By David A. DePra
One of the most difficult seasons in the life of a Christian is when God seems SILENT. And the fact is, those seasons when God seems silent are usually when we think we need Him to speak the most. God is usually silent to us when we are in a trial. Indeed, I have found that the silence of God, and my inability to understand Him can, in itself, become a greater trial than any circumstances.
Actually, what I am describing is THE TRIAL OF FAITH. A trial of faith, when everything is said and done, is not a struggle over circumstances – the real struggle is not to make circumstances work out, or to make suffering end. The trial of faith has to do with what is going on between myself and God. The circumstances are simply the venue. FAITH is at issue in any trial of faith – my FAITH in God is what is being TRIED or PROVEN.
If there is one thing that is a trial of faith it is the silence of God. When God is silent the enemy will come in and play upon our fears. The suggestion will be that God is not really with us, and the silence is proof of it. And the questioning and the doubting will arise. But again – this is all the trial of faith. “Hath God said…” This is the mantra of Satan. Well, when God is silent we know HE HAS SAID. But what makes it hard is that He is not presently speaking when we seem to need Him the most.
Most of us would just like God to come down and simply TELL US what to do in situations. We would accept ANY answer, as long as we know it is from God. Or, and this is just as common, we would like God to just prove He is there. In a trial of faith, the silence of God makes it seem like we are in a losing situation with no way out. And God seems indifferent.
Now, if you have encountered such a trial, and have gone through it in a blaze of glory, never having any doubts, and never facing any challenges, congratulations. But the real truth is, that any trial of faith is absolutely geared to bringing out the worst in us. If we aren’t presently questioning God, the trial of our faith will bring questions, and will hit us right where we are weak – or at least hit us right where we have been passive and blind.
This might seem bad. But it is actually good. For you see, a trial of faith isn’t a matter of God tempting us, or testing us to see whether we will break. No. A trial of faith is the way God BUILDS faith. And faith can only be built if we are faced with every question and every challenge. Faith isn’t real unless it is tested by circumstances, the enemy, and especially by our own flesh and emotions. Once it is tested, then as gold is tried by fire, our faith will then be more pure. It will be a PROVEN FAITH.
God PROVES faith. But in order to do so, all of our faith in all else must be exposed as folly. We must be exposed as frauds so that our faith can then truly be in Christ. All of our motives of self-interest with God must be brought out into the light. And of course, God will be revealed to us all the more as fully FAITHFUL. But none of this is possible ON PAPER. It is not possible simply because I know the teaching. No. This is about relationship with God. That has to be built and proven.
The trial of faith will always include the silence of God. You can bank on it. But it ought to be encouraging to know that the silence of God is NORMAL in a trial of faith. Thus, it is not a signal that something is necessarily wrong. It is likely a sign that everything is right. God is proving our faith. He is, if you know what I mean, trusting us with a silence.
When God is silent to us in a trial, this tends to bring everything out into the open about us. It certainly brings out the bad, but will ultimately prove faith in us. Yet right in the middle of all of this is something more. God wants to PROVE and to BUILD faith in us. But faith is a relationship word. It must be rested upon something or someone. In a nutshell, God wants to reveal Himself to us.
Here we see the ultimate reason God is silent to us – especially during a trial. It isn’t that God could not tell us things. It isn’t that He could not give us information about Himself, or about what He is doing. In fact, I might say that He already has given that – it is all in the Bible. Yet during some of these terrible times of trial, none of that seems to be able to get us far. God is silent to us during a trial because He wants to do more than simply give us information. He wants to give us revelation. God wants to reveal HIMSELF to us.
Initially, reading that might not get us too excited. But it is a fact that if we get to the place where we are actually learning Christ, and God is revealing Himself, yes, TO us, but also IN us — it is certain that we will never regret it. If I actually come to know God through revelation I will know that no information or facts that God could give me that. I will recognize that I have been apprehended for the very purpose of God – to have His Son revealed IN ME.
Now I See
When God won’t tell us anything, He is actually seeking to reveal HIMSELF to us. This cannot be done merely through words. We are here talking about coming into a spiritual revelation – something that is not of the senses, and something that cannot be dragged down from heaven. Indeed, until we actually begin to SEE, we can only know that we DON’T see, or that there is more TO SEE. But until we SEE, well, we don’t SEE.
Those who have gone through such experiences with the Lord will know what I mean. Others may think that I am crazy. But read the Bible. Read Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, starting in Eph. 1:16. Read the words, “God revealed His Son IN ME.” Read I Corinthians 2 – where Paul contrasts the things of the Spirit of God over and against natural thinking. We can know Christ only through revelation. The trial of faith is usually what it takes to do the groundwork for that.
