Scripture doesn’t skirt tough issues like suffering, struggling to believe in God’s goodness in tough times, and God’s silence. Biblical authors often didn’t find resolutions to their struggles, but lived in tension, destruction, and bereavement. The Psalmists’ doubts, despair, and depression; sorrowful books such as Job, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations; Habakkuk’s complaints; John the Baptist’s questions from prison; And Jesus’ anguished prayers in the Gethsemane – while these passages don’t usually make for cheery preaching, they nonetheless offer us incredible consolation during hard times. ~ Trusting the Great Director, Krish Kandiah, Christianity Today, June 2015
Why is it that in the times we need God most near, he seems most distant?
Many Christians face various struggles in their own lives. One of the prevailing question is where is God? Where is His peace? Where is His mercy and grace? In his article, Krish Kandiah shares his own personal experience and readings through the Book of Esther. Drawing out some of the principle truths in what Kandish shares, let us take time to meditate and discuss their significance in our lives.
1. Commonality of experience: “It may console us to know that experiences of God’s silence are common.” In times of trial, there is an established expectation where one desires to hear from God, feel his presence, and receive some type of revelation. Unfortunately, an individual will rise up from praying, wrestling and question whether a Sovereign God really is there, hearing our prayers; or, if we are merely deceiving ourselves in believing something that may not really exist. In most of my interactions (in person and here on the web) one of the main questions I am asked by those who have abandoned their faith (Christian or LDS) rests on the conviction that “God was not there.”
The problem with this expectation is that we merely have an expectation where unmet needs come into conflict with our assurance of faith. Here, during these times, our faith is on trial. Here, it is where we truly exercise our moral agency into choosing to believe whether or not God truly does exist, that He truly does hear our prayers, and that he truly is moving in our lives – even if we are not aware of it.
2. How can faith survive if it is starved by the oxygen of God’s voice? “Esther’s story helped me realize that even when God may seem absent, he’s incredibly near, orchestrating the events of our lives. Reminded of God’s ultimate control.” Our faith is not based on whether or not we are hearing God’s voice, it is rested upon the affirmation that God is merciful, just and pours out his grace in our lives. Kandish relates how one Jew, during WWII was hiding and scrawled on the walls that despite not having seen the Sun, he still believed it to be there and shining in his present life. Believed in love, even when it was not felt or shown. And, believing in God, even when it appears God was silent. Our faith survives when we move beyond our expectations of what we desire and want and submit and surrender to the Will of God. Our faith survives, not because of any contigency and expectations we may have. It survives because we believe and know God and who God is, his character and understand he is Sovereign. Kandish offers this principle (from his readings of Esther): “The Jews recognized that God rules even when he’s silent and it seems all chaos has been unleashed.”
3. Putting off our own personal happiness and struggle: Most of us, in a crisis of faith, tend to focus on our own needs. We tend to complain to God about all the things going wrong in our own lives. Expecting to receive an answer to our own problems during those times of doubts, moments of trial, and season of darkness. Instead, our perception ought to shift from our own season of wrestling and become more concerned about other’s misfortunes. Instead of asking how God is able to bless us in our own difficulties, we may ask God how we can be used of him to bless others who are suffering as well. What are we doing to reach out to those who may be in greater need than we are experiencing? How are we to mourn with those who are mourning, showing charity to those who are in need of comfort and alleviation to their own lack of sustenance?
4. Dark seasons deepen our faith in God and who God really is: Kandish uses the analogy of how a plant that is starving for water tends to deepen its roots. During these times where we believe God is silent, our struggle to trust in God helps deepen and enrich our faith. It helps us grow spiritually and mature in spiritual discipline.
5. We have abandoned our relationship in God: In most cases, people tend to come to God to alleviate some ailment or struggle. It is more of a quid for pro type prayer. “If you help me through this, I will then do this.” Once we make it through our struggle and dark times, we abandon God and our faith in God, only to experience more trials and seasons of darkness. In my own personal experience, the more seasons of God’s silence, the longer they are more lasting until I come to a place of humility, repentance and learn to walk in his Light and Truth, and move toward living according to his own will and desire.
Kandish relates it this way:
Or perhaps the silence we sense in our relationship with God during times of crisis reveals that we actually stopped listening for God a long time ago. Paradoxically ,the silence of the God who speaks could e a mercy, offering us a chance to resolve anew that we will make time and space in our lives to listen to him.
This does not mean an individual is weak in their faith, or have unresolved sin (which may be the case in some incidences, not the norm in most cases). Kandish relates how we may have gotten caught up in our own lives and have forgotten to make time to spend our mornings and evenings in devotion, meditation, and seeking after God in all things. We have come to lean unto our own understanding and not sought out the Sovereign Creator for guidance in our lives.
6. We see God’s hand in hindsight: Talk with any person who has come through their season of darkness, wrestling with and struggle and they will share how they see the hand of God after the fact. Faith is the things not seen and hoped for. This includes not seeing how God is moving in our own lives, even when it appears he is silent and far away from us. When we come to the other side of the storm, we look back and see the protection of God, the sustaining peace and calm we had felt during those times. “We often understand God’s activity in our lives only in hindsight.” Sharing his inspiration from Esther, Kandish concludes, “But somehow, even in those dire circumstances, God was with her, providing for her, protecting her, and building her a trust so strong that she was willing to risk her life for others.“
So, why is God on mute? Each person’s circumstances are different. The only answer to this question is personal. However, as we reflect on these principles, let us be mindful that the Sovereign God is ever present in our lives, even when it appears he is silent and distant.