Recently I wrote about what to do during the times God is silent. It seemed there was more to be said. As I read the Scriptures—and consider my own journey with God—those times are frequent for God’s children. Sometimes it is even more than the silence of God. Sometimes I am silent in my own spiritual life. I’m not growing. I’m not as passionate about my walk as I once was. Spiritually speaking, I am stagnated.
We should not be surprised when those times come. In fact, I even believe God works through those times to prepare us for times of great spiritual growth. But, what do we do in those seasons when we don’t wake up every morning anxious to dive into God’s word or join Him in prayer?
Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over three years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I have learned my sermon messages people love most are when I cover a sin someone else struggles with (other than the one who loved the message) or when I address a felt need of the person who loved the message. I don’t seem to hear compliments as much from the messages that challenge someone directly about the sin in their life.
I can only imagine the stress Elijah experienced during those years. Something strikes me, however, that seems to further complicate Elijah’s situation.
Consider 1 Kings 18:1 “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’”
According to a couple of New Testament passages, this “After a long time” was actually three and a half years. The famine was nearly four years long. For over three years, the people apparently continued to sin, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive, not speaking, even to His great servant Elijah.
Now, I can only speculate here because the Bible doesn’t say anything about Elijah’s own spiritual condition. Obviously, he obeyed when a word from the Lord came, but I also don’t read he was crying out to God for a word either. We certainly read accounts of people of God who did in many of the Psalms.
Was Elijah just as quiet in his crying out to God as God was in speaking to Elijah? Could Elijah have been spiritually dry? Again, I don’t know—and, I’m not suggesting I have any special insight here nor am I trying to make the passage say what I want it to say to make a point. But, I do know how it feels in my life when the fervor of faith isn’t what it used to be.
Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God ever been eerily loud in your life? (You know, sometimes silence is so severe it’s almost loud.) And, maybe the silence isn’t just on God’s side of the communication. Maybe you are quieter than you once were in the relationship also. Have you been there?
Imagine you had been faithfully serving—God is using you—you are in constant communication with Him—and then suddenly everything is quiet.
The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah was disliked and unpopular. He was a social outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent. God would soon do a miracle through Elijah, but during this period, all Elijah could do was wait. And, how he waited during these days or how he responded to God—we simply are left to our imagination and personal experience to evaluate.
If you have been believer for very long at all, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. And, you’ve had other periods where you weren’t looking very hard to find Him. Be honest. We often call these periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.
What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?
(Of course, I must remind us, every breath we take is actually a miracle—and the grace—of God.)
If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You know how to deal with the spiritual highs. You don’t need much help doing those things. The tough part of our spiritual journey is figuring out what to do during the years of silence—during the years when miracles are nowhere to be found.
What do we do during the spiritually dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God—and maybe we aren’t listening very passionately?
Here are seven actions I encourage you to consider:
Don’t ignore the silence.
Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness—when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. And, maybe I didn’t even think I was growing. God almost always has a purpose in the quietness. Stay very close to God, even when you don’t feel like it. Go through the motions if you have to in your daily disciplines. Read the Bible—yes, even as a discipline. Attend church and fellowship with other believers. God’s power may be displayed when you least expect it. Look at the story of Elijah again. It doesn’t appear he was expecting God to speak when He did.
Confess any sin in your life.
This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, as far as we know, but the problem for the Israelites was they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now. But, just like in every relationship, if there is something you’ve done to injure it there will be a break in closeness. If repetitive and unrepentant sin is in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.
It’s never a bad exercise simply to ask forgiveness. Don’t be a martyr about it. You are saved by grace, not works, so live freely in His favor. Rest in the sufficiency of what Christ has done, but be humble enough to admit you are helpless apart from His grace.
Go back to what you know.
Get back to the basics of the faith that saved you. You’ll do it hundreds of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith—the promises of God’s word. God is in control. He really is. Even when it doesn’t seem He is anywhere to be found—God is on His throne.
This is where I love to have some favorite verses in my memory to draw from when needed most. In these times I might listen to songs that were important during stronger times in my walk. Music has a way of drawing us back to another time. If I’m especially dry, I’m going to be reading in the Gospels, or some of Paul’s letters such as Ephesians or Galatians, every day. It’s where my freedom in Christ is most clearly stated.
Choose sides again—if you need to.
You can’t adequately serve God and the world. Something happens in life, often sin, or busyness, or boredom, or a tragedy, but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God due to the circumstances in our life at the time. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your loyalty to God and the place He holds in your heart, get back securely on His side. (Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? The Father was waiting with open arms and ready to run at the moment of the son’s attempt to return.)
I find sometimes I need to rearrange my schedule to prioritize my time with God. I may need to get up earlier or spend a few lunch breaks fasting with Him. I may need to say no to some seemingly good opportunities because they are distracting me from what is most important in my life.
Trust more—not less.
Times of silence may be filled with fear, but these times will definitely require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. This is not an indication to quit—it may be God is using this time for something bigger than you could have imagined. But it will require a deeper level of trust.
Again, this is where we need to focus on the foundational issues of our faith. I have a few sermons that ministered to me at the time and periodically I will bring them out and listen again. I want to rekindle and strengthen my faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
Listen and watch closely.
Someday God is going to make His plans known to you. And, you don’t want to miss it! Do you think Elijah would have wanted to miss what happened to him in 1 Kings 18? Go back and read the story if you need a refresher. When God does break the silence it will be good! You will want to hear what He has to say!
Keep in mind, God may come to you personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know God is moving.
Prepare your heart and attitude to receive.
If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. I see people (and I’m just as guilty) who view the world so negatively it would take a burning bush for God to get their attention. They’ve already decided in their heart and mind everything is hopeless. I’m not sure they are reading the same New Testament I’m reading!
Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence. Know that what you’re experiencing is a normal part of the Christian experience. It’s a normal part of being an emotional being in a fallen world. But, our response to the spiritual dry times may help determine how long they last and how devastating they are on us—and the people around us. Consider these words of Jesus—and apply as necessary: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11).
Are you in one of those periods of silence today? How do you handle these periods of time?
This article originally appeared here.