when your God goes silent

"God on Mute" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“God on Mute” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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When I was deep into Reformed Theology, one of the texts I studied was The Westminster Shorter Catechism. At one point it talks about when we feel abandoned by God. Silence. If I remember correctly, it teaches that this could be for a few reasons:

  • There is sin in your life so God has separated himself from you until you deal with it.
  • God wants to test you to see if you will remain faithful to him during this period.
  • It’s a mystery and we just don’t know.

I suggest that #3 encompasses numerous possibilities, including the absence of God.

After reading Klaus Bockmuehl’s book, Listening to the God Who Speaks: Reflections on God’s Guidance from Scripture and the Lives of God’s People, the conclusion one would have to draw is that if you’re not hearing God, you’re deaf.

But after reading Shusaku Endo’s shocking but necessary masterpiece, Silence, one must sober up to the reality that the silence is louder than everything else.

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11 Responses

  1. Ducatihero says:

    I could say any of the above, but then I would also talk of asking God for wisdom and it being given generously without finding fault.

    I like the idea of it being strengthening just as a mother stops feeding a child on milk, being ready for something else. I like the idea that St. John of the Cross had about the “dark night of the soul”.

  2. Personally, I view the first one as one of the worst, unbiblical teachings out there. It is as if no one that teaches this believes or understand what happened on the Cross and Resurrection. NOTHING separates us from the love of God. God is always in pursuit of us. Sin is not the reason God would stop talking… in fact… Grace would abound more and God would pursue us more.

    There are many reasons that God may stop talking though it is not always God doing. In my life I was a bit frustrated that God would not leave me alone. It was like a constant stream of thoughts and understandings. In 2011 I had a stroke and for two years I felt distant and could not hear God. Around 2013 I began to start hearing God again… 2014 came and the floodgate was opened. I began to hear again but now I am not upset. In fact, it seems God lets me shut Him down when I am overwhelmed. Brain damage can give the effect that God is not speaking. BTW, I never felt God left me but that He just was not talking.

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    I wrote a post called “The God Switch is Off” which describes my experience here. It discusses not only “talking to god” but other miraculous thinking.”

    My theory, of course, goes much further than your “God’s silence is a mystery” explanation.
    If you read it, David, tell me what you think — I won’t copy and paste it here.

  4. Sabio Lantz says:

    Once you turn of the god switch, it rarely comes back on, which helps you better understand from whence cometh “god”.

  5. Ducatihero says:

    Sabio,

    I had a read of your blog, it was interesting.

    You wrote – “it took me a while for me to see through my self-deception… I really think there is no hope now because I have turned of some important God switches.”

    I suppose I am curious about what got you interested in Christianity in the first place and then what led you to believe that you were self-deceived by the “magic” you encountered.

    I mentioned recently about the vision of an acorn that was given me. I found it affirming, conducive to peace and powerful – something I could not ignore. Some years ago I was about to go for a rid on y motorcycle and there was something external to e telling me not to go. I was alone, in my bedroom with no-one else in the house. it was powerful, I felt a gut reaction to the point of feeling sick. Nevertheless I wasn’t going to let that stop me going on the run. I had an accident and the most bizzare thing happened as soon s I realised I was going to crash – I relaxed, yes relaxed. As I glided through the air into a field, my bike hit a fence was taken in another direction and I landed on my head and did a roll. I ended up with just a bruise.

    From talking with other bikers about this weird experience, I found it was not weird at all but quite common.

    So – it wasn’t about me, it was about something other than me, external to me that I had a choice and a freedom over what I did on hearing. At one affirming a direction I had chosen (to leave the Vineyard church I had been at) and another time to give me direction (to not go on the motorcycle run).

    Now some may say I have been deceived at times, and I would probably agree with them but I can’t look back on these instances and instances like them without at least being open to something external having a powerful caring benevolence for me. The closest I have come to the description of what that is, is God. I am OK with that, and unless someone can show me otherwise then that’s what I am going with.

    So Carlos – what you say about hearing makes perfect sense to me. It’s not something I could ever logically explain or understand but to me it “just is”. The closest I could probably say I could come to describing it (and it not being a like for like comparison) is when my brother fist met his wife and he mentioned they “just knew” they were to be together as he described at his wedding speech. A real a source of great comfort and beauty and I’m glad when it turns up.

  6. Kenton says:

    I loved Endo’s Silence. So was God really silent? He certainly spoke very clearly at the end of the book.

    Last I heard, Scorsese was making a movie out of it, but he sure has been taking his time with it.

  7. Nathanael says:

    “Silence is God’s first language.” -St John of the Cross. Perhaps the silence of God is a necessary step in our spiritual development, stripping us of our ideas about God so that we might enter into a deeper knowing, an experience of God not as a Being but as Being itself, the ground of all being. So that we might come to know that God is not “out there”, but we are in God, and God is in us.

  8. Yasmin says:

    God has sometimes been silent in my life, but never absent. I don’t know why He was silent, but was always to grateful for His continued presence to wonder too much about it. There are times I’m so tired from whatever is going on in my life that I want God to spell it out for me, and leave a literal, printed note on my desktop. I feel incapable at those times to understand anything more subtle. But His presence never leaves me and never fails to comfort me.

  9. I read an interesting article today written by a quantum mechanic claiming that the new direction in such scientific studies is that we can’t be sure there is an objective reality but can only hope so, because what we perceive as reality is shaped by the observer.

  10. I did read your post Sabio. I would agree with much of what you say. But I would not call Christians “they”. I think we are all caught up in our own deceptions or illusions. Magical thinking belongs to everyone.

  11. Ducatihero says:

    “what we perceive as reality is shaped by the observer… Magical thinking belongs to everyone.”

    Yes – and I think there is something in our human nature that is about survival that while a good and necessary thing to have can when mixed with none of us being perfect lead us to perceptions and magical thinking which may or may not be in touch with reality. I’m led to believe that in extreme emotions what is realistic can appear to be unrealistic and what is unrealistic can appear to be realistic for all of us.

    I might think an idea I have about what is funny might be met with silence if I share it, or something I don’t think is funny met with a belly roar. I don’t understand it but I am OK with it and just glad when the laughter turns up :).

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