Loud noise can leave us feeling paralyzed. A shriek of microphone feedback can stop a room dead like nothing else can. But we can feel paralyzed by silence also, especially when we experience the silence of God. Tragedy hits, we ask “why?” and nothing ensues but silence. Why is God silent? Why has He not made His presence known? What are we to do when God is silent? The Psalmist experiences the silence of God in a time of suffering and composes a song about it in Psalm 13. Here are three cues we can take from the Psalmist:
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2 NRSV)
First, take a cue from the Psalmist and complain to God. Yes, you heard that right, go ahead and complain to God, that is the first thing we find the Psalmist doing. “But didn’t the Israelites complain in the desert, and so are we not to avoid complaining?” you might ask. True, they did, and yes, God was not impressed as you can read in Numbers 11:1-6. And therefore many people only pray “nice” prayers, the kind they think God will like, very dignified and polite. However, the complaint of the Psalmist in Psalm 13 is very different from the complaints of Israel in the desert wanderings. Consider:
- This complaint is prayer. When the Israelites were whining in the desert they were not directing their complaint to God whereas the Psalmist does. And this is a prayer of faith, we do not have a “God, if you are there” kind of prayer, but a prayer from someone who knows he is being heard. If you experience the silence of God, let it lead you to prayer.
- Being prayer, this complaint is integral to relationship. When some people pray, you would think they are speaking to the Queen, their language and thoughts being so dignified and well mannered. If you were a child of the queen, would you prefer a more honest and open kind of relationship with your mum than her subjects had? Do you think she would prefer that too?Well, we are children of the King, so we can stop speaking to Him as if He is the queen! If you experience the silence of God, let it lead you toward a deeper and fuller relationship with God.
- There is a strong desire for the presence of God. The Israelites wandering in the desert had lost their appetite for manna. And it seems they never had much of an appetite for God. The Psalmist complains out of a strong appetite for God’s presence. “How long?” is asked four times, as if the Psalmist did not want to wait another second to know God’s presence. When God is silent, let it ignite your appetite for His presence.
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. (Psalm 13:3,4)
Second, take a cue from the Psalmist and appeal to the glory of God. The Psalmist is not being self centered in pointing out the possibility of his own death or his enemy’s gloating in verses three and four. He knows that God’s glory is at stake in what happens to Him. When evil wins, God is not glorified. When justice and mercy kiss, God is glorified. When we see or experience injustice do we appeal to the glory of God? Here is another difference between the complaint of the Israelites in the desert and the complaint of the Psalmist. Israel had no thought for the glory of God. Do you? When you experience the silence of God, let it drive you to seek God’s glory.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:4,5 NRSV)
Third, take a cue from the Psalmist and let worship of the Lord take you to trust in God. The Psalmist is able to bring to mind a true concept of God. He is the God of “steadfast love” a term which conjures up God’s faithfulness to His people and to His covenant promises. The Psalmist can speak of salvation, and God’s goodness, both of which we know so much more vividly this side of the New Testament. In worship we deepen our knowledge of God. Worship enables us to look back and look forward to God breaking the silence. When God is silent we can look back to times that He broke the silence, such as when God spoke at creation, called Noah, called Abraham, spoke to Moses from the burning bush, spoke to Moses at Sinai, spoke through the prophets, spoke in Jesus, and spoke through the Holy Spirit. When God is silent we can also look forward to those moments when we know the silence of God will be broken. For example, there will be the trumpet blast at Christ’s return when the dead in Christ are raised to life. Also, as a person trusting in Christ, the silence will be broken when your name is read from the book of life. And we look forward to the silence being broken by an angel:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4 NRSV)
Here is another key difference between the complaint of the Israelites in the desert and Psalmist. Despite seeing the miracles of God in their time the Israelites were quick to worship gods that are not God. On the other hand, though experiencing the silence of God in affliction the Psalmist was in a place of worship. If you experience the silence of God, let it drive you to a place of worship, and let your worship take you to a place of trust.
Though we may find ourselves paralyzed by the silence of God, let our first step be a complaint against God. And so with the Psalmist move toward being:
- a person of prayer
- a person of deep and full relationship with God
- a person desperate for God’s presence
- a person seeking God’s glory
- a person of worship
Let the silence of God lead you to becoming more fully the child of God you are called to be.