Topic: A Biblical Perspective on the Topic of Silence.
The power of silence is often overlooked and underestimated in many Christian circles.
Communication can scientifically be substantiated as important to the human psyche, as oxygen to the body’s tissues. There are stories of Vietnam POW’s that were forbidden by their captors to communicate with other POW’s. The punishment for being caught communicating in any way was long torturous beatings to the point of wishful death. After such beatings it usually took an average of one week before the POW was willing to risk another round of torture just to communicate with his fellow prisoners even if the communication was irrelevant chatter, eye contact, or tapping. In my communications class we were told of an experiment where infants were given everything they needed to survive except companionship and communication. The experiment was to see if communication was imputed to us from our parents or if it was instinct. The experiment had a tragic ending in that every baby either was deathly ill or died from failure to thrive. The fulfillment of communication in our lives individually does not have to be an audible voice. It can be a wink, a smile, a wave of the hand or even a rhythmic coded tapping; something, anything that can be construed as a message from one to another. So powerful is communicating with other human beings that the silent treatment is a form of torture and information gathering. After a period of time in complete isolation a prisoner will readily give information just for the opportunity to communicate. Even today’s treatment of psych patients who misbehave is isolation, it is not uncommon in kidnapping situations where the victim bonds and sympathizes with the kidnapper just to satisfy the desire for communication.
Where does this desire for communication come from? I believe that since the scriptures tell us that we are made in the Image of God. That He is a natural, desirous, willing and able communicator. Our Awesome God when He created us according to “Our Image” imputed in the spirit, soul and body of our being the need, the thirst, and desire for communication. Therefore it is His desire to communicate with us; and his joy for us to communicate to Him.
If communication is something God created in us then why would God be silent? What causes are there; or scenarios in our life that could foster times or seasons of silence from God? Looking at the application of silence in our lives has brought me to contemplate the scriptures. When was God silent? Why was He silent? Why do I go through periods in my life where God is silent? What are the circumstances in my life where silence has its mastering, changing, and growing affect? Since the Creation of the human race, we were designed with the purpose of communicating. Our Heavenly Father commands us to pray without ceasing. When we fail all we have to do is confess with our audible voice and communicate to the Father our desire for forgiveness. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden the Father continued to press into them and walked in the garden. God continued calling their names desiring to continue to communicate to them in spite of their now sinful condition. Notice! They sinned and were in a state of sin when God was calling them wanting to talk to them. Hopefully that is something that makes you go, “hmm.”
Applications for Silence
Silence has its applications and I have pondered a few reasons. One reason for silence from God in the scriptures was because of sin in our lives. This would be the most obvious reason for God’s silence and many Christians will give this as a reason for His silence. When Jesus hung on the cross and the sin of every human was imputed to Him the Father separated Himself from Jesus and was silent (Matt 27:46). When King David sinned and did not confess he explains that God was silent except for the weariness of David’s bones. David feared the silence from the Lord and throughout the Psalms we get pictures of David’s crying out to the Lord to speak to Him (Ps 28:1; 32:3; 39:12; 83:1; 109:1). The Holy Spirit is our God Breathed, which speaks to us, brings to mind the truth and application of the Word of God. With sin in our life we grieve the Holy Spirit; which causes a separation and a silence (Eph 4:30). Is there sin in your life and you are finding that the Father is silent; the cure for silence might very well be open audible confession of sin. I have experienced this on a personal level but I want to emphasize the warning that God puts in Galatians that we not “be deceived for God is not mocked, whatever a man sows that he shall also reap.” Basically, do not use this as a formula or a license that allows you to continue in sin.
