Psalm 22:1-3 (NASB 2020)
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my help are the words of my groaning.
My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
When Christians talk about their spiritual life, there is often a lot of focus on the joy, happiness, and fulfillment that comes from being in relationship with the Lord. But as most everyone following the Lord can attest, the rhythms of our spiritual lives are not always where we would want them to be. Much like a rollercoaster, our relationship with the Lord can sometimes feel unpredictable, and at times it can even seem like it is stagnant. One day it can seem like the Lord is speaking to us clearly, we are learning amazing things from our Bible readings, times of worship are rich, and sermons speak to us with life changing depth and clarity and then suddenly none of those things are having the same impact on our soul.
While it can be tempting to assume there is something wrong with us in these periods of spiritual dryness, the ancient church fathers had a name for this: the silence of God. This silence describes the times in our lives when it seems like God has pulled away from us and does not hear us when we cry out. It can be extremely frustrating, disheartening, and scary. In these times it can even cause us to question our very relationship with God in the first place. Further, thing that normally brought us such joy, such as communal worship and fellowship with other believers, can seem forced and even painful as we listen to others talk about how close God seems to them and the joy they are experiencing.
But fear not! God gives us these periods of silence because He knows it is best for our relationship with Him. Working through a period of spiritual dryness can be very important for our spiritual growth! During these times we are forced to rely not only on the pleasant emotions that accompany worship, but also our mental certainty in our relationship with the Lord. God may not “feel” real to us during those times but we are able to assure ourselves that we “know” He is.
These times of silence can also re-focus our times of worship. Often we view things like Bible reading and church attendance through a lens of how we personally grow and benefit, but during a time of silence, it will feel like all personal growth is stripped away, and yet we should still strive in our spiritual walk because that is how we worship our Creator. This can take discipline, and it is through that very discipline that we will grow and become more like Jesus. There are things God has instructed His children to do and we are to obey even if we there are times when our worship doesn’t feel joyful and our prayers seem to be answered with silence.
The encouraging news in all this is these times of silence rarely last forever. God is always constant and faithful and He knows how to best bring us into a closer relationship with Him. Much like the roller coaster mentioned above, times of both highs and lows lead to the richness of experience and it is common that these times of ‘silence’ will actually bring about the greatest periods of growth. We just need to remain faithful and continue to cry out to God knowing that “yet You are holy, You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel”.