It’s when they’re quiet that you need to be worried.
That’s parental advice passed down through generations, usually learned from personal experience.
I learned my lesson, too.
My oldest girl did this thing when she was three years old called a “tantrum.” Maybe you’ve heard of them? Maybe you’ve seen one . . . or thrown one.
After a particularly rowdy tantrum on the car ride home one day, she stomped into the house still screaming, ran into my bathroom and slammed the door.
Unfazed, I took my time setting her baby sister down for a nap and tossing my keys and arm-full of papers and baby paraphernalia onto the kitchen counter. I breathed in deep breaths of Mom sanity.
Then I realized that the banshee wail had subsided into silence, frighteningly loud silence.
On the floor next to her was her hair.
Her long, totally beautiful, golden curly hair. In her rage, she had climbed onto my bathroom counter and dug through to the bottom of my makeup case where I hid the hair scissors. Then she had systematically snipped off the two pig-tails on the tip-top of her head.
She was bawling. I was bawling. We raced to the local hair salon and plopped her up in the chair for a rescue mission. Our superhero that day sported a comb and some clippers.
Sometimes we think silence means inactivity and stagnation, abandonment and loneliness, but instead it’s often a sign of focused activity.
With kids, that might mean trouble.
With God, though, as heart-wrenching and full of despair as His silence is, we needn’t fear the quiet. It’s often a promise that He’s at work right there in the middle of your circumstances, deeply involved in your life.
The thing about cramming God into boxes is that He shatters the confines of the cardboard.
So, when life didn’t go as I had planned, I cried out to Him: What are you doing? What does this mean?
Why can’t I hear You?
The silence is so oppressive and filled with overwhelming sadness. We just want to hear His voice, His quiet voice or His booming command, His encouraging cheer, or His tender whisper. Whatever He wants to say, we’re desperate to hear it.
Because we feel afraid.
I drove off that night on an arbitrary errand, alone in my car, praying away in the quiet. Then I hit the play button on the CD for our church Christmas cantata:
“Peace, oh my soul, weary from the struggle
Don’t be afraid, Love knows your deepest need.
There is a light shining in the darkness.
There is no shadow where it cannot reach.
Peace, peace, Jesus has come
O soul, be still, receive your King”
The song faded and one lone voice cut through the silence:
“The Lord is with you . . . Fear not, Mary ….For nothing is impossible with God….Joseph, fear not. Fear not! For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given…Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…Fear not! They will call Him Immanuel–which means, ‘God with us.’ Fear not, for I am with you”
My husband asked me when I flopped on the couch later, “Were you crying?”
How could I do anything but cry?
I had been desperate for the slightest trickle of His voice and He had drenched me in His Word.
But even when I didn’t hear Him, God was still there, still active, still with me. That hadn’t changed.
In his book, Greater, Steven Furtick writes:
God is often working behind the scenes of your life, orchestrating His destiny for you. Even though you don’t have a clue what He’s up to. Just because you haven’t heard God call your name or tell you specifically what to do with your life doesn’t mean He’s not conspiring great things for you.
Sometimes we feel like Job: “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me” (Job 30:20).
But even in the silence we can hold to the promise:
As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice
He hears you. And when He chooses to speak, the wave of His voice might wash over you and knock you off your feet and carry you to safety. For now, just keep listening, keep waiting, and don’t be afraid of the silence.
Originally published October 5, 2012
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
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Copyright © 2014 Heather King