Silence Is Golden

Since her death, Mother Teresa’s doubts have come to light with the publication of some of her letters.  For most of her missionary career, she felt that she could not hear God, which caused her to doubt her faith and even the existence of God.  I scoured the web and magazines and anything else I could find about this subject not long after our fourth miscarriage because I felt like I couldn’t hear God, and I certainly didn’t trust my beliefs at that point.  It felt like there might be hope for me if someone as “saintly” as Mother Teresa struggled, too.  I remember reading an article about her doubts along with an interview of a priest who was trying to fast-track her sainthood; the priest thought that her doubts and God’s silence in her life were an indication of extreme piety.  I remember thinking at that point in the article, “How strange.”  How could God’s silence possibly indicate a close relationship with him?  The priest never really answered my question, but Oswald Chambers did one morning while I was reading.

Has God trusted you with a silence – a silence that is big with meaning?  God’s silences are His answers. … God will give you the blessings you ask if you will not go any further without them; but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvelous understanding of Himself.  Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response?  You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation.” (from My Utmost for His Highest, October 11)

I felt like I had spent years wandering in the desert, waiting for some word from God.  It has only been in the last five or six months that I have finally felt that I am close to him again after almost three years of quiet.  One of the most devastating things about losing the babies was losing the audible voice of God in my life.  As long as I can remember, I have heard him speaking to my soul – sometimes with actual words, and sometimes with a feeling or knowledge, a wordless and resounding “Amen” to his “I Am.”  To rather suddenly lose that voice made me doubt everything I thought I knew about God.  To continue in silence made me doubt everything I knew about myself and examine every aspect of my life for some sin that must have caused the communication gap.  And while there was certainly sin in my life, I wouldn’t say that there was any more or less than at any other point in my life; I could find nothing worthy of silence short of God finally giving up on me.

I would say that this is also the point at which traditional Bible studies and even church failed me; the general consensus that I heard from these places was, “Trust God” or “Find and eradicate the sin.”  I would have made a great Puritan until about six months ago.  I have a hard time escaping the kind of direct cause and effect thinking that the Puritans made famous when it comes to my own life.  I am great at comforting other people and assuring them that whatever calamity they are facing is not the wrath of God because they didn’t read their Bible for a week.  But in my own life?  After the third miscarriage?  Fourth miscarriage?  Enduring the silence of God?  I must have done something that I need to confess; there is some wrong that I must right before God will speak to me again.  My linear thinking was wrong, and it was mostly evidence of my attempts to earn God’s love, to somehow make myself worthy of his grace instead of just accepting that it is an unearned, undeserved gift.

This is not to say that there are not consequences for sin; we all make mistakes for which we must atone.  The only perfect person who ever lived gave himself as a sacrifice so that we could live with grace.  A very dear friend reminded me last year that when we face problems and tragedies in life, it is because God has deemed us worthy to endure them.  He has entrusted us with the trial, so that we may get through it and find him on the other side of it.  He has entrusted us with his silence.  While I in my humanity prefer that God find another way to prove to ourselves what kind of strength and faith we possess, he has chosen endurance.  So if you, too are facing some trial (and if you are breathing, you very likely are), repeat after me: I am worthy of this trial, I am worthy of God’s silence, and I will find him on the other side – all and only because he loves me.

3 thoughts on “Silence Is Golden

  1. Hmm… the silence of God. I have been reading this blog for awhile and have liked every post but this one. I understand that it is difficult to pass through trials and I agree that God only gives us tasks that he thinks we can overcome.

    I have heard this said before (God leaves us quite alone for times), and I for awhile I thought this way.

    Perhaps I misunderstand you, but if not: I think he gives us hard tasks that we might seek and find him. This life is not to be overcome alone and I cannot believe that God would leave us in silence for long periods of time. Why would we be told to “Ask, and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” or “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” or even “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” ? (not sure how the question mark works there 🙂 )

    I cannot believe anyone worthy of the absolute silence of God. I think one just has to ask the right questions and listen to the still small voice that _will_ come.

    Just my slightly solicited 2 cents (it does say, “leave a reply”).


    1. I think we mostly agree here, and I welcome the reply. I may not have been emphatic enough in this post about finally being able to hear God speak in my own life again, but it took a while. And maybe it was entirely because I wasn’t looking hard enough or in the right place (although, I’m pretty sure that’s wasn’t the whole answer). In spite of the term of verbal silence I dealt with, I have never believed that God left me alone, even when it seemed to feel that way. I could always read the Bible to simply find his words, but I was distinctly missing his audible presence. I always had friends I could cling to, even if they were few. So maybe this is more of a semantical debate – a difference in audible silence versus absolute silence. 🙂
      It’s interesting that you bring up the “ask, seek, knock” instructions from Jesus, because this is one of a few verses that really gave me fits for a few years. We tend to boil this down into a formulaic approach to getting what we want from God, and we tend to assume that if we didn’t get the answer we wanted, it’s because we just weren’t trying hard enough, or asking the right questions, as it were. This verse is one of the most horrible things anyone ever offered to me in the way of comfort and advice. Did they really think I wasn’t asking or seeking God? Did they think reminding me to do so would resolve the pain or angst of the situation? (“Oh, of course, why didn’t I think of that?”) I’m 99.9% sure that I asked every question and tried every version of “ask, seek, knock” I could think of or find in a Bible study. But apparently, it wasn’t the right question at the right time, and I’m more than 50% (notice it’s not 99.9% here :)) sure it’s because God had a purpose for the quietude.
      Having grown up in church, I knew the answers in my head, and I knew how I “should” have responded. It’s easy to think so until you actually face something so far out of your ability that you cannot even comprehend the meaning of the loss. While I have never been one for the standard “Sunday school answers,” I was forced to realize just how futile a shallow faith is. I am certain that God would have spoken immediately if his audible silence would have been too much for me to get through. But to echo what Chambers so eloquently said, I wouldn’t have the deep understanding of God’s abiding and redeeming love if I’d refused to seek further and gone straight for the Cliff’s Notes version. Though I will not pretend that I am righteous or without fault as Job, I now completely understand his frustration with his friends inability to really walk alongside him; they all wanted to provide an immediate answer because none of them wanted to admit they didn’t really have an answer. Job, too had to wait for God to speak (a term of silence, if you will), and God answered him the same way he answered me: with himself. I’m sure that Job’s life was infinitely richer for having endured the trials and the silence; I’m sure that as much as he loved his children before they were taken away from him, he had even more love for the children given to him as restoration. And I think that’s really the main point, and that you and I agree completely: we are given trials so that we can recognize our faith and grow closer to God.
      I hope my reply explains my thought process a little better. You may still think I’m off-base here, and that’s okay, too. 🙂 I’m glad for your two cents.

  2. I had NEVER thought about the silence that way. Never. Although in my life, I’m pretty sure I can take “credit” for the silence of the last few years, there have definitely been seasons when I was begging for a voice and still not finding it. Like you put it in your response above, maybe I wasn’t asking the right questions, but I still felt I was trying. At any rate, this post really made me think about the silence in a way I haven’t before. Again, in my case (and my case alone), lack of discipline and some spiritual rebellion is mostly to blame, but that’s not always been the case. Thanks for giving me something to chew on…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s