Virtually all that we need to know about God’s purpose in trials is found in the book of Job. There, the Truth is laid out in a narrative. In the NT, it is more direct teaching. But in the book of Job we find a man whom God Himself applauded as good and upright – but who God chose to try greatly. God initiated the conversation with Satan, and God initiated the entire trial. God took a good and upright man and sought to build in him something that would never be otherwise.
Job suffers greatly through no fault of his own. For forty chapters he goes back and forth seeking answers from God. His friends offer him answers, but Job wanted answers from God. Yet God was silent. God had allowed Job’s life to fall apart, and God left Job to contend with the suffering in silence. This seemed unfair – it always does, doesn’t it? But that was the will of God. The outcome proved God to be just, and to be a God of love.
After all that suffering, and all that thinking, and all that reasoning, and all that questioning – all in the face of the silence of God – Job is finally brought to an outcome of his trial. We find it in his own words. He says,
Then Job answered the LORD, and said, “I know that You can do everything, and that no thought can be withheld from You…Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not…..I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees You. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)
Job was like many Christian people today – we have all of our teachings and doctrines. We believe them. We say we trust God. Maybe we even exhort others to trust Him. And we are sincere enough. But often our faith has never been tested. And because it hasn’t, we don’t realize that there is plenty of unbelief in us. It takes the trial and the silence of God to bring it out. But not to hurt us. God allows it, indeed, He orchestrates the whole thing so that we can be exposed, and healed, and BUILT in those areas that were weak.
Job spent a long time searching for answers from God. He never got them. But instead of answers FROM God, Job came to SEE GOD HIMSELF. I would submit the quest for answers at that point ceased. Job said, “I spoke the truth about You, Lord.” (God affirmed and said, “My servant Job has spoken rightly of Me,” at the end of the book.) Job added, “I thought I knew all of the doctrines and facts about You. Well, I knew THEM. I knew the doctrines. But now I SEE YOU. Thus, I realize that I spoke more than I knew and said things that were greater than I ever could grasp. For this I repent in dust and ashes.” Job realized that God was much bigger than his understanding – and that alone was a great revelation to Him, and for us.
All of this was made possible by the silence of God. When God is not saying anything to us it is possible He wants to REVEAL HIMSELF to us. The fact is, if every time we wanted to hear from God He jumped up and gave us what we wanted, we would never come to see Him. We would settle for words.
Incidentally, this is one reason why people who say that God talks to them every five minutes, and that He leads their every move – this is why they are NOT correct. God simply does not lead people like that. He does lead like that once in awhile – but the Christian life is not a continual stream of signs and wonders and leadings from God. The Christian life is LEARNING CHRIST. It is a coming to KNOW HIM. For that you need more than leadings. You need to SEE GOD.
The trial of faith is to prove and build faith. But this is not possible as the outcome unless we SEE GOD. All faith that is real is based upon our knowledge of God Himself. That is why faith is eternal, and is a relationship word.
As mentioned, when we are in a trial, and God is silent, usually this brings out the worst in us. It exposes us as frauds in many respects. But this is all unto freedom. As we face the silence of God in the midst of a bad situation, there is a choice. We will either rely more upon ourselves, or seek the Lord all the more. If we seek God, this will result in a, “single eye,” and a, “pure heart.” A single eye and a pure heart are attributes of a person who will not settle for less than, yes, God’s will, but who will not settle for less than knowing and experiencing God Himself. If I seek God for such a revelation, Jesus would say to me, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall SEE GOD.”
Jesus said (in John 16) that when a woman is giving birth her mind is on the pain, but once the birth happens, her mind is on the baby. This applies to God’s desire to, “form Christ in us.” (see Gal. 4:19) Christ IS in us. But now we must learn Christ. Thus, God progressively unfolds Christ to us – but this is so utterly contrary to the natural man and to our thinking, and requires such an adjustment for us, that it does produce suffering. It really is like a woman giving birth – every season and every time God brings us on in this learning of Christ can be liken to that. So there is pain. There is pain during the time Christ is being formed in us to another degree. But once we begin to see Him and the Truth – which is like a new birth of sorts — the suffering is but a memory. Now we rejoice because we SEE HIM. Then, just as Jesus continues in that passage from John 16, we ask no more questions. Job stopped asking. Why? Because when we know Him, we see how everything is related to Him (and us). The questions get answered by the revelation of Him that we have received.
The NATURE OF THINGS demands that we cannot see God until our hearts are made pure unto the Lord, and our eye is made single to Him. This is because of where we start – blind and of the flesh. Thus, to get free it will necessarily produce suffering. The great irony is that those things about which we grip and complain – the silence of God and the suffering – may actually be the very answer to our prayers to know God.