken hearted, angry, scared, and experiencing a host of other emotions. Before Jesus had raised the dead, now He was dead. Before God spoke through His Son, but now God was silent.

What do you do when God is silent? 

This caused me to reflect on the “Saturdays” we have in the worship ministry. No I am not just talking about the 24 hour period preceding Sunday, but those times of silence when God does not answer our cries, when we know “all the right words,” but have those doubts if we might have missed something along the way.  We can do all the planning possible, we can rehearse groups to near perfection, and yet, sometimes it seems like we are just going through the motions.  We can be caught as the innocent victim of a tragedy. We can be in the middle of a life crisis, of ministry, or health, or family, and cry out to the Father, only to hear, – nothing. Silence.

The phrase, “silence is golden,” may fit a situation where there is simply too much noise and we escape to an empty room to allow our ears a reprieve, but in the crucible of pain and difficulty when we are crying out to God, silence is not golden.

What do you do when God is silent?

There are some common answers: “just believe,” “there’s always a purpose,” “God is in control.” and many more that we all have heard. These words are true, but I think there is more.

Silence can be from disobedience. After Jonathan disobeys Saul’s foolish oath, God is silent and does not speak, save to identify Jonathan as the guilty one. Peter admonishes husbands to guard their relationship with their wives “so that your prayers are not hindered.” When sin is present, God can be silent and confession and repentance must take place. However, every time God is silent is not a result of sin.

When Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick, there is no record that Jesus sent back a message to assure the sisters that He would come later. There is no record of sin in the story. Jesus simply waits several days. Silence. The silence from such a close friend must have been overwhelming, and what was worse, Larazus dies during this time of silence. Mary and Martha must have thought, “God has surely abandoned us!”  Yet, we know that was far from the case and that Jesus was about to do something beyond their wildest imaginations.  But there were at least three days of silence for the sisters.  Sometimes the silence is longer.

What do you do when God is silent?

In the life of Abraham, several years passed by between God’s promise to give him an heir in Genesis 15 and from the time Isaac is born in Genesis 21. Abraham is 86 years old when Ishmael is born and 100 when Isaac is born, yet he received the promised even before his having a child with Hagar. This is to say that at least 14 years of silence had gone by. What did Abraham do during these years? There were times he was confused, but continued to believe, even though he made some terrible mistakes.

What can we do while we are waiting for God to speak?

This is not to over simplify, or to minimize to pain of waiting during a time of silence from God. I would like for us to take to heart what Paul shared in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Our first step is to choose to be obedient to the Word of God and choose by an act of will what we will make as our focus.

Here are some of those things that can be of help:

1. We can choose to believe that God is in control.
2. We can choose to believe that what God has planned is our good and His glory.
3. We can choose to believe that He loves us. [We can never doubt the love of God when we look at the cross.]
4. We can choose to believe that if we have sinned, “if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:9]
5. We can choose to believe that He wants to draw us into a closer relationship, in which we know Him in a deeper way. {We get to know Him as Healer, when we experience sickness, as Rock and Fortress, when going through difficulty, as Comforter as we experience sorrow.}
6. We can choose to believe that God can use our difficulties as an encouragement to others and a testimony that God is faithful even in the midst of what seems to be a “silence from God.”
7. We can choose to believe that God has entrusted us with this time because He knows as we trust in Him, we will be able to endure it.
8. We can choose to give thanks “in all things,” as 1 Thess. 5:18 says.  Not “for all things,” but “in all things.”
9. We can choose to believe that God will reward those who trust Him. [“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Heb. 11:6]
10. We can choose to believe that “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 4:19]


  1. Wow! Just wow! Perfect timing

  2. Dr. Steele ... Are you the author of the Silent Years of Jesus? and also the one who made some comments in a Bible series entitled "Biblical Collector's Series?
    my email is
    My question to you is not about the scriptures although I love getting into them it is about your voice. I was watching "The Early Years of Jesus" in the Biblical Series and I heard your voice and it reminded me of someone who I really enjoyed in the oldtime western movies. Bob Steele. and when I saw your name it was really a surprise. Although that is not Bob's real name I think he was known as Bob Steele more than his real name of Robert Bradbury. YOur voice sounds so much like his, its spooky. Please advise. James

  3. James:
    Thanks for the comments; I appreciate your following the blog. No, I am not the author of the "Silent Years" and to my knowledge, I am no relation to Bob Steele the cowboy. I am a Seminary professor on worship, and my ebook is "Worship HeartCries." I pray God blesses you richly today.