Written by: Jasmine Yow (Photo by: Ronald Lim)
Thoughts on God and Silences
On any given Sunday, walking into church would bring about a familiar sight for most Christians: friends mingling in the lobby, a friendly usher shaking your hand, the worship team giving glory to God.
Occasionally, someone gets up on stage to share a testimony. They pour their heart out, detailing their thoughts and emotions through a difficult time. This phrase is commonly uttered, “And God said to me…”
Five words to signal the moment everyone has been waiting for. This is the turning point in the story — the part where God swoops in to save the day. Problems are miraculously resolved, hearts are healed, and we celebrate their triumphs as a spiritual family.
Yet, there will be people who would have forgotten what it is like to have such an encounter. We sit discouraged, with this question in our minds, “Why doesn’t God speak to me like that?”
The form of hearing God’s words through the Holy Spirit is known in Greek as rhema: the utterance or “thing said.” An inspired word can bring life, encouragement, and hope to our struggles. On the other hand, the lack of one can cause us to doubt in the goodness (and even existence) of our Heavenly Father. We struggle through a fierce storm in a rickety boat with Jesus asleep in the stern, seemingly oblivious to the chaos in our lives. Just like Jesus’ disciples, we cry out “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38, author’s emphasis)
The deafening silence occurs to kings, pastors, and people near to and far from God.
My personal “spiritual vacuum” happened at a time when my work schedule ended with numerous late nights. The constant struggle to stay alert caused my health to deteriorate, and eventually affected my spiritual health too.
Week after week, I was unable to enjoy intimacy with God, with my mind more focused on physical needs such as strongly brewed coffee or a good night’s rest. I started missing church services because I didn’t hear my alarm going off in the mornings. It got to the point where I no longer cared about hearing His voice: If God wanted to speak to me, He could jolly well find a way to get my attention while I went about life in my caffeine-induced haze.
My reaction to the void was not unlike how a young child would behave whenever a parent moves out of their sight. Medically defined as ‘separation anxiety,’ it occurs when there is an inappropriate and excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from a close caregiver (usually the parents).
Our dependence on God as our Heavenly Father is highlighted during times like this, with signs of our spiritual distress spilling over into the flesh. Sometimes we become increasingly legalistic, striving to hit a certain level of praying, worshipping, and quiet time in our effort to “be good,” in believing that if we do more, we will gain more of His favour.
Other times we act out, abandoning God’s ways because we feel that He has abandoned us as His children. We swing between the two extremes, trying every means to reach out before tiring out and giving up.
It was in this state of exhaustion and abandonment that I recognised that I would soon think of God as unnecessary in my life should I continue on like this. I forced myself to prioritise giving God space, despite every fibre of my being screaming in protest. I carved out portions of time to stay up and commune with Him after work, whether or not I thought it was productive. The process was painful, and the progress slow, but these two factors played a major part in me recovering lost ground.
1. Rhema vs Logos
In our church culture today, many instances of God speaking to us is represented by rhema. However, God has another way of expressing His heart to us personally — through logos. Sadly, the Bible is what a few of us dust off on a weekly basis during services, like an appendix to our faith. What we fail to realise that our logos is an equally powerful and personal method of communication with God.
Jesus himself countered each of the Devil’s temptations with a Bible verse (Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16, and 6:13). Passionate cries from God resonate through each book, with God declaring that “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5) and that “He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
The Bible encourages us, in telling us that one only needs to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4:8). It also instructs and corrects, pointing us away from the things that separate us from God. What better way than to hide His word in our hearts? (Psalm 119:11, paraphrased)
Our fears are quelled in the presence of His instructions and encouragement, laid out in front of us in black and white. In fact, true rhema is always based on and supported by logos. Logos can be our daily bread in spiritual famine, if we would discipline ourselves to receive from it.
2. Lean on others
It is important to constantly remind ourselves that dry seasons last just for a season; they come and go in everyone’s lives. Some of the most famous Psalms in the Bible were birthed out of seasons of dryness. In having a community to encourage, intercede, and occasionally give us a much needed kick, God reminds all of us that His love is unchanged through the ages. He placed us in community for us to lean on each other in our times of need, with the body of Christ functioning as our spiritual eyes and ears when our own fail us.
As God quietens His voice, He steps back to allow our own to be heard — a resolution in our spirit to humble ourselves and choose to believe in His goodness in every season. We might not always be bold, sometimes filled with fear and doubt, but a quiet trust is slowly built in seasons of silences. It is crucial that we understand that God may be silent, but isn’t absent. Just as a child grows and understands that a parent leaving for work does not mean that they are abandoned, we can trust in our Heavenly Father, puncturing the silences with hope.