Do you ever feel like God is ignoring you?
Like he’s screening your calls and hitting decline when he sees your name pop up on his iPhone?
You keep throwing out the same question to him and you’re getting nothing.
No nudge from the Holy Spirit. No wise counsel in the form of friends. No handwriting on the wall.
I have and I’m in the middle of one of those moments right now.
I feel a great self-imposed sense of urgency to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. Maybe it’s because I turned 36 a few weeks ago. I feel like everyone has a clear plan for their lives but me. (Whenever you feel this way, you always run into people who say things like, “I’ve got the next 20 years of my life mapped out. What do you mean you don’t have a 20-year mission statement?”)
I told my wife a few days ago, “I’m 36 now, which means I’m exactly 40 years from the average life expectancy of U.S. males. And we only have 10 years until L.E. graduates from high school and is out of the house. I need to figure out a 40/10 plan for my life.”
That might sound a little ridiculous. But at some point, all of us come to a place where we feel a little lost. You get a divorce and the person who was a big part of your identity for 8 years is no longer even part of your house, and you suddenly have to figure out who you are all over again. You lose your job and are unemployed way longer than you anticipated and restlessness sets in, followed by sadness and eventually apathy and hopelessness. You’re staring graduation in the face as the New Year comes and don’t know what to do next. You bump into a bruise from childhood that you had hoped time would heal by now, but it hasn’t. If anything, it’s shaped your adult life in ways you’re only now beginning to fathom.
In moments like that, we turn to God. And we ask questions. We call out. We cry out. We plead.
And sometimes in response, we hear … nothing.
God is silent.
He does not answer.
No response comes.
And our first thought when that happens, is this:
“God is mad at me. He does not care about my hurt. He is distant. He sees me as a failure. He is not answering me because he is disappointed in me. If he really loved me, he’d talk to me. He’d answer my questions and my prayers. A loving God could not possibly go silent at a time like this.”
I am not immune to that thinking. Those are not words I’m writing about you, those are words I am writing about “we.”
But I saw something recently that had always escaped me. I’d looked at it 1,000 times and missed it. It was right there all along. A lesson about silence, a lesson about love, a powerful secret hidden in my favorite story.
I’ve written about the parable of the prodigal son too many times to count. After I finish my next book, I hope to write a book about that story. But until I do, this will be the space I share a few ideas.
You know the story of the prodigal son. A young son asks his father for his inheritance, leaves the farm, spends all the money and falls on hard times. In a pigpen, he comes to his senses and returns home expecting to work as a servant on the farm. Instead, the father sprints to him when he sees him on the road and throws him a lavish party.
It’s an amazing story, but do you know what the father, who represents God, says to the prodigal son in those verses in Luke 15?
The father does not say one word to the prodigal son.
We read the story like he does, but he doesn’t. Check the verses, it’s true. In Luke 15:12 when the son asks for the inheritance, it just says, “So he (the father) divided his property between them (the two brothers.)” The father doesn’t speak to the prodigal son.
But what about when he comes home? Doesn’t he run to the son and say in Luke 15:22-24, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
He does say those things, but not to the son.
Verse 22 says, “But the father said to his servants…”
He wasn’t speaking to the prodigal son. He was talking to the servants.
What does that mean for you and me?
Well, here’s what I want you to consider the next time it feels like God is not talking to you.
Instead of thinking that God’s silence means he is mad and disappointed with you, what if he might be quiet because he’s too busy planning a party for you?
What if, even as you come home dirty and fallen, God is not ignoring you? What if he’s embracing you on the road back home, and he’s not talking to you because he’s so focused on planning a party for you?
Can you imagine a God like that?
And when God goes quiet, that is the hope and the truth I am going to cling to.