How do you know when to wait or when to step out in faith when it seems like God is silent?
What a difficult question! I received this via text message after our Q&A panel at Breakthrough Conference 2022. It touches on the question of nature of faith, how God speaks today, how to know whether if God is actually holding back a response or if the silence is because our receptors for discerning God’s will for our life aren’t functioning properly, and importantly, what to do when there is silence.
First and foremost, seek the will of God for your life.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:33
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.Romans 8:14
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.James 1:5
It may surprise you to know that many Christians don’t take the time to listen and find out what God’s will for their life is. They assume that God will be silent on the subject of their vocation, their career, their marriage to so-and-so, the purchase of this property or that investment, their moving across country, their educational choices, or a myriad of other life-choices unique to them—even before they think to ask Him. How tragic! They make decisions based on what they know of God’s will for people in general from the Bible, their own intuitions, and careful analyses of the risks and benefits. That’s not a bad way to proceed—that is, if there is silence on the matter of which you are seeking God’s will. But is there really silence?
Perhaps God is speaking to you, but in a manner you don’t expect, so you miss it by accident? Perhaps he wants you to rely on the collective wisdom of your own church community. Perhaps God wants to you rely on a word he has already given. God communicates to us in these ways too! On how to hear God’s voice, I recommend this book. Hippo in the Garden, by James Ryle.
But perhaps he wants you to mature, and to practice using the mind he has given you. Those same faculties of reason which he is seeking to perfect, so that you can become a well-rounded and fully-formed human being.
So what do you do when God really is silent on a personal matter? Continue to seek God. But it’s important to bring a balance to that advice so that inaction doesn’t become your modus operandi [LT: way of operating, style]. Determine that the lack of a YES not hold you back from doing what you think is right. Likewise, the lack of a NO not stall you from stopping what you think is wrong. Be assertive. Prayerfully make well-reasoned plans and proceed with confidence, knowing that if God wants you to go a different direction, that too God will make that clear to you.
It is said that when God closes a door, he’ll open a window. A roadblock in your path may just be an inconvenience to get around—such is the journey of life. But it may equally be God leading you to reconsider your current path; to slow down and get you to notice a better approach or alternate way forward. Again, prayerfully reconsider, and do what you think is right—such is the journey of faith.
In summary, seek the will of God for your life. Seek the guidance of scripture. Pray. Get advise from your pastor or elders in the faith. Ask godly people who know and love you what they think. If necessary, make a reasonable assessment of the risks and benefits. Then be assertive.