Bleak Silent Winter

How to Hold a Two-way Conversation With a Silent God

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Conversations take many forms. Not all are audible. When The Redheaded-Wildflower and I were dating I lived in Leadville, CO in a postage-stamp-sized log cabin with electricity and plumbing but no phone. She lived in Fort Collins 160 miles and several hours away. I didn’t have a car. Snail-like days and weeks inched by when I ached to hear her voice. I longed to ask her how school was going and about our future. To tell her I loved her. It was an isolated time. I have had those same aches and longings to hear God’s voice. To ask God questions, discuss the future. Even argue. The silence of God in answer to prayers too is often excruciating. How do you hold a two-way conversation with a silent God?

A Conversation in the Garden

When God Is Silent

Often God’s voice is not even still and small. There have been numerous times, usually when I’m in distress or pain when God seems to clam up. I know this is true for many of you as well. 

Back in 1978 The Redheaded-Wildflower and I resorted to the only technology that could bridge the miles: letters. We held fluid, beautiful conversations through those. I would read her letters again and again, imagining her voice, the expression on her face. Then I would write back, usually taking a stab at poetry.   

What if that is how God chose to bridge the gap also? Sending letters and postcards from the edge of the universe? Many containing poetry. What if scripture is a conversation rather than an instruction manual?

Study Is Not Conversational

Since the Reformation, we have been commanded to study scripture. Quiet times, small group gatherings, worship, and Christian literature all focus on digging into every jot and tittle of the biblical text. Word studies. Historic surveys. Contextual meaning. We are exhorted to be Bible experts. Yet, we feel far from God.

To be sure, this study is meaningful and God speaks through it. But study falls flat when we are in pain. It is not a conversation. It’s one-sided at best. When grief comes pounding at our hearts, or sadness sweeps over the day, or chronic illness and pain rack day after month after year, few of us sit down with a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance or a commentary on Job to find comfort.

Study is not a conversation

The Psalms Are Conversations With God

We turn instead to the poetry and prayers of the Psalms. Jesus too did this. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he cried out in his time of deepest pain. His utterance is a quote from Psalm 22. 

When a Coptic Christian family buried their twelve-year-old daughter sometime in 300 A. D., they gave themselves comfort in their grief by placing a full, bound copy of the Psalms under her head. It is the oldest bound copy of the Psalms and maybe the oldest bound book so far discovered. Because of the cost and work involved in making a handwritten book with carved wooden covers researcher Gawdat Gabra said, “They must have loved her very much.” And grieved her tremendously.

Postcards from God

A Year With the Psalms

I too have let the Psalms speak for and to me. This past sixteen months of being battered by long COVID I immersed myself in the Psalms, sometimes daily. And when one spoke to me I wrote it in my journal along with my response to it. Many of these became Sunday Psalms I’ve shared with you. I was writing letters to God and God answered.

Many of these conversations were worded like Psalm 64. “Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint.” One day in a paraphrase of Psalm 64 I wrote, “I just want somebody to not recommend treatment or solutions to my long COVID but simply to say, ‘That must suck!’”

Later that day, I had lunch with a friend. Over our burgers he made me describe my illness. When I finished he said, “That must suck!”

I wept. God and my friend had heard and answered my prayer. 

God is open to a conversation

Scripture Reading as Prayer

Reading scripture has become prayer for me. Yes, I still study it. But more than ever I open my mind and heart as if what I’m reading is a letter crossing in the cosmic mail. My questions and expressions of love are often answered (but not always) by God. 

The Bible has become a conversation with God. For example, in a fearful time, I read Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with thee.” If I study this passage I find that the “fear not” is an imperative, a command. If written in computer language, it is automatically and unquestioningly fulfilled. In human language not so. 

In my distress, I read it as a conversation with a loving Father sitting at my bedside in the dark night of my soul. In this, it became instead of an imperative but a comfort, “Father, I’m afraid I’ll never get well!” I prayed.

“Don’t be afraid, my child, for I am with thee,” God answered. And the fear has receded like a flooding river after the rain stopped.

