Have you ever experienced God’s silence? We’re talking about times when your prayers seem to be bouncing around and it doesn’t appear that God is listening. You wait and wait for Him to talk to you or do something for you and/or your marriage… and yet nothing. Over time God’s silence becomes deafening. This severely tests your life; it tests your faith, as well as your marriage.
The leading cause of us experiencing this “silence” appears to be unanswered prayer. We wait and wait and wonder why God isn’t answering our prayers. They seem to be reasonable and within His will. But when nothing happens we start to experience “doubt storms” and feel abandoned.
Cindy and I (Steve) hear from people all over the world who feel abandoned by God. They’re in marriages where they feel hopeless. We could say, “There’s always hope with God.” And Biblically, that’s true. But when you’re the one experiencing His silence, you want to say, “Oh yeah, then prove it!”
Experiencing God’s Silence
This Marriage Insight will be different from the marriage tips that we normally send out. Instead we will share things we’ve learned about the Silence of God. We know how hard it is to think anything positive comes from times of God’s silence. Cindy and I have been praying (begging) God for one thing for over 27 years. And still we’ve not received the answer “we want.”
Twenty-seven years is a long time to wait on God. And there’s no doubt it has impacted our marriage—sometimes negatively, and other times positively. But we’re “falling forward” through it all. Ultimately, it’s been a time to grow deeper in our faith and trust—of each other and God. If you can relate, we pray the things we share with you within this Marriage Insight will help you.
When we’ve felt God’s silence it has helped us to realize WE ARE NOT ALONE. Others have experienced feeling alone when God is silent. Job told God: “I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me.” (Job 30:20) And then there’s King David, who said: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1–2)
Jesus and God’s Silence
Jesus, prior to the cross, asked God, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.” Then, on the cross He repeated the words of King David, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Both times He experienced the silence of God—His Heavenly Father.
If God trusted His own Son with His silence, it’s important to note:
“If you are experiencing the silence of God, do not believe the lie that you are a second-tier, second-rate Christian. In reality, it is possible, even probable, that it means quite the opposite. God has entrusted you with His apparent silence for a greater reason. Trust is the central issue that needs your focus. Will you trust God to straighten out this mess in your life? Will you trust God to see you through the desert? And will you trust God, even when He says no or wait or not now?” (Jeremiah J. Johnston, from his article, Why You Should Not Despair When God is Silent)
We confess it’s not easy to wait and trust God when He is silent. Have you ever wondered why you trust God with your eternal salvation yet struggle to trust Him in the daily storms of uncertainty, and unanswered prayer?
If you can relate to any of this then there are three things we need to keep in mind. First:
OUR TRUST IN GOD NEEDS TO BE UNWAVERING.
This is because we can’t trust our feelings. Popular opinion says, “Follow your heart.” (The translation is: Follow your feelings.) Yet, in Jeremiah 17:9, God says, “The heart is more deceitful than all things and desperately wicked; who can understand it?”
Many of us believe we can trust our hearts. If we’re honest, though, we know that our hearts can sometimes lead us astray. We cannot let our feelings dictate what we do. I have found in my own life my feelings have deceived me many times. And the times I’ve acted on those feelings are the times I most regret in my life.
Then where do we start? Right here.
“TRUST IN THE LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis added)
We don’t pretend this is easy—especially when God’s silence confuses us. But we’ve discovered that the more we dwell on, and apply this verse to our circumstances our faith grows stronger; and our doubts fade away. The best way we can illustrate this truth is through a testimony from our dear friends, Debi and Tom Walter.
They’re currently going through a life-threatening trial with their young granddaughter. Debi (from The Romantic Vineyard Ministry) shared on their web site their experience in a post titled:
I have contemplated writing this post for a week. Not sure what to say to offer help for your marriage when we are struggling with our own dark valley. When we asked for your prayers in our last post we had no idea how much those prayers would be what would sustain us. Each step on this unfamiliar path has been painful, uncertain and dark.
But God! He knows where He is leading us. It isn’t around the darkness, but through the darkness where we are discovering how precious the promise is that says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)
What a great God who promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Therefore we will fear no evil, not even the evil caused by this horrific disease called PANDAS.
How I wanted God to remove us from this valley. But instead He wanted to show us His faithfulness in the darkness. I couldn’t see Him. I couldn’t feel His presence. And I couldn’t think long enough to pray effectively, or so I thought. Oftentimes the best prayers are those whispered in desperation, “Please God, help!”
This is by far the hardest thing we have walked through in our marriage. Our communication has been on misfire more than we like. Our emotions as well as our faith have been stretched thin. There has been no time to connect on any level.
He is teaching us that we can’t rely on our own strength to sustain us. No matter how well we may be doing in our marriage, there are some crosses we have to bear that will take us to the end of our selves. And it is here that we discover our greatest need has been met.
What dark valley are you walking through today? It may be in your marriage or in the circumstances of your life. Whatever the valley, God is there walking with you. He isn’t a bystander watching and waiting for us to prove our abilities. No, He knows we are dust; yet he loves us. He sent His Son to die for us and rise again in victory so that no dark valley could ever separate us from Him.
Tom and I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit rise up in us. He has been faithful through it all. Even in our lack of connecting as husband and wife, He has been connecting with us individually giving us the strength to go beyond our own ability.
