What to do when God is Silent

What do we do when God is silent? When we’re praying for answers and there’s no response from the heavens?

What to do when God is Silent

Experiencing God’s silence is not uncommon. The Bible characters experienced it (eg.Psalm 22:2) and it’s still one of the most common questions I hear in my ministry. Why isn’t God speaking to me? Why isn’t he giving me answers I need?

Of course every situation is different so it’s impossible to provide one answer that fits all. But here are three possibilities to consider as to why you’re experiencing God’s silence and what to do about them:

1. God has already spoken, but you haven’t recognised it.

The first reason why God is silent is that he may have already spoken, but we didn’t recognise it. We need to remember that by nature God is a talker (Psalm 115:4-5,7), that he’s promised to speak to us (John 14:26, 16:13-14) and that he gave us his Spirit for that very purpose (Acts 2:16,17). Therefore our default position should not be to question God’s ability to speak, but rather our ability to listen. The problem may not be that God isn’t speaking – it’s that we haven’t recognised it.

It seems this scenario was also common in the ancient world: In one of the oldest books of the Bible, we read; Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words? For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it” (Job 33:13-14). God was trying to get his message through “now one way, now another” but people weren’t noticing.

Why didn’t they notice? And why don’t we notice? Perhaps it is the form God used to speak. In Job’s case, God was speaking through a dream. God may be speaking in a way you’re not used to. The solution is to be open to the Holy Spirit in whatever form his messages take. Here’s Three Ways God Speaks to us.

2. God has spoken, but you haven’t responded to it.

The second option is that God has spoken, but we haven’t responded to it. In my own experience, this is the most likely option! God may have spoken but for whatever reason we haven’t acted on what he said. We haven’t liked it, so we’ve tried to change the subject! We pray; “Lord speak, and when you do, make sure you say this…” (Read: The Key to Hearing God’s Voice Clearly).

In this case, what we don’t understand is that God knows what we need to hear more than we do. We may be asking about guidance for our workplace, but he may be wanting to speak to us about our attitude of unforgiveness. In this case, we need to hand over our agenda to him and trust that he knows what is best for us. Then we need to listen to whatever he is saying.

Moreover, listening is not just hearing. It means fully taking in what God has said. Jesus said his words are ‘spirit’ and ‘life’ (John 6:63). They are like food to our bodies and bring life to our souls. They are often more like steak than fairly floss. Like rich food, it takes time and effort to digest them. Often it requires action. “Eat this scroll I am giving you,” God said to the prophet Ezekiel “and fill your stomach with it” (Ezekiel 3:3). When we’ve heard from God, we need to meditate on what he said, letting his words fill our hearts and change our behaviour – only then will we be ready to receive more.

3. God hasn’t spoken because you’re not ready to hear his answer.

The final option is that God hasn’t spoken. Perhaps we’re not ready to hear what he has to say. We may be like the disciples when Jesus said; “I have much more to tell you, but you are not ready for it.” (John 16:12) In other words, you cannot understand my purposes in this right now. You’re like the third grader trying to understand Pythagoras Theorem. First you must finish learning your twelve times table. God’s wisdom means not only knowing what to say, but when to say it. 

When God isn’t speaking, we need to trust in his character and nature. Like David, we need to recall what he has done for us in the past and make a choice to remember his faithfulness (Psalm 22:3-5). His lovingkindness is never failing even when we can’t feel it. God’s silence never means his absence.

So what do we do if God hasn’t spoken?

In times of God’s silence, we may be left with the practical question of what to do. It’s important to remember that God doesn’t need to speak about every decision we face. Relationship with God is a partnership not a dictatorship. That means sometimes God will speak and give us specific instruction, but other times, it’s up to us to make a good choice. It’s up to us to do our research, consult the wisdom of friends and leaders and to ask ourselves, what do I want to do?

There’s freedom to make our own choices all the while listening for God’s voice. If God isn’t speaking, he’s given us the resources to make our own decision. We can move forward in confidence knowing he is walking with us.

This article is an excerpt from the teaching message When God is Silent. The full message is available as a CD or MP3.