To hear God in this way, consider reading the Psalms and writing your own prayers in a psalm-like fashion. Or read scripture and listen with your heart. Lectio Divina is a beautiful prayer/reading practice. Holding a two-way conversation with God who seems silent may be as easy as writing God a letter and reading the Bible for his reply.

Silence Speaks

God is often silent. That silence is the subject for another blog. But it is also true that there is more to God’s silence than meets the ear. Sometimes our eyes can hear. When I read of Jesus weeping or of God storing my tears in a bottle, I imagine I hear God’s pounding heart and groans matching mine. 

Has God been sending you letters to read? Has God been aching to tell you of his love? Yes. And maybe the silence we hear is from us not knowing how to listen.  

God invites us to be with him

Read more on holding a conversation with God here:

What Is The Bible? A Confusing Text Book Or A Brilliant Love Letter?

Listening To God: A Matter Of Life And Death

10 thoughts on “How to Hold a Two-way Conversation With a Silent God”

  1. Terry Hagen

    Thank you Eugene – The depth of your meditations may have risen from your joys and your sufferings, particularly in your recent COVID event, but I suspect that ability to put into words, both emotions, as we have a conversation with God, has been a gift you have always possessed . Thank you again for this.

    1. Your faithful readership, friendship, and comments are a blessing to me. Thank you. I hope God is coming near this Holy Week.

  2. Georgie Ann Kettig

    Dear Eugene,…

    I’ve been reflecting on this thought for a little while,… “waiting on God” has become a rather ingrained habit for me, over the years,… waiting, listening, expectant, hopeful, believing ~ knowing that God “sounds better than this world often does”, gives me hope when this world has been sounding especially troublesome,…

    there are times that it’s very clear that God has actually “spoken” something to my understanding ears, and this is so beautiful and personal that it becomes like the gift of a “kiss” to my heart, mind and soul,… and becomes an indelible memory that cannot be erased,…

    I await Him expectantly, trustingly,… and most often, I’m only “looking” to “feel Him” ~ in the special light of the sky,… in a quiet, personal moment,… in a surprising vision of natural beauty that is revealing His undeniable “touch”,… and on and on,…

    the Scriptures are a grand foundational bedrock that assure us of the marvel of his long-standing existence and connection to us,… and they cry out to us unceasingly, to uphold His truth, reality, love, blessing, compassion, humility and glory,… and I am grateful that they remain a solid undergirding force, upholding the dignified presence of our church and inspirational worship,… these things feed me,… and I am so grateful,…

    but day-to-day, I’m kind of “looking for” ways to directly touch and feel God’s presence in my life ~ I think it’s just the way that I am,… “something quiet” in me is listening for that “singing bird”, or that gentle breeze, or that warm and relaxing feeling gently coming to rest and relieve the tiredness of my body and soul,…

    as a musician, I’ve come to realize how much God can inhabit our sincere sounds, made in His honor with love and devotion, and how much gratitude and healing become possible as we dedicate ourselves to Him,…

    I think that I detect that inclination in your photography, as well,… (-:

    1. This is a perfect reflection and expansion on my post. As a musician and poet, David’s psalms show us he too heard God in nature and music and scripture. And yes, that is my hope for the photography. It’s so fun to be out and see something I can shoot photographically and wonder what story about life and God the photo may tell. Keep listening, my friend and telling us what you hear.

  3. I love your writing. It’s an invitation to feel and accept. And your poetic way with words is inspiring. Thanks for the post!

  4. Beautiful Relationship between our heavenly Father, sons, and daughters. A heavenly Father who holds our hearts in the palm of His hands to converse with those who He created His heart within. A loving heavenly Father, at times who carries us in His strength, comfort and patience as we wait upon His answers, guidance, direction. Beautiful Relationship of deep intimate whispers of our heart…intertwined, woven with the Heart of our Creator, King of Glory, Savior…so deserving of Relationship.

    Thank you my precious heavenly Father of who I am so undeserving of your love, but you loved me so much you gave your Son for Relationship and that Relationship for eternity.

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