I was drowning in a vast ocean of emptiness. Why was God silent while I, who had followed Him faithfully for so many years, was begging for answers?
I mourned the loss of a baby who never truly lived. I buried the dream of children under the ashes of infertility. I screamed at the heavens for answers. I sat crumbled on the floor for hours and forced myself to breathe. And silence echoed.
Questions filled my journals and tears filled my nights instead of sleep.
Where are you, God? Where? What have I done to deserve your indifference?
By the time I turned to Scripture, I was dying for oxygen.
There I found Job, who was facing his own battle for survival in the ocean of despair. He mourned and wished he had never been born. He, too, longed to hear God speak. He put it this way, “How faint the whisper we hear of Him.”
And the first thing I learned about the silence of God was that He’s never really as quiet as we think He is.
But it sure feels like desperate silence when you’re in the middle.
Just ask some of the Bible’s greatest prophets.
Isaiah, who laments, “Truly you are the God who hides himself.” David, who cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Elijah, the mighty miracle worker and mouth-piece of the Lord, who begs to hear the voice of God.
When I stared at their stories, felt the truth of their journeys, I realized that it was no crisis of faith to wonder where God was and to cry for His presence. In fact, the Psalms are filled with desperate cries of God’s people.
I knew, deep down, that I was welcome to bring every emotion to God’s feet. He could be trusted with reality.
Three times in Scripture, I found Jesus in tears. Once at the death of Lazarus, once while mourning and weeping over His beloved Jerusalem, and once in Hebrew 5:7, where we’re told that He wept over His coming trials.
And I knew the truth. Even if God was not answering my pages of questions, He had given me a reply. Simply put: He told me that He suffers with me. He is not indifferent.
He has mourned death, and abandonment, and pain.
Elihu, the only one of Job’s friends not debunked completely by God in the end, claimed that God could be heard in His daily works through nature, and I think he was right. I’ve learned that when all else fails, I can walk trails and listen to the birds sing, and somehow through the flowers and the rain, the echo of His voice reaches me.
It’s true that at times He may not be speaking directly to me, but He is speaking.
And I have to learn how to listen to what He is saying, not just what He has to say about my personal trials.
In fact, surviving my trials is closely linked with my ability to listen to what God is saying in the quietness. Gentle whispers, or as some translate “a thin silence”, that can only be heard after the great winds, fierce storms, and fire.
After all Job had been through— loss of wealth, family, and health—after all his questions, God responded with questions of His own. He didn’t really answer Job’s entreaties, and yet He did.
“Where were you when I spoke the heavens into place?” God asks, reminding mere man that He knows the beginning and the end. He is the beginning and the end. He has plans and purposes that go far beyond anything we can see.
C.S. Lewis once said,
“There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter claimed by Satan.”
In the silence, the hushed quietness of God, I need to listen beyond myself, because He is still speaking. The flowers are still blooming, the stars still shining, the earth still rotating. Satan is still waging war on mankind, still playing his games with death and lies and theft. And God is still battling for the heart of His creation. For your heart. For mine.
I don’t always understand. The questions written with tears and fear are still unanswered. The “why?” of my broken body and my buried hopes and the years of childlessness, is still etched into my being.
But in the end, I know the One who flung the stars into the sky. Who spoke and brought life. Who lived and died that I might be redeemed. The One who knows suffering and is well acquainted with grief. The One whose presence is all around me.
And you. His presence is all around you.
You with the broken body that cannot bear children. You with the buried son. You with the buried dreams. You with the husband who leaves you alone each night. You with the screaming children and no quiet. You with the bills and no job. You with the ideals that have crumbled. You with the expectations that have left you empty.
He’s all around you.
And the same truth I learned is true for you as well. He may not be speaking directly to you, but He is speaking.