Still on the Journey
We aren’t through it yet, though we are home. We are tired. And we have much to process and talk through. He reminds us again of these precious promises…
‘But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV)
What Debi and Tom are going through really epitomizes Proverbs 3:5-6. They are trusting in the Lord and are NOT leaning on their own understanding. And they are acknowledging Him in all their ways.
Our second point when God is silent in our life or circumstances is:
OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD NEEDS TO BE ROCK SOLID.
This is especially true in times of the pain of unanswered prayer. God made us humans with a natural inclination to avoid pain at all costs. The reality is, pain is unavoidable. In fact, it has been our experience that He has used it to help “conform us to the image of His Son.”
Here’s something pastor Rick Warren wrote:
“Jesus warned us that we’d have problems in life. No one is immune from pain or insulated from suffering, and no one gets to skate through life problem-free.
But the apostle Peter assures us that problems are normal, saying, ‘Don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you‘ (1 Peter 4:12 TLB). God uses these problems to draw you closer to Himself. The Bible says, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit‘ (Psalm 34:18 NLT).
Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship likely will be in your darkest days. This will be when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great—and when you turn to God alone. It is during suffering that we learn to pray our most authentic, heart-felt, honest-to-God prayers. When we’re in pain, we don’t have the energy for superficial prayers.
Joni Eareckson Tada notes, ‘When life is rosy, we may slide by with knowing about Jesus, with imitating him and quoting him and speaking of him. But only in suffering will we know Jesus. We learn things about God in suffering that we can’t learn any other way.'” (From Rick Warren’s article, “Problems Force Us to Depend On God”)
The bottom line is:
When God is silent in our times of trouble, that’s when we need to depend on Him the most. We’re told in the Bible:
‘Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.‘ (James 1:12)
‘He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.‘ (Isaiah 40:29)
Our third point concerning God’s Silence is:
NEVER GIVE UP ON GOD BECAUSE HE NEVER GIVES UP ON YOU.
The Apostle Paul must have gone through times of experiencing the silence of God. That’s because in Galatians 6:9 it says, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” (Good News Translation)
I’d like to offer the Steve Wright translation of that verse. It comes from my own personal times of God’s silence in my life:
“Even when God is silent—when I feel abandoned by Him, I can’t give up on Him. I have to depend on Him even more because I don’t want to miss His ultimate blessing for my life.”
A few days ago Cindy and I saw an interview with pastor Andrew Brunson. He just released his new book, God’s Hostage: A True Story Of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance. Pastor Brunson spent 765 days in a Turkish prison. He had been a pastor there for 18 years but in 2016 was charged as being a CIA spy. His wife, Norine was arrested at the same time. But she was released after 13 days. Brunson faced up to three life sentences in solitary confinement. He was very transparent about his experience. Here is a very short summation of what he shared:
When asked if he ever “broke” he said, “When I first went in I thought I’d feel strength and joy, even in difficulty, in the presence of God. I didn’t and I was really surprised by this. I really broke a number of times.”
Dealing with This Trial and God’s Silence:
Brunson admits that he was suicidal at one point and he cried out to God:
“You’ve betrayed me! You’ve turned me over! Why?! How could You do this to a son who loves You, a son who has obeyed You?” Brunson recalled questioning the Lord. “Do You even care, or have You handed me over and walked away? Did You deceive me? Did You lie to me?”
Eventually he realized,
“The story is that God started to rebuild me. He brought me out of those dark places. Only until God had completed what He wanted to through my imprisonment was I released.”
It was October of 2018 right after he was sentenced in a Turkish court that they released him. He and Norine know it was a direct answer to the thousands of prayers that had been lifted to heaven on his behalf.
As Andrew reflected on the whole experience what he ultimately learned from those 765 days in prison was,
“I came to ask myself, ‘Am I going to participate in God’s redemption story?’ I came to see my imprisonment was an assignment from God. God is always doing something much bigger than what’s going on inside of you.”
In Dealing with God’s Silence
One last comment that Brunson gave to Christian Post he wanted to encourage others who experience the silence of God:
“We don’t know how things will turn out many times. But I do know that you have to make the choice to turn your faith toward God, to not allow a fence to grow in your heart or blame God and let that suffocate your relationship with Him.”
Cindy and I realize that some of you feel imprisoned or abandoned by God through His silence. It could very well be something that is going on in your marriage. But it could be something else. Nonetheless, it is still affecting your marriage.
That leads us to one more important principle we need to mention. Often in marriage it’s one spouse who is struggling with the Silence Of God. So, when one of you feels God is silent don’t turn on each other. This is the time to unite and trust God together—sometimes trusting for each other until you can both trust without any hesitation.
Go through the points above together and pray. We’ve had to draw from those points over and over again through our 27 years of waiting on God. And here’s the conclusion we’ve come to—Often what God does in you when you’re waiting through His silence is more important than the thing you’re waiting for.
We pray that through what was shared here you find the strength to carry on—and not give up on God, or your situation. Like pastor Brunson:
“…Make the choice to turn your faith toward God and not allow a fence to grow in your heart or to blame God and let that suffocate your relationship with Him.”
We pray you will. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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