What to do when God seems silent...
“O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.” (Psalm 83:1, NIV84)
In the scripture above, Asaph (the author) desired that God come out loud and clear with a message for the earth. The reason why was given in the rest of Psalm 83. The “enemies of God” had been “crafting plans” to do evil among the holy people (Psalm 83:2-3). The nations surrounding Israel gathered together to prepare for war. Assyrians and Edomites and other nations were making pacts to stand up against holy Israel (Psalm 83:6-8). They were subverting God’s will. Asaph wanted desperately for God to lash out, weaken their resolve, and put a fear of Israel among their armies. However, when this was written, God had not yet spoken. God had not yet weakened the resolve of the armies gathered. God seemed to be quiet and aloof and distant.
There are times when you will not be able to get a clear indication from God. You may desire God’s voice to speak, but God will be silent. You might wish for some sign from God but receive no such direction. It can be incredibly frustrating to see evil and injustice growing and prospering. It can be terribly disheartening to witness the derision of those who make fun of faith and God’s omnipotence. You might pray and pray for God to lift His hand and decimate those who are relishing in their wrongs. Despite your many prayers, God may choose to remain silent. God’s direction may seem unclear and ambiguous. God’s plan might seem indecipherable. What do you do then?
“There’s a wonderful story about a Chicago bank that once asked for a letter of recommendation on a young Bostonian being considered for employment. The Boston investment house could not say enough about the young man. His father, they wrote, was a Cabot; his mother was a Lowe. Further back was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys, and other of Boston’s first families. His recommendation was given without hesitation.
Several days later, the Chicago bank sent a note saying the information supplied was altogether inadequate. It read: “We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. Just for work.”” (Kathleen Peterson). The bank did not want a listing of the man’s famous family members for their recommendation. They wanted background into his work ethic, an insight into his abilities, and his work history. The recommendation they received was completely ambiguous. Because of the lack of good information, they couldn’t figure out whether to hire the young man or not!
Life can get very ambiguous. You may have to make a life and death decision and not know which road to take. Bad things might be happening to you and you might wonder why. A looming deadline might make you antsy when you have no real prospects or clear answers. When life goes crazy and the world seems uncertain, when evil seems to be winning over good, when your world seems unsettled, you would like to have clear direction from God. You’d love to know when God is going to act and what will be done to make everything right. In those chaotic, difficult times, God may not give clear direction. God may not reveal the perfect path to take. The ambiguity can be terrifying. You might have to make difficult decisions on your own. You might have to make a choice without enough information. You might have to rely on your own abilities. It’s never easy.
When life gets ambiguous, it does not mean that God doesn’t want to make things right. God still wants you to make faithful choices. At times, you may be so busy or harried or upset that you can’t hear God’s “still small voice” breaking through. Your prayers might become so sporadic that your mind is not capable to working through the situation logically. It might be that God wants to see you respond faithfully with out HIS influence. It might be that Satan has clouded your judgment. There are so many reasons for life’s ambiguities and God’s elusive presence. That shouldn’t stop you from making righteous decisions. God may be looking for you to take a faithful stand even when HIS way is unclear to you.
When God’s way seems ambiguous, how do you respond? Do you become fearful? Are you afraid of making mistakes? Is your faith so weak that you won’t do the right thing without God paving the way? Do you get indecisive? Just because life is ambiguous, this does not mean God is absent. Though things may be unclear, that does not mean you should abdicate responsibility. God has given you gifts and His Holy Spirit. Find a way to follow faithfully until the way becomes more understandable.
Someone once said, “How faithful you are is not determined by what you do when everybody is watching. It’s often determined by what you do when nobody is around”. How do you respond when God seems silent or aloof? What kind of choices do you make when on your own? I know you want God never to “keep silent” (Psalm 83:1). I know you like it when God acts and is “not still”. But what do you do when God’s time to act is not yet apparent?