Silence in Testing of Faith
Another reason that God is silent is during times when our faith is being stretched, tested, and or strengthened. Job was especially upset because God was silent, giving no reasons for his suffering. Like so many of us today, Job misinterpreted God’s silence as rejection. He said that it was not his suffering that bothered him as much as this apparent rejection from the Lord. If God had given reasons for Job’s suffering then his faith would not have been stretched and strengthened. Furthermore, Jesus stretched the faith and hope of untold millions when He chose to be silent while a gentile woman from Canaan cried out to Him for healing for her daughter. Matthew 27:23 says, “But He answered her not a word.” The silence of Jesus did not wear her out but made her crying get louder and she even increased to worshipping Him. The hallmark of a true believer is even though God seems silent; they will continue to cry out even louder and worship Him. When the Lord was silent towards her she prostrated herself before Him even the more. This is such a powerful reality in my own life. When I enter into a season of silence it is evidence that I need to prostrate myself before the Lord. The Lord so much desires to take us from glory to greater glory and if He has to be silent to stir us up a little. If He has to be silent to get our attention all the more I hope and pray that I am able to have the wisdom to prostrate myself before Him to press in all the more.
Silence in Strength & Faith
In Job’s case God’s silence was a demonstration of Job’s strength in the faith and it gave Job the freedom of choice as to whether he will serve God or himself. Along with times of great revelation there have been more times of nothingness, silence from the Lord. I feel as though I have been the object of His consideration; as to which way I will go. Will I follow my Master, Lord and God or will I go back to a life of sin. I must confess that I have had both in my life. Silence from God is not very pleasant, it can be disconcerting and like Job all of us can assume that God’s silence is rejection, but through Jesus we realize that God’s silence is strengthening of faith.
Silence in Rejection
There are times in our life where Christians will be rejected. The disciples were sent out in pairs. Individually they could have reached more areas of the country, but this was not Christ’s plan. One advantage in going out by twos was that they could strengthen and encourage each other, especially when they faced rejection. Our strength comes from God but He meets many of our needs through our teamwork with others. As you serve Christ, don’t try to go at it alone. Remember to encourage one another in times of rejection. Frustratingly, I received more encouragement from my healthcare co-workers than most in the body of Christ. What is the body for if not to encourage during times of rejection, frustration and pain. Many people are going through tribulation. Many Christ loving brothers and sisters are mistreated, rejected, or are experiencing troubles. The church typically looks on bewildered and awkward to support or encourage those who may be hurting. Brothers and sisters in Christ need to come along side the rejected individual and lift them up, encourage them in the Lord, invite them to press on, press in deeper to Christ through their time of pain. Sometimes I almost want to hear a word from a Christian even if it is a word of correction.
Silence in Functioning as a Body
Silence from God can also be His way of bringing His children together. Allowing the body of Christ to function and conflict in an individual’s life as the driving force to bring our bonds closer together. The body of Christ cannot be silent. We have to express the goodness of God to every person, in every situation. Granted we put our foot in our mouths a lot and the scriptures tell us in James that we ought to be swift to hear and slow to speak. But the application of that verse is when we ourselves are in turmoil. In other words since I am in turmoil, I need to be slow to speak. Galatians 6:1 implores us to come along the brethren who are caught up in a trespass and restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness and to bear one another’s burdens. The 2nd verse goes a step further to say that this is the fulfillment of “The Law of Christ.” There is much evidence that it is conflict that brings people together. Put a little turmoil in someone’s life mix in some Silence from God and throw in a pinch of believer and bake at 350 degrees for about a half an hour and then let cool and the end result is going to be better than anything pulled out of any oven.
Silence is Saving Your Life
One more reason for silence is that it might be an indication of God’s patience. At times God seems silent. By His silence He is not condoning sin, nor is he indifferent to it. Instead, God is withholding deserved punishment, giving time for repentance (2 Pet 3:9). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and wants them to turn from evil (Ezekiel 33:11). But His silence does not last forever; a time of punishment will surely come. King David wrote God’s response to the wicked in the Psalms that, “I remained silent—you thought I didn’t care; but now your time of punishment has come, and I list all the above charges against you.” Even as one who is being tried as though by fire let me be one to tell you not to allow for the previous verse to come from the breaking of silence from God. Do not allow God’s silence be from the classification that He is withholding punishment. Get right with Him today by confession. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 Kings 19
“Elijah, sensed the silence of God after taking out the prophets of baal then getting a death threat from Jezebel. Elijah, fled to the mountains crying out to God and God demonstrated to Elijah that He is in the still small voice.”
1 To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock:
Do not be silent to me,
Lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my supplications
When I cry to You,
When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
And I was as a dumb man that opened not his mouth
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Lyn Sheperd MSN RN