Throughout the years I have heard many believers say it is difficult to hear God. I understand that sentiment. In my own life, there have been times and seasons when He has seemed undoubtedly distant or much quieter than I would have liked.
When I was younger, through various circumstances, I became convinced that God was asking me to enter a new level of obedience I found difficult to achieve. I tried everything in my power to become what He required, but found myself unwilling. I was distressed, to say the least. Ironically, at the same time, God was more silent and distant than I had ever experienced. I felt abandoned and all alone.
Our experience, then, can be that God grows silent. But I have also observed something, and that is: In the times I have found Him to be most silent, I am often least at peace. Emotionally and spiritually, I am in upheaval. I am anxious, fearful, focused, and desperate. One could say that God is, or at least seems, most silent when things in my soul are at their loudest.
Peace then seems to be a prerequisite of God speaking (or at least of us hearing). He speaks to us in the place of peace. Scripture says that as we pray in secret our Father hears us who sees what is done in secret. God inhabits the secret place, and it also seems the secret place is a place of peace. The secret place is not just the inner sanctuary of our bedroom; it is the inner sanctuary of our own hearts. It is the place where fears and anxiety do not exist. It is in the place of rest that God’s Spirit is most present.
This of course can pose what seems to be an unfortunate irony: That when we are least at peace and arguably in need of God most, God is least accessible. But I have also observed a curious fact in my own life that when I am least at peace, I am also most in control. It is often by taking matters into my own hands that I find myself in a place lacking peace, or perhaps the entry of the thing lacking peace into my heart is what leads me to my taking control. Either way, I have found myself in those moments very much in charge.
This was certainly true at the time I found myself seeking to obey God. I was desperate, and I had very much taken matters into my own hands. I was intent on solving this problem as though my life depended on it. Though my intentions were noble, I had not realized the folly of my course of action.
In a way, insisting on our own way is the surest way to silence God’s voice, limit God’s presence, and ensure that He is distant; not so much because He is abandoning us but rather He is relinquishing control and giving us our own way. When we are most insistent, He is most accommodating. He is, in this sense, the perfect Gentleman.
The fact is, God wishes to inhabit every area of our lives with His voice and His presence. He does not wish that there be one place in our lives where we feel we are on our own. Between the two of us, we are often far more willing to be left on our own that God is willing to leave us.
But in in a way, God’s silence is the loudest form of communication. When He seems distant, He calls to us and says, “I am not over there; I am right here.” And we who crave the perfect peace of God’s presence hear that voice greater than any other.
It is in God’s silence that God works out His deepest transformation in our hearts. It was many years later after much insistence and, by degrees, much surrender, that I came to realize that God had not required the obedience I had feared or imagined, nor could any act or failure to act separate myself from Him. The thing which had brought so much unrest into my heart was finally conquered.
And when it was, I — quite unable to do much of anything without Him — received His precious peace, and heard Him speak.