  • Stephanie du Plessis

    Hi Tania, I have had many moments where I myself thought God was silent. I remember many years ago going to a service of a speaker who was gifted in prophecy, I went there because I was so desperate for God to talk to me. It was a three day mini conference and every night I would beg God to speak to me through this person.
    She however came to teach and not to prophecy, by the second day I went on my knees and apologized to God for blaming Him for not talking to me and I told Him I was sorry and that it didn’t matter if He spoke to me through here because I have heard him. I realized that He had been speaking to me for months but I didn’t recognize it because it was filled with so much love and acceptance that I thought it could never have been Him.
    On the last night though every time the speaker laid her eyes on me she stopped speaking, and then she would go on again and after the third time she pulled me out the crowd and told me to come forward. I went and as I walked to her she started laughing and said to me, God is proud of me, I stopped dead in my tracks and she came over to me and embraced me. She then pretty much quoted word for word my apology to God. She smiled and said “you came here because you wore desperate for god to talk to you and in the end you said it doesn’t matter God, I know you’ve spoken and I’ve heard you” God spoke to me through her again. Everything He told me that I finally recognized she said. That was the day I realized that I matter to God enough for Him to speak to me and that I do recognize His voice.
    There I was in the middle of a conference having a conversation with God through this woman. I can’t tell you what that did for my relationship with God. She said God was proud of me, that he loved me, that I wasn’t a mistake, that he was sorry, and that he would never leave me.
    She let me go after what felt like forever, and as I made my way make to my seat I asked god one more question in my mind, I asked him if things are going to change now and I soon as I thought it she called me back told me to look at her and she said… there is no change to come right now, but change is on its way, and when it’s there you will know.
    One year later I got accepted into Hillsong College and I knew that change had come… it was a change that one year earlier I would have never been strong enough to endure. God speaks to me every day, in different way, sometimes I see Him just shake His head and say Really Steph?? Some days, I look up at the sky and say God I miss you, He simply replies “I didn’t go anywhere”

    • Such a beautiful testimony Stephanie! Thank you for sharing. I love how God showed you that he was listening and that you were hearing from God. The prophetic gifting is so powerful in revealing that! x

      • Stephanie du Plessis

        You since that night my relationship with God has never been the same. I sometimes have no idea how to explain how it changed, but if i had to try to put it into words i can only say that it became easy. But not like taking it for granted easy just easy if you know what i mean. Then i got to Australia and my journey there made it hard for me, i became affraid to hear him talking to me, i was ashamed, confussed and scared and i doubted my ability to hear him and in those times i really struggled i would be reminded of this moment in that conference with her and it made it a little easier to keep going.

        • I think that must have been why God made it so clear for you before you went – to carry you through a challenging time… He gives us his word to hold onto! x

  • Tara Reid

    It’s good to read these potential reasons for not hearing from God. The constant noise of the world often distracts us too. In the last point you mention that we might not be ready to hear from God – how do we become ready? I’d love to hear your wisdom on that subject. Thanks!

    • Such a great question Tara! Often just time and maturity brought on by a continuing walk with God that enables us to take on his perspective. In some cases, we may never be ready to hear while on earth.

      • Tara Reid

        Ahhhh, maturity…

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  • Stephanie du Plessis

    Hi Tania, I have had many moments where I myself thought God was silent. I remember many years ago going to a service of a speaker who was gifted in prophecy, I went there because I was so desperate for God to talk to me. it was a three day mini conference and every night I would beg God to speak to me through this person.
    She however came to teach and not to prophecy, by the second day I went on my knees and apologized to God for blaming Him for not talking to me and I told Him I was sorry and that It didn’t matter if He spoke to me through her because I have heard him. I realized that He had been speaking to me for months but I didn’t recognize it because it was filled with so much love and acceptance that I thought it could never have been Him.
    On the last night though every time the speaker laid her eyes on me she stopped speaking, and then she would go on again and after the third time she pulled me out the crowd and told me to come forward. I went and as I walked to hear she started laughing and said to me, God is proud of me, I stopped dead in my tracks and she came over to me and embraced me. She then pretty much quoted word for word my apology to God. She smiled and said “you came here because you wore desperate For god to talk to you and in the end you said it doesn’t matter God, I know you’ve spoken and ive heard you” God spoke to me through her again. Everything He told me that I finally recognized she said. That was the day I realized that I matter to God enough for Him to speak to me and that I do recognize His voice.
    There I was in the middle of a conference having a conversation with God through this woman. I cant tell you what that did for my relationship with God. She said God was proud of me, that he loved me, that I wasn’t a mistake, that he was sorry, and that he would never leave me.
    She let me go after what felt like forever, and as I made my way make to my seat I asked god one more question in my mind, I asked him if things are going to change now and I soon as I said she called me back told me to look at her and she said… there is no change to come right now, but change is on its way, and when its there you will know.
    One year later I got accepted into Hillsong college and I new that change had come… it was a change that one year earlier I would have never been strong enough to endure. God speaks to me everyday, in different way, sometimes I see Him just shake His head and say Really Steph?? Some days, I look up at the sky and say God I miss you, He simply replies “I didn’t go anywhere”

