By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I am so overwhelmed with what is happening in the world. I’ve prayed and prayed, but I feel that God will not answer me. I've been experiencing God's silence my entire life, 52 years. In the Bible, people had to go through seasons of hardships, seasons of God's silence. But what if your season is your entire life? I live and pray, and I feel I'll die of old age still suffering God's silence. Will God ever answer me? How long must I endure the agony of silence?
I am grieved for you during this difficult time. If ever you needed to hear feel God’s peace and believe He is listening to your prayers, it is now. I hope that my answers will help you navigate this journey.
I can’t imagine what it’s like not to hear God speak. It sounds scary, hopeless, fearful and disappointing.
After considering your situation, I decided that it might be profitable to make a checklist of some of the reasons why Jesus at times seems so silent. I’m certain that you’ve already considered them. Nevertheless, maybe one of my suggestions may offer you a sort of “spiritual spark,” that opens the door for you to cut through the silence and hear God speak.
I’d like to use your situation in the hope that it might help others who are struggling with the same sort of issues. Let’s look at nine reasons God may seem silent sometimes:
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Reason #1: Spiritual Receptors Are Off
When our spiritual receptors are turned off. Only Christ can turn them back on!
Our spiritual receptors are turned on when we receive Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Then and only then can he speak clearly to us. Here is how you can be sure you know Jesus Christ, and the Sinner’s Prayer for Salvation.
God created man with three parts. Our body (soma) is our organ for world consciousness.
Our soul (psyche) is our organ of self-consciousness. We have a mind, will, and emotions that are the essence of personality. Our soul is where we think and plan and make decisions.
God lives in our inner-human spirit where we worship, commune and hear God speak Holy Spirit to human spirit. I call my human spirit my “knower.” You know what it’s like. Down deep inside you just know that God is speaking with you.
We often say when someone receives Christ as their personal Savior, “Jesus came into my heart.” Technically he did not come into our hearts, but into our spirits.
Think of a three-story building. The first floor is our body. The second floor is our soul. The third floor is our spirit. When we receive Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, Jesus comes to live in our spirit.
When Adam sinned, a bomb went off in his third-floor. He would now die both spiritually and physically. He was kicked out of the garden so he could no longer hear God speak. His ability to hear God was blown away and now God was silent.
Intimate Worship Fuels Connection
In essence, his spiritual receptors were ruined. Instead of intimate worship and open fellowship with God, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden with dastardly consequences. The entrance to the Garden was shut tight by angels with blazing swords.
Another way to say it is that sin turned off the light. Only Jesus can turn it back on.
Our now malfunctioning human spirit and ability to hear God speak commences when we surrender to Christ as personal Lord and Savior, confess and repent of our sin, receive Jesus into our lives and declare that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Then and only can we hear the voice of God speak into our lives.
Read Your Love Letter
Two men, one a Christian and the other not, were discussing how to interpret the Bible. The non-Christian related that he really couldn’t understand it. The Christian said, “The Bible is a love letter to Christians. That’s what you get for reading other people’s mail!”
This doesn’t mean that God never hears the prayers of non-Christians, it just means that God is under no obligation to answer the prayers of people who are not his own born-again children.
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Reason #2: Salvation Deserves a Re-Check
Paul instructs us that it is occasionally good to re-check our personal salvation to be certain that all is in place!
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:10).
I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders; I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. (Galatians 2:2)
Another word for this might be: “double-check.”
Julie and I go to the bank and withdraw some money. About 2 miles later I ask, “Are you sure you have the money?”
We leave for the grocery store and about 10 minutes later I ask, “Did you remember to close the garage door?”
Julie replies, “Why are you always double-checking me? Don’t you trust me?”
“I don’t know, I say, it must be my obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
Many of us can tend to obsess a bit too much about money, safety, and other daily matters. But when it comes to matters of salvation, it’s okay to somewhat obsess, or feel compelled, to double-check the authenticity of your commitment.
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Reason #3: We Haven’t Accepted Our Full Access
Jesus tore open the temple curtain during his crucifixion to give us full access to God. This was symbolized when the temple curtain was opened from top to bottom and not from bottom to top.
As Christians, we are invited to enter boldly into his throne room where we can enjoy his glory and presence and where he can speak directly to us, and we to him.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51)
We receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. Then, and only then, may we “boldly enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain...and since we have a great high priest over the house of God that has drawn near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-25; Matthew 27:51).
Standing before God in the Holy Place with the curtain torn from top to bottom we have full, unencumbered communion with God through the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ that allows us to see and hear from God. He is not silent; he is here.
Why don’t you take a moment now and go into his throne room?
