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When God Seems Silent: What to Do While You’re Waiting

July 21, 2020

Waiting is hard. Waiting while God seems silent is even harder.

I’ll be the first to admit that God’s “no’s” are difficult and perplexing, especially when we’re in genuine need of basic provision. Job loss has been one of the many difficult and perplexing seasons that my wife and I have endured. Despite experiencing job loss a few years ago, enduring a long season of unemployment for the second time has carried new challenges with unclear direction and many closed doors. I have prayed for patience, sought counsel, and applied for countless jobs. I have grown restless while waiting and weary of the search. It has seemed that the Lord has “walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths” (Job 19:8).

As difficult as unemployment has been, waiting is nothing new for my family. Over the past thirteen years, we have been in the school of waiting as continued trials have brought us to our knees and broken our pride. In his mercy, the Lord has taught us to depend on him and say, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Ps. 130:5-6).

Have you been praying for God’s leading but met with silence? Have you been pleading for provision, only to find your situation worsening? Are you wrestling with questions as to why God seems distant and uncaring? Do you find yourself wondering if the waiting will ever end? The questions and confusion that waiting brings are common to every believer at one point or another. As we learn to trust God while waiting, here are two things we can do.

1. Lament to God first.

When trials come, our first response is often to ask “Why?”, followed by expressing our pain to another person. While these can be helpful and appropriate actions at the right time, it’s important that we first bring our pain and questions directly to God. Thankfully, Scripture shows us how to lament.

Job wrestled with questions and strong emotions in response to the loss of his livelihood, but he was quick to direct his thoughts to God, the One he knew was sovereign over it all. “Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul…I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath” (Job 7:11, 16).

The writers of Psalms and Lamentations also model the process of godly lament. Their bold expression of raw emotion may make us squirm, but it teaches us to come honestly before God with our questions and feelings. In fact, God gives us his ear, longs for us to lament to him, and invites us to entrust our burdens to his care. “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live” (Ps. 116:2).

Friends, lament is the vehicle that drives our fumbling words to God in order that his Spirit would help us reclaim the promises of his Word. Lamenting is not a sign of weak faith but an avenue to renewed hope. As long as our lament includes the rehearsal of what is true about God’s character, it can provide an exit ramp from the cycle of complaining. “My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:20-23). Lamenting to God lifts our eyes from our circumstances and puts us on the path that leads to praising the Lord, even in our pain.

2. Long for more of Christ.

Too often, we equate the condition of our circumstances with the character of God. When life is comfortable and our hands are busy with work, it’s easy to see God as loving, faithful, and good. But when life turns upside down, our work is thwarted, or our prayers seem to go unanswered, suddenly God seems unkind and distant. Thankfully, Scripture shows us the difference between longing for circumstantial comfort and longing for Christ.

The writer of Lamentations shows us what happens when our joy depends on life’s circumstances. When trials come, we are prone to say, “I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD’” (Lam. 3:17-18). In my own longing for a new job and enduring other difficult trials, hope has indeed seemed far away, and my endurance has wavered. Thankfully, God’s Word reminds us of the blessing found in longing for his presence, for he has “the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).

In his mercy, “the LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lam. 3:25-26). Waiting “quietly” calls us to humble ourselves and to pray that he will make us more Christ-like in the process. We may ask, “What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end that I should be patient?” (Job 6:11). But here is the end goal: When God withholds something for which we long, he can give us more of himself instead. While we wait, we can say, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped” (Ps. 28:7).

Brothers and sisters, waiting can teach us to trust, love, and worship God for who he is, rather than for what he does for us. Waiting is fertile ground for faith to grow if we turn to Christ, rather than away from him, in our longing. We can remember the faithfulness of Christ on the cross and his provision for our lives in the past, rather than solely focusing on his removal of the trial from our lives now. When we pray to know more of Christ, our earthly desires will fall into their proper place behind our longing to be more like our Savior.

Unemployment is frustrating, and long seasons of waiting are difficult. But there are two things we can do while we wait for a solution. We can bring our honest lament to God and turn to Christ in our longing. Waiting in faith proves that our ultimate pursuit is God’s glory. We can ask the Lord to help us reflect his character in and through our waiting, knowing that he is listening in love and will answer at the time and in the way that will most glorify his name. And this is always worth the wait.

Photo: Unsplash

The Author
Jeff Walton

Jeff Walton is the co-author of Together Through the Storms: Biblical Encouragement for Your Marriage When Life Hurts (2020, The Good Book Company). You can watch the book trailer here. He lives in Colorado Springs and works in real estate, and he spends his free time leading men’s Bible studies and coaching his children’s sports teams. Jeff is married to Sarah, and they have four young children.

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