He was silent

It was in the season of God’s silence that I struggled most. I didn’t have moments of refreshment. I didn’t have moments of joy. I didn’t even want to smile. I wasn’t hearing God. He was silent.

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I remember when I went through puberty. It was awful. It was humiliating. It was something I hoped no other human being would have to experience, until I learned everyone goes through it and everyone would experience the same awkwardness at some point in their lives. One of the many frustrations I dealt with during puberty was random facial breakouts. I never suffered with severe acne, but the breakouts I had always landed in places on my face that could’ve labeled me as “Cyclopes” or “alien” or “pepperoni face”. It was during that time I discovered the art of makeup. (Cue in the cheers of every young girl reading this.) I used lots and lots (and lots) of makeup to coverup those pesky breakouts. The only problem was that while the makeup covered the blemish, it didn’t solve the issue of the blemish. In fact, I discovered later that makeup often times makes breakouts even worse because it doesn’t allow the acne to breathe and heal properly.

This story is much like my recent encounter with praise to the Lord and a season of silence.

In the midst of my moaning and complaining about not hearing God, I heard a song by Jason Upton called ‘In The Silence’ where he briefly quoted, “sometimes praise can be a manifestation of our doubt”. This one line stayed imprinted on my brain, day and night, for two weeks straight. I was back and forth between the meaning of it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I really believed him. How can praise be a manifestation of doubt? Jason Upton had been right about a number of things in the past, but he was definitely off with this one. After sleepless nights of hearing Upton’s voice in my head, I finally decided I would research “silence + God”. To my surprise, it’s a popular subject that many believers have faced. Even after researching, Jason Upton’s line kept playing on repeat in my head. I reluctantly decided I would believe his thought process on how praise can sometimes be a manifestation of our doubts and I made a decision to be silent myself. I decided to stop the praise and be quiet.

It was in this silence that I heard God profoundly. I experienced refreshment. I experienced joy. I wanted to smile again.

Even though Upton’s song had been on repeat in my head, it wasn’t until I made a decision to be silent that the second part to Upton’s quote came back to my remembrance — “Sometimes praise can be a manifestation of our doubt. God wants to silence us to get to the root of what’s really going on.” Then it hit me. It was as if the floodgates had been opened and suddenly I heard God again. I felt peace and joy and purpose again.

So what does being silent mean?

It doesn’t mean not talking to God anymore. It doesn’t mean giving people the ‘silent treatment’. It simply means I quit praising God through music, and instead, I praised Him with my own words. Alone. In silence. As a student in Biblical Counseling, I completely understand how the silence ordeal works. One of the biggest points one of my professors taught was when a client comes in and doesn’t want to talk, what you do in response is sit in silence. Don’t say a word. Wait for them to open up. He said it’s in the silence that the client starts to feel a sense of pressure to finally release what’s on their mind in order to break the awkward silence. This is exactly what God was doing to me. He was waiting in silence for me to finally pause – in silence – in order for me to realize the heaviness in my heart that I was lugging around with me. I used praise and worship and busyness in life to mask the deepest parts of my soul that needed tending to by my Abba Father.

We’re a very loud and busy society. My schedule typically consists of waking up to worship music before getting ready, playing peppier music in the car ride to school and work, listening to a four-year-old babble from the moment he opens his eyes until I drop him off at school, then heading to work to listen to patients all day. After work, I turn the music on again in the car, pick up the never-ceasing-forever-talking-four-year-old, head home to a family dinner where we discuss our day, finally put the four-year-old to bed, take a shower with music in the background, then head to bed. Only to repeat it all again the next day. Occasionally, there may be a television show or movie thrown in the mix. Or there may be a stop at the grocery store. There are hardly ever any breaks or downtime when our ears get a moment to take a rest from all the noise.

When’s the last time you silenced your phone? What about the television? How about the last time you drove from point A to point B without any music playing in the background?  I’ll admit… it’s awkward at first. I’m a lover of music. I love playing light jazz in the background while spending an entire day at home or blaring lip-syncing music in the car with friends (there’s nothing like a good car-aoke session). So for someone who’s used to always hearing *something* playing, completely silencing the noise was a challenge for me. However, I’m convinced that even though God loves to hear us praise Him through singing, He also loves for us to be silent with Him so He can prove His glory and faithfulness to us in our seasons of hurt and doubt. So really, in the season of silence when I felt God was being silent, it was really me being silent with God about what was going on in my heart.

Instead of playing worship music during your dedicated time with the Lord, don’t play anything at all. Be still. Listen. Then pour out your heart and communicate with God your Father.

I know praising Him through worship is a way of drawing His presence into our lives, but for me, I was trying to bring God’s presence in my life because I was needy and wanted to feel a moment of peace. Essentially I became addicted to the feeling I got when in the presence of God, instead of being addicted to God Himself. I needed to silence the noise or I would’ve never truly experienced a relationship with God. I wouldn’t have made it past the “butterflies stage” and would have stayed stuck at knowing Him for His power instead of knowing Him for who He is.

It’s time to stop using praise as a cover-up to our deepest hurts and doubts. Just like I learned that makeup only masked the pesky blemishes on my face during puberty and didn’t heal the issue of the breakout, praising in a season when we’re supposed to be silent only creates a deeper void between us and God.

Remember, there’s a season for everything. There will always be seasons of flourish and seasons of drought; seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow; seasons of speaking and seasons of silence.

“…a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”
– Ecclesiastes 3:7

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