When my marriage was crumbling, God was silent. I prayed. Fervently – as I’d been taught. And I knew I was asking God for something within His will. I mean, I was asking for a healthy, thriving marriage – everyone knows that’s God’s plan.
But then I’d doubt. Second-guess. Beat myself up a bit. Maybe I was asking for too much. Maybe I was being selfish. After all, life isn’t about being happy; it’s about being holy. I’d heard that most of my adult life. Maybe God’s plan was for me to silently, selflessly endure. Maybe it was too much to ask that my needs be met. So I earnestly prayed that God would transform my attitude, make me content, take away all my needs and wants for more, lower my standards, remove my dreams of what a marriage should be like. I pleaded with God to satisfy me with God only, God alone.
Still, God was silent. Nothing changed.
As I approached the breaking point and finally suggested a separation, fear nipped at the frazzled corners of my mind. The devil on my shoulder whispered accusations and worst-case scenarios and leveraged shame against me. Was I destroying my children and ruining my testimony and disappointing everyone? Back and forth, I wrestled with myself. Would I let fear control me or would I have faith that living in truth would set me free?
In many ways, God remained silent. Distant. Had I been forgotten? Had I disappointed Him too?
Then came our public announcement of divorce — the insides and outsides matched. Finally. Waves of relief washed over me. Whatever would happen, at least I’d be free of pretending, free of the pressure of keeping up appearances. Whatever would happen, it would be real.
As the days went by, one conversation at a time, the nearness of God was revealed. This person sat on my sofa and reassured me, mentioning the exact details I’d cried out to God in worry. That person hugged me and spoke healing words straight to my heart, addressing precise concerns only God knew about. Time and again, God used other people’s words to assure me that God had been listening the entire time. God’s silence didn’t indicate God’s absence. It had just been a time of waiting, of preparation, of letting things work themselves out so that we could finally be free and on our way to healing. True healing.
The silent time gave space for things to really fall apart, for stuff to get real. No amount of pretending or performing or outward adjustments would work. We needed to be stripped bare so that God could quietly come in and begin the work of healing and loving – right in the midst of our mess.
Between the Old Testament writings and the New Testament writings, 400 years of silence stretch out. No prophecies. No handwriting on walls. No voice in a desert. No burning bushes. No talking donkeys. No supernatural appearances. Silence.
Had God forgotten the world? Was God so disappointed with his wandering creation that He simply let go and walked away?
I imagine fear nipped at the frayed edges of the hearts and minds of God’s people. I imagine that for some, it was a threadbare faith they held onto, like a well-worn security blanket that didn’t offer a lot of warmth but reminded them of the safety and love of days gone by. Cuddling up to the stories of God’s past faithfulness sustained them in the darkness.
Then suddenly, after 400 years of silence, God spoke.
God spoke to a priest named Zechariah, “Do not be afraid; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:13) His wife, Elizabeth, would have a baby, and that baby would prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
Then God spoke again. “Greetings, you are highly favored. The Lord is with you,” the angel said to Mary.
400 years of silence. 400 years of things falling apart. Then, in the midst of the mess, God quietly appeared as a baby.
Your prayer has been heard. The Lord is with you.
God had been present all along, surrounding creation. Listening. Waiting. Then the timing was perfect – true healing and love could arrive.
Are you in the middle of silence? Do you fear you’ve been forgotten? Please don’t lose heart. Cling to the threadbare blanket of faith. Cuddle up to the stories of God’s past faithfulness while you wait for the beautiful whisper of God’s still, small voice, “Your prayers have been heard. The Lord is with you.”