Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
As we start today, I want to read you something and I want you to see how these words either resonate with you or stir up something within you, okay?
Here it is:
As an introvert, silence is your strength. You cherish quiet moments. Time alone replenishes your soul like nothing else can.
But what happens when God goes silent? When you raise your questions of grief and hurt and doubt—and He doesn’t answer?
Dear one, what if your very quietness has positioned you to experience the presence of God in a totally new way?
What if in these seasons of silence, God is actually speaking to you louder than He has ever spoken to you before?
Do those words resonate with you? Or do they leave you feeling confused? Maybe even longing for something more?
I know that when we go through difficult seasons like grief or anxiety or illness, we can find ourselves asking so many questions of God:
Why did this happen?
What am I supposed to do?
You said You’re good, but this doesn’t feel good.
You said You’d give me Your peace, but I don’t feel Your peace. I feel turmoil. I feel anger.
And we ask these questions whether we are the ones who are struggling or if we’re the ones loving a friend through a difficult season. It’s hard to see those we love struggle, is it not?
So today, I wanted to explore this idea a little more. What happens when God goes silent? And how might we actually experience the very real presence of God in that silence?
The Dark Night of the Soul
I feel like we need to start just by talking about that dark night of the soul that is so often referenced by Christian writers and theologians. What is it, exactly, and how do you know if you are going through such a season?
The phrase was coined by a man named John of the Cross, who was persecuted and imprisoned because others feared his intimacy with Christ. And even though he asked God to rescue him, God didn’t. At least, not right away.
This is how Bill Gaultiere explained it: “John’s dark closet of confinement became what he called a Dark Night of the Soul. He was tortured because he loved Jesus Christ but the Lord didn’t rescue him. He prayed to be delivered but his prayers weren’t answered. Desperately, he sought the light of God’s blessing but he was imprisoned in the dark—for nine months.”
It was actually while he was in this dark dungeon that John of the Cross wrote poems, love letters to God. But because he had nothing to write with—no paper, no pencil—he wrote all of these only in his heart and mind. He crafted and memorized these words, and after he escaped prison, he wrote them down to share with others.
So the dark night of the soul, which is the title of one of those poems, has come to be known as those seasons where we feel like God isn’t answering our prayers. He’s not responding to our cries for help. We might feel lost, or abandoned, or confused. We might experience a disorientation, of sorts. Or we might feel empty. Or at a loss as to what to do next.
Because we can’t hear God’s response. We can’t sense His presence with us.
Have you ever been there?
When God is Silent
Now, I don’t presume to know everything about these seasons of the dark night of the soul, but as I’ve reflected on the seeming silence of God, I’ve come to realize something that I just want to offer to you to consider.
Are you ready? Here it is: There are more ways to communicate than with words.
It feels obvious, doesn’t it? In everyday life, we know this is true. We see it in the laughter and the gestures and the eye contact we have with others in our lives. But we don’t always pay attention to it when it comes to God, do we?
Now, God is a God of words, is He not? Jesus is the Word. The Bible is the Word. He spoke the earth into creation with His words. His words are powerful and true.
But—but—God communicates in so many more ways than just words.
He communicates with peace. He communicates with comfort. He communicates with gentleness and kindness. He communicates through the hug of a dear friend.
Let me ask you, how has God shown you these things in the past?
A gorgeous sunset?
A calming rain?
A peace that doesn’t make any sense?
Just the right song playing on the radio?
My friend, God doesn’t need words to show you His presence, or even to communicate something to you. He is so much bigger than that.
And maybe, maybe His presence is enough, and we don’t need His words, even though there are times when we so desperately want them.
When There Are No Words
But there’s something else I want you to consider. Imagine this scenario with me: your friend has just experienced the worst tragedy you could think of. You go to her. What do you do?
Chances are, you hug her. You hold her. You cry with her.
Because there are no words. And to try to speak words into such a situation can feel like you are breaking the sacredness of the moment. Do you know what I mean?
And honestly, when we’re in a place of deep grief and heartache, do we even comprehend any words that anyone says to us? It’s not that there’s not a time and place for words, but to me, it seems like deep grief and desperation need more than words. Ecclesiastes 3:7 (NIV) says, there is “…a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
But do you also know, my friend, that there are times when the Holy Spirit prays for us with groans that are too deep for words? Can you even imagine that? Can you picture that in your mind? In your heart?
The Holy Spirit is praying for you with groans that simply cannot be expressed in words. What does that truth stir within your soul?
Settling Into the Silence
I believe that during our dark nights, God is right there with us. That He doesn’t leave us to walk through the dark valleys on our own, but walks with us, carries us, even.
And I know that there are times when He feels distant, I know that your soul can feel absolutely crushed by what you are going through. I know, I’ve been there.
But—and my friends, what I’m about to say, I don’t say lightly, okay? I honestly and truly believe that if we can let ourselves settle into that silence with Him, we will experience His presence there.
Let me say that again: if we can let ourselves settle into that deep silence with Him, I believe we will experience His presence there.
Now, this is easier for some than for others. Some of us cherish quiet moments, like I said at the beginning. We crave ways to bring more silence into our lives.
But I know some of you don’t like silence. You don’t like it at all. You run from it.
I encourage you—whether you are hungry for silence or afraid of it—to find ways to embrace the opportunity for silence, for stillness. Don’t run from it. Start small, if you have to. Start with just a couple of seconds. A few seconds before you get out of bed in the morning. A few seconds when you get in the car before you start it. A few seconds before you turn on the radio. Embrace the silence of that moment, lean into it, and trust God to show up there.
So how is this all sitting with you? What invitations, what truths, are you receiving from the Lord? What are you resisting? What questions do you have?
I encourage you to just be honest with God about what you’re feeling, thinking, and experiencing in this difficult season. Or, as Sarah Westfall encouraged us in a recent Instagram live about grief, “Continue to throw everything in His direction.”
If that’s something you want help with, silence is actually one of the spiritual practices we talk about in the Journal Gently program. It’s a way for us to create space for God, to listen for Him—whether or not He chooses to share anything at that moment.
So if you want to learn more, if you want help with this, sign up for the Journal Gently program. You can start right away, you can work through it during this holiday season. You can find ways to embrace the silence and listen for what God has to share with you, even as you process the grief, the wounds, the betrayal you’ve experienced. Just go to lovedoesthat.org/journalgently to get started.
Also, if this episode resonates with you, be sure to come back next week, because we’re going to talk more about silence and how to practice the “holy hush” instead of the “holiday hustle” this upcoming season. What might it look like for us to embrace the spiritual practice of silence as we enter the holiday season? How might we experience the presence of God then? I’m really looking forward to sharing that with you.
Okay, that is all for today, my friends. I really appreciate you being here with me. Until next time… let’s encourage one another.
BIBLE VERSES + RESOURCES:
- Poem: “Dark Night of the Soul,” by John of the Cross
- Article: “My Experience with John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul,” by Bill Gaultiere
- “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26 NLT)
- “…a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7 NIV)
- “Continue to throw everything in His direction.” (Sarah Westfall)
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.