God answers prayer. But sometimes, God is silent.
As believers we've all been there -- or will be there. We may earnestly seek God, but in return only sense His silence. And this silence can be difficult, frustrating even excruciating.
The Bible tells the story of a man named Job, who was well acquainted with God's silence. In his pain and suffering, he cried out to God. He asked for answers. And he kept asking.
But for the first 37 chapters of the book of Job, his cries for God's help and relief were met only by God's deafening silence.
As Christians, we are not always going to hear God's voice, but from Job we can learn a few practical things to do when God seems silent.
1. Examine your life.
Begin by asking yourself the question, Is there any unconfessed sin in my life? Make sure nothing is blocking you from being able to hear God's voice.
Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened" (New Living Translation). This requires looking deeper than the obvious.
Ask yourself: Do I have wrong motives? Is there anything (or anyone) that I love more than God?
As God brings things to mind, quickly ask for His forgiveness.
And remember, there's no shame in repentance. This act of faith pleases God and restores our fellowship with Him.
2. Accept God's Sovereignty
Recognize that God can be silent. There is no obligation for God to answer you, inform you or let you know anything.
"God is said to be absolutely free," says A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy, "because no one and no thing can hinder Him or compel Him or stop Him. He is able to do as He pleases always, everywhere, forever."
Like us, Job faced the choice of acknowledging -- or rejecting -- the sovereignty of God. In response to his suffering and loss, Job's wife suggests he curse God and die.
Instead of following her advice, Job chooses to let God be God. "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" he asked (Job 2:10).
Accepting God's sovereignty also means actively trusting God, realizing He is in control and can be trusted.
"Though He slay me," says Job, "I will hope in Him" (13:15). Nothing in Job's life, or ours, happens apart from God's knowledge and plan. As we learn at the beginning of the Book of Job, God was fully aware of all the things that were about to happen to Job.
In fact, He gave Satan permission to do these things in Job's life. At no point does God release His control.
3. Listen To What God Is Saying
Although God may seem silent regarding a specific request or petition, remember that He is always in a constant state of communication with us.
In fact, it is possible that you already have an answer from God. The Bible is full of specific answers about what is right and wrong as well as information about God's character and His intention for us as His children and His followers.
So don't forget to dig into God's Word -- His written communication to us -- to find out what He has to say about the problems you're facing or the questions you're asking.
As you read the Bible, ask God to speak to you through the Holy Spirit, who lives inside of you. Often verses can have new significance in light of current problems you are facing.
4. Recognize That Silence Can Be Intimate
Silence can also be a sign of God's trust.
The Gospel of John tells a story about Jesus' friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. When Jesus found out that Lazarus was ill, he didn't rush to Lazarus' house to heal him. Instead, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days (John 11:6). And before Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus died.
To Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, Jesus' silence could have been interpreted as neglect -- that Jesus didn't care or didn't want to help them.
This mirrors many of the emotions we feel when God doesn't immediately answer our cries for help.
But in Jesus' silence we, along with Mary and Martha, are drawn into a new closeness to God and understanding of His power. Four days after he died, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, showing His power.
"When you cannot hear God," says Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest, "you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible -- with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation."
When you are completely comfortable with a person, it is possible to sit in a room together and not utter a word.
In love, silence can be a sign of intimacy.
For Job, God's silence was also a result of the depth of their relationship. When Satan approached God, He said, "Have you considered My servant Job?" (Job 1:8). In trust, God chose Job.
5. Keep Talking To God
Just because God seems silent doesn't mean you should doubt Him or stop praying.
God's silence isn't a license for us to turn our backs on Him. Instead, it's an invitation to press forward and seek Him even more diligently.
The psalmists modeled crying out to God. David said, "Oh my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest" (Psalm 22:2). Job also continually cries out to God, asking Him to answer.
For pages of the Book of Job, God is silent. But in chapter 38, God answers -- and questions Job. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" asks God. "Tell Me, if you have understanding" (38:4).
God is in control and has been all along. He heard Job's cries for help. In trust, He waited for the perfect time to speak. Job was reminded.
God answers prayer.