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Reason #4: We Give Up on Diligently Seeking
We will hear the voice of God (or feel conviction in our Spirit from him) when we diligently seek him. Jesus said:
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
If we make seeking his face the top priority in our lives, we may hear him in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places.
God seldom breaks into our lives with thoughts and ideas out of the “clear blue.” It’s when we are sitting quietly, reading the Bible, thinking about spiritual things, sharing the Bible with friends, listening to a sermon, meditating, listening in our inner spirit—or otherwise actively inviting God to speak to us—that he will no longer be silent.
Reason #5: We Need to Purify Our Heart
Jesus said: blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8).
God may be speaking but he seems silent because sin dirties our inner-human spirit so that we cannot see or hear from God.
I once knew a pastor who got caught up in porn addiction. He was devastated; but couldn’t seem to get free. He tried willpower; but that didn’t work. He was flying over Colorado, closed his eyes, and begged for God to strike him blind. When he opened up his eyes, mountains were everywhere.
He finally found freedom while reading a prayer book written by a Catholic priest in the 15th century, which said:
You can see Jesus or you can see your pornography; but you can’t have both. Clean up your spirit and hear God speak!
The pastor decided that looking at porn did not come close to the beauty of seeing Jesus.
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Reason #6: Our Motives Are Wrong
God does not speak to those who pray with wrong motives.
You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
I’m reminded of many sports teams that have a habit of bowing in prayer to ask God to help them win.
All the while, just before the game begins, there opponent is praying the same prayer.
Perhaps a much better motive is to pray for the players to play their best, be free from harm, and compete with integrity.
Many Christians end their prayers by saying something like, “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.” It’s almost as if we are putting a stamp of approval on what we’ve asked for! Our prayers often take so little thought.
In addition, if we listen carefully, we’ll discover that most of our prayers are about us. We must first determine whether or not what we’re asking for is God’s will, or simply ours.
Godly prayers are for Jesus’ sake, not ours.
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Reason #7: We Aren’t Seeking with All Our Being
We must diligently seek God with all of our being.
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29).
If we seek his face by making the search top priority in our lives, we may hear him in all kinds of places.
God seldom breaks into our thoughts out of the, “clear blue.” It’s when we are sitting quietly, reading the Bible, thinking about spiritual things, meditating, listening in our inner spirit, or asking God to speak to us that he will no longer be silent.
Reason #8: God Is Speaking, We Just Don’t Recognize It
God may not be silent at all. It just may be that we don’t recognize his voice for what it is.
After defeating Baal, Elijah was incredibly exhausted and depressed. In 1 Kings 19:11, God told Elijah to stand on the mountain while he passed by. God was certainly not silent. But He also wasn’t in the howling wind, the violent earthquake, or the fire. He was in a gentle whisper.
I was talking with my nine-year-old daughter about how God speaks to us.
She said, “I’ve never heard God speak to me.” She expected God to speak in an audible voice. I explained to her how it didn’t work that way, but she was in no way satisfied.
Over the years we’ve discussed at least 17different ways by which God might speak to us.
Just so we don’t miss the fact that God is not silent, here are 17 different ways that God may speak to us, and is not silent:
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17 Different Ways God Speaks
2. Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3)
3. Signs And Wonders (Acts 3:6-7)
4. Tests (Judges 6:36-38)
5. Godly People (Proverbs 8:32-34)
6. Creation (Romans 1:20)
7. Preachers and Prophets (Acts 11:27-28)
8. Bushes (Exodus 3:1-4)
9. Angels (Luke 1:26-28)
10. The Angel Of The Lord (Genesis 22:10-11)
11. God’s Glory (Exodus 33:18-19)
12. Circumstances (Acts 16:6-8)
13. Reasons (Isaiah 1:18)
14. Dreams (Joel 2:28)
15. Visions (Joel 2:28)
16. Failures (Matthew 26:75)
17. The Human Spirit (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
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Reason #9: We’re Not Listening, Even if God Shouts
God may actually be shouting loudly, and it’s possible we’re just not listening.
After running 90 miles away from Queen Jezebel because he had killed her 400 prophets of Baal, Elijah was exhausted and deeply depressed. Angels attended to him and then God was not silent. He spoke.
“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
We listen because sometimes the winds are contrary.
We listen because sometimes an earthquake is shaking the core of our being.
We listen because sometimes it feels like a walking through the fires of hell.
We listen, fortunately, because sometimes his voice may be hard to hear...but he is not silent.
In his own quiet way, Jesus is giving us the strength and grace we need for every situation.
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." (Mark 4:9)
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 3:43)
God is not silent. He is speaking. He loves you deeply, and even if you don’t feel it, He is in control.
Why don’t you take a moment to listen quietly? God may be speaking to you right now.
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Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.