Silence can be deafening. I think it’s safe to say most people have experienced this. I mean in a literal sense, not some metaphor. A complete absence of auditory stimuli leads to an overwhelming shriek of nothing.
I used to get detention in high school a lot. Not for being a “bad kid”, I never got in trouble in high school, I just was late a lot because I was lazy and undisciplined. And so I spent many days before or after school in a room of silence. It wasn’t always totally silent, you could hear pencils writing on paper, others breathing, passerby in the hallway outside. But there were times when I was the only one in the room. And there was no noise. And I would sit there with a gnawing urge to talk or tap my pencil or anything just to shut the silence up.
Silence can make you go insane. Literally. It’s a punishment for dangerous criminals actually, solitary confinement. Granted you can buck and scream and make all the noise you want in a padded cell but eventually you’ll get tired. And accept it. And sit. And listen. To nothing.
I don’t want to make some cliche comparison of literal silence with spiritual silence. I don’t want to pretend that God is just sometimes silent and you just have to wait and listen for “the still small voice”, whatever the hell that means. My still small voices say things that make my skin crawl. I have thoughts that terrify me and don’t really know of a consistent way to determine which ones are Him, me, or even demons.
God is often silent. Almost exclusively so, if you study history. When we read the bible and the story of God’s people, we tend to lose the passage of time between God’s actions and words. 40 years in the desert is condensed into 40 words in the Bible. 400 years pass between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew. Silence.
He speaks, though not often. Proverbs says that “in an abundance of words, transgression is not lacking.” Sounds kind of like Yoda to me, but the point is clear. The more you babble, the more you err. God doesn’t seem keen on making this mistake. He’s content to let the words He has said continue to be retold and recounted. And I can not stand that.
I want God to answer my prayers, audibly. i want to have an ongoing conversation with Him. I have massive questions. I want answers to the sufferings of the world and my own life. I want to know why He created Satan in the first place. Why he allowed Adam and Eve to eat the apple. Why he has Israel slaughter thousands of people in the Old Testament. And what’s up with two bears killing a bunch of idiots for calling Elisha baldy? (Obviously insulting a prophet is dumb, but it just seems so strange.)
I don’t know if it’s doubt or confusion that drives these questions, probably both. But the hardest part isn’t being confused, it’s feeling like there isn’t an answer to be found. I fear God far too much to doubt His existence, His glory, His power. I don’t doubt His goodness/holiness. But I am frustrated. I’m frustrated that I can’t see things the way He sees them. I’m frustrated because I know that between God and I, only one party has some catching up to do. And I have no idea how to get caught up.
Normally this type of article would end with hope, an answer, some type of advice. That’s why people write these things. Because every idiot with an opinion and a laptop thinks that the world needs to know what they have to say. (I have a desktop computer, so this doesn’t apply to me….right?) But I don’t have a conclusion right now. A silver lining or a happy ending. And that’s okay. John the Baptist ended up with his head on a plate. King Solomon, for all his riches and wisdom, recognized that all he had amounted to moth food and junkyards and lamented this. He also realized that his sons were going to wreck his kingdom after he died, which he was correct on. Charles Spurgeon struggled with depression his whole life and the only cure was his death.
These testimonies don’t really get much air time. It’s not good for business in church ministry. But for every story of things turning out well, (which really does happen, I’m not a total pessimist), there are a hundred stories that involve suffering, beheading, and heartbreak. And through it all, it seems to me one thing stays consistent in the midst of it.
It seems God is silent, for now. To be sure, every schmuck with a heart murmur thinks God is telling them exactly what they’re supposed to do and they’re all convinced. But I’ve really begun to doubt my own thoughts. My own intuition. I don’t doubt God, not nearly as much as I doubt myself. Which is of course awful in our culture of self-esteem and gushing positivity. In the words of Louis C.K., renowned theologian (sarcasm), : “Self-love can be good, but self-awareness is more important.” The only consistent thing in my spiritual walk is my inconsistency.
God isn’t presently speaking to me, as far as I can tell. And maybe, just maybe, it’s because He already has. I could put an exhaustive list of scriptures detailing God’s plan for salvation for all people, His steadfast love for those who worship Him, and His wrath towards evil in the world. But I won’t because that isn’t my point. My point is that I could google, copy, and paste everything God has said. And yet still, still I’m unsatisfied because my self-centered heart wants Him to make it about me. To talk to me. To speak directly to me and tell me exactly what to do.
But if God is who He says He is, then He is infinitely wiser than all humanity combined. In a fit of frustration yesterday after talking to the wall for what seemed like hours, I opened my Bible with an irritable faith. It opened to Isaiah 55:8, which states “My thoughts are not your thought, My ways are not your ways.” It infuriated me. That’s why Your silent? Because You are smart and I’m dumb. Cool, that’s helpful God. Appreciate the encouragement.
And after cooling off, it dawned on me. God has sovereignly made Himself accessible to everyone through a book. A book filled with stories and quotes directly from Him. Sweeping statements about reality and life in our world. And yet i neglect this book, because it’s not a book about me. I want it to be, badly, but it’s not. so I ignore it.
The Bible is not about you or me. It’s hard for us to get out of this thinking in our man-centered culture. Every book, sermon, and song seems to center around us. And it’s bred us to be self-seeking in all we do, all the while telling ourselves that we’re following Jesus. And we get frustrated when He doesn’t cater to our whims, because what we’ve been taught is that if we behave and act a certain way, then God will behave and act the way we want Him to. And of course no one says that, but it’s the air we breathe.
The Bible is about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit reconciling a world full of wicked, self-worshiping fools to themselves. And this fool is tired of yelling at the silence. I’m done waiting for God to speak when I want Him to, when He has already spoken glorious truths I don’t deserve and don’t fully know.
The truth is this:
I’m not in silence.
The Bible is screaming at me, if I’ll only turn to it to listen..
And the more I ignore it, the more deafening the silence becomes.
So I’m going to sit in what feels like silence, for now. And read. And study. And pray. And struggle. And wait. Wait for Him to speak to my heart through His word, which He has already said.
Why? Because, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”