When God seems silent
This past Sunday, Pastor Jenn opened her worship set with a question borne out of her own experience this past year, and out of a particular revelation she received at the Soul Care Conference this past November in Regina:
"What is it that God has already asked you to do that you're not yet doing?"
For Pastor Jenn, this was a question about finishing her ordination process, and as a result of hearing God she is now taking a step back from worship leading for a few months to put her energy into that project--but what is that thing for you?
We often get caught up in the fruitless cycle of asking Jesus for guidance and direction in seasons of life where we don't know what to do.
What job should I take?
Where should I serve?
How do I fix this relationship?
What should my financial priorities be?
Am I called to missions?
How do I get my life back on track?
The list of questions we ask God is potentially endless, but the common problem that I hear as a pastor is that Jesus is silent when we seek the answers. Silence is undoubtedly frustrating. Silence can be debilitating. Silence can be demoralizing. But what if (and just work with me here for a second) the silence isn't silence at all, but the manifestation of Christ's merciful patience with us and our stubbornness?
That's the lesson that Pastor Jenn shared on Sunday morning that had been so profound in her life, and I don't think for a minute that the lesson was for her alone.
When Jesus seems silent in times of decision is frequently (I would even go so far as to say most frequently) because he has already told us clearly what we are to do, and we aren't willing to do it. Sometimes it's because what we know we ought to do is risky, or because it's costly, or because it's hard, or because it will force us to confront something in ourselves or others that we would rather not deal with.
It could be choosing to begin the long work of forgiving someone.
It could be choosing to confess a sin, or sin-pattern in your life that you have been hiding for so long and need to bring into the light.
It could be making a long overdue career change toward something that God has been nudging you toward but you're afraid of.
It could be stepping out to share the gospel with a friend, co-worker, neighbour, or loved one, who needs to know the love of God that you have personally experienced.
It could be confronting and admitting your brokenness, and getting past your pride, or fear of what others might think to actually get the help you need to heal. (As an aside, the Soul Care Conference that we're hosting in April is a great place to start that journey).
It could be making difficult lifestyle decisions sacrificing financial and schedule priorities that you have so that you can align your life with what God says is really important.
Jesus is fundamentally interested in the choices you make in life. And he is fundamentally committed to guiding you in making the right ones that help you grow into the fullest version of what it means to be the person that he created you to be. So when you ask for guidance or direction, you can be sure that he will answer you. The problem we often encounter is that when he answers us, we don't like what he says, or we don't trust what he says, and so we wait around for a different answer than what we've received. But that's not how Jesus works.
Sometimes he is silent because the answer is clear, and it is in the scriptures. Should I forgive? Yes. Is that decision easy? No. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it take a long time? Quite possibly. But is the answer clear? Absolutely. You don't need a long explanation from Jesus on the value of forgiveness. He wants you to move past the question of whether you should forgive or not, and onto the question of how. Once you start moving in the right direction you can be confident that he will help to guide and steer you in the way he wants you go.
Sometimes Jesus is silent because he has already told you what to do and you've been resistant to his commands. Pastor Jenn told the story of how she received multiple words through numerous people about making finishing her ordination a priority, but she didn't (initially) receive that as God's instruction for her life in this season. God was silent for her because he had already told her what to do and she wasn't doing it. Why would Jesus give us a new task when we haven't finished (or sometimes even started) the last one he gave us?
Sometimes Jesus is silent because our hearts are hard and we've made ourselves deaf to his words. This can come from an overflow of bitterness, or from an unconfessed pattern of sin without repentance. Jesus is telling us how to move but we've stuck our proverbial fingers in our ears to avoid hearing his answers to our questions. We need to stop what we're doing and allow our hard hearts to be broken so that we can receive what he has for us.
The point that I'm making here is that Jesus silence most often has nothing to do with his lack of guidance or direction in our lives, but almost everything to do with our lack of obedience and receptivity to his voice. What is it that God has already called you to do that you are not yet doing? What obedience have you delayed, put-off, or are living in denial of? What needs to change in your life so that you can start walking in the fullness of God's plan for your life?
A great place to start that journey might be by registering for the Soul Care Conference that we are hosting on April 11-13 at The Bridge Church. This event will help you to identify some of those things that might be hindering you from fully hearing and receiving the messages that Christ has for you and from walking in the fulness of his love and plan for your flourishing. But attending requires that you make a decision, a sacrifice, and a commitment. Taking time off work may not be easy. Arranging child-care may not be easy. Facing the baggage that has built up in your life and needs addressing may not be easy. But no one ever promised that following Jesus would be easy - only that it would be worth it.
What's holding you back?
What has Jesus already told you to do?