When God Is Silent

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Someone posted on FACEBOOK this morning a thought that ended like this: “I believe even when God is silent.”

That statement echoed through Psalm 42 as I read it. Listen to the writer’s words:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go to meet with God?…These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (Psalm 42:1, 2, 4).

A hunger to meet with God is a good thing. But it appears that the psalmist’s hunger remains unsatisfied, even in the house of the Lord. He used to go up to the temple with anticipation, with joy, at the head of the “pack.” But not anymore.

He is “downcast” (vs. 5) or depressed. He apparently isn’t sleeping well at night (vs. 8). He is sad, feels forgotten by God and is troubled by his enemies (vs. 9). He is in physical pain (vs. 10). And those who have access to him taunt him with the seeming absence of the God he professes (vs. 10).

There is no denying how he feels. However, the psalmist does not allow how he feels to prevent him from believing that while God might seem silent, He is NOT absent.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God…I will remember you. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (5, 6, 8, 11).

For most, if not all, of us there are times when we have shared the psalmist’s experience, when it seems that God is silent and that we are forgotten. Unhappily we often stay in the cycle of despair and doubt rather than affirming, as he did, that we still believe even when we don’t feel.

The truth is hunger for God will never be fully satisfied on this side of heaven. The truth is that these “dry” spells become a test of faith. The truth is that God’s presence with us doesn’t depend on anything we do or say, but rather that presence is anchored in His faithfulness to the promises He has made to never leave us or forsake us—a promise repeated endlessly in the Scriptures (Deut. 31:8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Samuel 12:22; Ps. 94:14; Isaiah 42:16; Hebrews 13:5).

When God seems silent, it is then that you and I need to speak, reminding ourselves of His promises. When God seems distant, it is then that we need to get closer to Him through prayer and through immersing ourselves in His Word. It is during these times that we need to confirm what we believe and again place our hope in Him.

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