By Chip Sekulich, Chaplain, Twelve Stone Health Partners
It is much easier to trust God when everything in our lives is sunshine and roses. When the bills are paid, everyone we love is safe and healthy and the pantry and fridge are full, we easily walk around humming, “God is so good”.
Who wouldn’t trust when God when He seems to be answering our prayers as soon as we ask–or better yet before we ask? It is fairly easy to trust in Him during the positive times, and we sense His presence in every area of our lives.
Then there are those times that one philosopher called ”the dark nights of the soul”— when we turn to God in our pain and our tears, we plead and pray and yet feel we are met with deafening silence. We’ve all had them, those painful moments when you desperately need to hear from God, but it seems He is nowhere to be found. I call these, the “Silent Times.”
Silent Times are not new. Key people in the Bible went through the pain of Silent Times in their lives.
Job was a man who loved God and his family. Disaster descended and took everything that he valued, including his children and his health. Though we often hear of “the Patience of Job,” we miss the fourteen times that he asked God “why” without receiving the answers that he sought.
Then, there is Joseph. Talk about waiting on God for an answer! He was cruelly thrown in a pit and sold into slavery as a young teen by his brothers. When things finally started looking up, he was falsely accused and imprisoned for thirteen hard years, for a crime that he didn’t commit. Even the great King David experienced Silent Times in his life. We get to hear one of the many times that he pleads with God during one of his Silent Times in Psalm 10:1, “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?”
We also hear the Apostle Paul speak of his experience in the Silent Times in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 when he said, “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.”
In the same passage, Paul then goes on to reveal that Silent Times are not only orchestrated by God but are actually used by Him for our benefit: “But as a result, (of the Silent Times) we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”
In my personal experience, I have had at least three key take-aways from Silent Times:
God may be using our Silent Times shift our focus. God did eventually heal, restore, and bless Job, but He never did give Job a direct explanation. God simply reminded Job that He was God, and Job wasn’t. Job found relief and rescue once he shifted his focus from himself to others (Job 42:10) And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
David was so deeply touched by his Silent Times that he humbled himself, confessed his sin, and found the grace and peace that came from a restored relationship with God. In part, because of his reaction to his Silent Times, David is known to this day as a “man after God’s own heart.”
God can use our Silent Times as a classroom. Though the Apostle Paul was highly educated, he always saw himself as needing to grow and develop spiritually. In Philippians 4:11-13 he used an interesting phrase to describe what his takeaway was from his Silent Times. He said that in spite of his circumstances, he had “learned to be content.” Could it be that God may be trying to use our Silent Times to teach us to switch our focus from gaining more “stuff” to what really matters? By the way, it was the Apostle Paul that shared one of the lessons that he learned during his Silent Times when he penned, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.”
God often uses our Silent Times to transform us. God may not always immediately change our circumstances, but He often changes us through our circumstances. Prior to experiencing his own dark night of the soul, Joseph appeared to be an overindulged, self-absorbed, spoiled teen who was known as “Daddy’s favorite” and was hated by his brothers for it. God orchestrated Joseph’s long journey and used every difficult step of the way to transform him into the savior of his family, and a nation.
The Lord took Joseph from the pit and the prison and established him in the palace. When he reached the palace, his brothers showed up seeking favor during a famine, never expecting to find the target of their cruelty now in charge of food distribution–the man who literally held their lives in his hands!
Rather than getting even, Joseph surrendered his right to avenge himself and showed grace, mercy, and love toward those who had wronged him so many years before. Joseph would say when confronting and forgiving his brothers who had betrayed him, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive,” -Genesis 50:20.
Just because God doesn’t answer when, where and how we would prefer, doesn’t mean that He doesn’t hear us or is ignoring our pleas. Could it be that He has something far greater in mind, something that will make the suffering worth it? All that He asks of us is that we learn to keep the faith and keep trusting Him- even in the Silent Times. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” -Hebrews 11:6