  • Stephanie du Plessis

    Hi Tania, I have had many moments where I myself thought God was silent. I remember many years ago going to a service of a speaker who was gifted in prophecy, I went there because I was so desperate for God to talk to me. it was a three day mini conference and every night I would beg God to speak to me through this person.
    She however came to teach and not to prophecy, by the second day I went on my knees and apologized to God for blaming Him for not talking to me and I told Him I was sorry and that It didn’t matter if He spoke to me thought here because I have heard him. I realized that He had been speaking to me for months but I didn’t recognize it because it was filled with so much love and acceptance that I thought it could never have been Him.
    On the last night though every time the speaker laid her eyes on me she stopped speaking, and then she would go on again and after the third time she pulled me out the crowd and told me to come forward. I went and as I walked to hear she started laughing and said to me, God is proud of me, I stopped dead in my tracks and she came over to me and embraced me. She then pretty much quoted word for word my apology to God. She smiled and said “you came here because you wore desperate For god to talk to you and in the end you said it doesn’t matter God, I know you’ve spoken and ive heard you” God spoke to me through her again. Everything He told me that I finally recognized she said. That was the day I realized that I matter to God enough for Him to speak to me and that I do recognize His voice.
    There I was in the middle of a conference having a conversation with God through this woman. I cant tell you what that did for my relationship with God. She said God was proud of me, that he loved me, that I wasn’t a mistake, that he was sorry, and that he would never leave me.
    She let me go after what felt like forever, and as I made my way make to my seat I asked god one more question in my mind, I asked him if things are going to change now and I soon as I said she called me back told me to look at her and she said… there is no change to come right now, but change is on its way, and when its there you will know.
    One year later I got accepted into Hillsong college and I new that change had come… it was a change that one year earlier I would have never been strong enough to endure. God speaks to me everyday, in different way, sometimes I see Him just shake His head and say Really Steph?? Some days, I look up at the sky and say God I miss you, He simply replies “I didn’t go anywhere”

  • Stephanie du Plessis

    Hi Tania, I have had many moments where I myself thought God was silent. I remember many years ago going to a service of a speaker who was gifted in prophecy, I went there because I was so desperate for God to talk to me. it was a three day mini conference and every night I would beg God to speak to me through this person.
    She however came to teach and not to prophecy, by the second day I went on my knees and apologized to God for blaming Him for not talking to me and I told Him I was sorry and that It didn’t matter if He spoke to me thought here because I have heard him. I realized that He had been speaking to me for months but I didn’t recognize it because it was filled with so much love and acceptance that I thought it could never have been Him.
    On the last night though every time the speaker laid her eyes on me she stopped speaking, and then she would go on again and after the third time she pulled me out the crowd and told me to come forward. I went and as I walked to hear she started laughing and said to me, God is proud of me, I stopped dead in my tracks and she came over to me and embraced me. She then pretty much quoted word for word my apology to God. She smiled and said “you came here because you wore desperate For god to talk to you and in the end you said it doesn’t matter God, I know you’ve spoken and ive heard you” God spoke to me through her again. Everything He told me that I finally recognized she said. That was the day I realized that I matter to God enough for Him to speak to me and that I do recognize His voice.
    There I was in the middle of a conference having a conversation with God through this woman. I cant tell you what that did for my relationship with God. She said God was proud of me, that he loved me, that I wasn’t a mistake, that he was sorry, and that he would never leave me.
    She let me go after what felt like forever, and as I made my way make to my seat I asked god one more question in my mind, I asked him if things are going to change now and I soon as I said she called me back told me to look at her and she said… there is no change to come right now, but change is on its way, and when its there you will know.
    One year later I got accepted into Hillsong college and I new that change had come… it was a change that one year earlier I would have never been strong enough to endure. God speaks to me everyday, in different way, sometimes I see Him just shake His head and say Really Steph?? Some days, I look up at the sky and say God I miss you, He simply replies “I didn’t go anywhere”