“I cry to You for help and You do not answer me; I stand, and You only look at me.” Job 30:20
What do you do when you need an answer from God, but he is silent? There are times when we can’t get by with only our gut instincts. Knowing clearly what the Lord is leading us to do is imperative. We are desperate for the guidance only he can give. These are the times when our lives or the lives of our loved ones depend on us doing the right thing at the right time.
I know all too well the feelings of desperation as I sought the Lord’s wisdom in a critical situation, only to wait for an answer that seemed to never come. It is then that I needed to learn how to trust God to lead me even when I could not hear him.
Over the years I have learned how to better hear from the Lord even when he didn’t seem to be speaking directly to me. Here are some insights I have gleaned along the way.
To know what to do when we believe the Lord is being silent, we must first know the definition of a few words as defined in Webster’ Dictionary.
Silent – making no utterance, mute, without speech.
While there are examples of God being silent in the bible, it is important to know if he is truly not speaking, or perhaps, he is just being quiet.
Quiet – making little or no noise, hushed, stillness, being at rest.
More importantly, we will have to ask ourselves if we are so busy talking, we can’t hear God speaking. We may need to learn to be quiet and listen.
Listen – to give attention to with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear; to pay attention; heed; obey.
To learn to hear God when he speaks, we will need to develop a listening ear. This will mean quieting our hearts, listening carefully, and paying attention to him. Because He most often doesn’t speak audibly, in words spoken that we can hear with our ears, we will need to listen to how He speaks to our hearts. Let’s look at the scriptures to learn how to hear from God. (All verses will be quoted from the New International Version-NIV)
“The Teacher is always quiet while the student is taking a test.” Author Unknown
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5 Ways God Speaks To Us
1. God speaks through His Word, the Bible:
Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Proverbs 30:5 – “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Romans 15:4 – For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
2. God speaks to us through Prayer:
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Matthew 6:6 – “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without fault, and it will be given to you.
3. God speaks to us through His Spirit:
Mark 1:10-13 – Just as Jesus was coming out up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well-pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
John 6:63 – The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.
Hebrews 10:15-16 – The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First, he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
Ephesians 1:17 – “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
4. God speaks to us through Trusted Advisors:
Proverbs 1:5 – “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance”
Proverbs 20:18 – Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.
Philippians 4:9 – “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Colossians 3:16 – “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
5. God speaks to us through Past Experiences:
Psalm 77:11 – “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”
Psalm 103:2-4 – “Praise the Lord, my soul; and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”
Deuteronomy 4:9 – Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and their children after them.
As we read these verses, we see that the Lord speaks very clearly to us. It may be that we are looking to receive specific answers to our questions. These can be a little trickier. Should we buy a new house, take that new job offer, or move to another state? How should we handle our child who is rebellious and disrespectful? What about a marriage that is devastated because of a spouse’s illicit affair? “Lord, what should I do about the mess my life is in right now?”
Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions with the right motive or the right questions with the wrong motive. What is our end goal? Do we want to know the Lord or are we more determined to have him solve our problem? Maybe we are more concerned with our comfort than drawing close to our Comforter. Here are some hindrances to hearing from God we should consider as we seek him for guidance:
Hindrances to Hearing from God When He Tries to Speak To Us
Is the Lord being silent, or is he just being quiet? (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Is the Lord being silent, or am I not listening attentively? (1 Samuel 3:9-10)
Is the Lord being silent, or do I need to wait on his timing to speak? (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
Is the Lord being silent, or am I seeking the counsel of man first? (2 Chronicles 18:4)
Is the Lord being silent, or am I being double-minded and lacking faith? (James 1:5-8)
Is the Lord being silent, or am I not being submissive to his will in my situation? (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Is the Lord being silent, or am I holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness? (Mark 11:25)
Is the Lord being silent, or am I being impatient? (Romans 8:25)
Is the Lord being silent, or do I not trust Him with my life and the life of my loved ones? (Deuteronomy 1:30-32)
Is the Lord being silent, or is sin an obstacle to hearing his voice? (2 Chronicles 7:14)
While there are times God is speaking, but something is keeping us from hearing him, there are periods when he does appear to be giving us the silent treatment. It seems our prayers are sounding off deaf ears. Because he may not be giving us the specific answers we need to make critical decisions, it is tempting to believe that he is ignoring us altogether. This is when we need to press in and learn to listen for his direction. The following are some suggestions for how to discern God’s will even in the silence.
What to Do When God is Silent
- Redeem: Believe that God loves you and desires to redeem you and your loved ones who may not be following him. (John 3:16-17, Titus 3:3-7)
- Repent: Confess any areas of sin or unforgiveness that may be blocking your ability to hear from the Lord. If your loved one is living in sin, pray they will recognize their need for Jesus and repent as well. (Luke 5:32, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Romans 2:4)
- Remove: Remove any unnecessary roadblocks to hearing from the Lord. Find a quiet place to pray and reflect. Turn off the television, fast social media, remove distractions. Set yourself in a position to hear from the Lord when He speaks. (Lamentations 3:25-26, Exodus 14:14, Psalm 131:2)
- Read: Seek God’s will through reading and studying the word of God. Allow the Bible to teach and direct you. Memorize scriptures that are pertinent to your situation and that grow your faith.(Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:13)
- Recite: Pray earnestly and without ceasing. Recite the word of God over your circumstances. Pray for the Lord’s will, his perfect timing, and for patience as you wait for the answers. Speak the promises of God over your situation. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:16, Psalm 38:15)
- Remember: Consider past lessons learned and what the Lord taught you. Remember the miracles in your life, the times you have seen God move, and allow them to strengthen your faith. (Psalm 77:11, Deuteronomy 7:18, 1 Chronicles 16:12)
- Recognize: Learn to recognize when the Lord is speaking to you. Don’t think you have to personally have all the answers. You may think God is being silent, but perhaps he is speaking to you through unexpected people or unlikely circumstances. Be open to wise counsel that may come through family, friends, advisors, counselors, medical professionals, legal counsel, or others. (Proverbs 13:20, Hebrews 13:7, Proverbs 27:9)
- Rejoice: Praise God, knowing that he is working behind the scenes. Be thankful and have an attitude of gratitude as he works in your life and in the lives of those you love. Spend time with people who lift your spirits and remind you of the goodness of God. (Philippians 4:4, Habakkuk 3:17-19, Isaiah 29:19)
- Release: Release your plans or expectations for how the Lord should work in your situation. Lay your loved ones at the feet of Jesus to work in their lives according to his will. Trust that the Lord is using all these circumstances, good or bad, for his glory and his purpose. (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, James 4:14-15)
- Remain: Remain in faith, hope, and love. Stay close to Jesus. Do not allow yourself to grow bitter or angry because you “feel” he has left you or abandoned you. Remain in the word, prayer, and fellowship. Keep doing the right thing. Don’t use God’s silence as an excuse to get lazy. Exercise your spiritual faith muscles. (1 Corinthians 13:13, Proverbs 23:17-18, Colossians 1:3-5)
- Restore: Believe God is more than able to restore you and those you are praying for. Walk in an attitude of expectancy and faith. Never give up and believe that God will never give up on you. (Psalm 41:3, Joel 2:25, Psalm 51:12)
Learning how to hear the voice of the Lord when he speaks is not always easy, but I believe you will find it to be well worth the effort. He is speaking; we have only to listen.
“Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.” Psalms 5:1-2