Blog Archive

God in the Silence

Silence. It’s sort of a mixed bag. For instance, when I’m trying to study, I need silence. I used to be able to listen to music and study at the same time. Things have changed. I need silence in order to get things done. As parents, when do we worry about what’s going on with our kids the most? When it suddenly gets real quiet in the house. As the father of two kids ages 7 and 3, I experience this on a fairly regular basis. My wife and I don’t interpret the quietness as inactivity, quite the opposite. We are aware that there may be some things happening that should give us reason for concern. When the kids are playing loudly, or even fighting, we know what’s going on and there is an element of comfort that we gain by the noise.

For many of us, we come to our spiritual experience and even life experience with the sense that there has to be some noise for us to feel that things are OK. However, silence seems to lend itself to a great deal of anxiety. Unlike how we interpret the silence of our small children, we tend to interpret the silence of God as inactivity on His part. This assumption, however, is not reality.

Recently, I re-read the account of Joseph and besides determining that it is in fact one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture, I was reminded of the great contrasts in his life as compared to his father Jacob, grandfather Isaac and great-grandfather Abraham. Those three men all had something in common — very clear and precise promises from God. When you read the book of Genesis, you see some of the character flaws in all three of the aforementioned patriarchs, but you really have to dig to see anything in the life of Joseph that remotely resembles a flaw (I’m not suggesting he was perfect) and when you do think you’ve found something, you’re not 100% about it. However, the most striking contrast in his life when placed alongside his forefathers is this...silence. God spoke to Abraham on several occasions. God spoke to Isaac and to Jacob.

Yet, as you scour the last one-third of the book of Genesis which deals with the life of Joseph, you have no hint that God spoke to him in the way that He had to the patriarchs. In fact, Joseph seems to go through some terribly painful things without even a clue that God saw what was going on, much less cared about what was happening to Him. Let’s face it, most of us would have concluded in bitter anguish after being sold off by our own family members into slavery that God didn’t care. Then after being falsely accused of making advances toward Potiphar’s wife, which landed him in an Egyptian prison, you would expect that somehow God would show up and tell poor Joseph to hold on because he would eventually promote him to be the number two guy in the nation, but God didn’t. What did He do? The Lord stayed silent and didn’t speak to Joseph about it. And, by the time Joseph interprets the dreams of the butler and baker only to be forgotten about by the butler to seemingly waste away in an Egyptian prison, you might think that if God doesn’t speak to him now, then it would be safe for Joseph to not only assume that God doesn’t care, but that God didn’t exist at all.

Unfortunately, we make the very bad mistake of assuming that silence on God’s part means that He’s inactive, uncaring and worse, not there! Joseph, in all he went threw,
never jumped to such a ridiculous conclusion. Instead, we find a man who, in the middle of what seemed to be silent injustice served upon the innocent, stood by God in complete faithfulness. Joseph remained true to God from Potipher’s house to the penitentiary, and at just the right time God brought him out of his painful crisis and caused him to see a plan that was larger than him. So big was this plan that he was able say with forgiving confidence to his brothers And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen. 45:5 - NIV)

Joseph didn’t understand what was going on in the silence, but he eventually saw that there was
something going on and that silence didn’t mean inactivity on God’s part. He never allowed the “negative” stuff to make him bitter; he just trusted God no matter what happened (or didn’t happen).

Oh, and the dreams Joseph had in Genesis 37 (dreams that God gave him) where the stalks of wheat bowed down to his stalk of wheat, and then the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him, all came true.