“I’ve never heard him speak to me or felt his love for me.”
Unfortunate words! And I’ve heard them a lot over the years, the frustrated feeling one has when they feel that God is silent. David expresses that pain well in the Psalms, saying he would be as one going down to the pit if God remained silent.
Sadder still are the conclusions people reach about themselves and God from this observation.
- He isn’t really there.
- If he is, he doesn’t care about me.
- He doesn’t talk to people like me.
- Obviously, I’m not good enough to hear him.
- I’m not worthy of his love.
Of course, all of those are untrue, no matter how much our perception may argue. All of us have considered those things at some point, but when we can find some humility to reconsider our conclusions, admit to God that we cannot do this without him, and shed our expectations about what God should do, only then will our discernment of that voice grow. We get a glimpse here, a thought there, and begin to discover that he has been there all along.
No, this isn’t easy, and it takes some time, but that’s what his Spirit wants to do in each of us—to teach us how to recognize his whispers in the wind and his nudges on our hearts. It’s a process. Don’t be afraid of it, and don’t be discouraged when it seems you’ll never get it. He’s leading you anyway, even if you don’t recognize it yet. How do I know? Because many of the people who tell God doesn’t talk to them are following his wisdom and leaning into his character, though they may not see the source of it, many of them far more so than those who claim “God told me” to do such and such.
Maybe these words from Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms by Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt will help you:
I see now that Your silence was not absence, that my desolation was not my undoing.
In Your time-
(why must long-suffering be such long suffering?)
You plunged into the darkness that held me.
Raised me from ruin.
Rooted and established me in love.’
Just when I had lost the will to sing, Your mercy became music to me;
an old song-
older than this tired earth-and yet, somehow,
as fresh and new as the morning.
It is not your will that any should perish,
but that all should repent and enter Your rest.
God is not silent with any of us. He doesn’t go unspoken. I’m convinced he goes unrecognized. His words are there, his wisdom is there, but we miss them because we are looking in the wrong places. Learning to listen to God is learning to rest and not strive, in growing confidence in his ability to communicate with me rather than my ability to discern him.
Sara and I left Denver yesterday on our travels and headed east. Next stop—Wichita over the weekend. A group of us are getting together on Saturday in Newton to celebrate God’s work in these perilous days. You’re welcome to join us.
After that, we will go through Kansas City on our way to the St. Louis area for the following weekend. We have nothing planned there yet, but we will have some personal connections if no one wants to offer a place to gather and meet others.
Then, we are headed down to Little Rock, Arkansas, to a farm where we will hang out for a weekend of conversation and discernment about God’s work in our day. Others have talked about joining us there from nearby states. If you want to, please email me for details.