Has God seemed silent to you recently ? If so, you are not alone! This past year has felt like that for me.
Recently I have been reflecting on how God is close to us – even when it doesn’t feel like it. As we enter into a new year, I hope that the things God has shown me will greatly encourage you.
Reflecting on Immanuel
Immanuel. I have seen this word everywhere this holiday season. It seemed to pop up in every song and Christmas carol. It means ’God with us’.
This is important!
Somehow the incredible truth that God became one of us – a fragile, dependent human baby who then lived among us for 30 years – has reconnected with me in a new way and rekindled praise and wonder in my heart.
Before Jesus came, the people of Israel had been walking in darkness for a very long time. After the words of Malachi (around 400 B.C.) they were plunged into a long period where God was largely silent. There were some remarkable moments along the way, but in general it was spiritually a very dark time.
So experiencing God’s silence is not a new thing.
Experiencing God’s silence is sometimes known as ’the dark night of the soul’.
When the night seems dark
When I was a child we used to go camping for several weeks each year. At home in our house, my parents would always leave a night light on, so I never experienced true darkness; that is, until we were in the tent!
I can remember frequently waking up in the night in that tent, and thinking I had gone blind because I couldn’t see. I would call out in panic until my mum turned the torch on to reassure me that I could still see.
I only calmed down when I realised that it wasn’t me; I wasn’t blind, it was just dark outside. Mum and Dad were close by. Eventually I would be reassured, embrace the night time and go back to sleep again.
Spiritual darkness is just as scary as physical darkness.
When God seems silent
For the first 37 years of my life God seemed distant; I couldn’t connect with Him or hear from Him. I believed in Him, but that is not the same as feeling a living connection.
I can identify with Israel and their 400 years of darkness before Jesus came. Like them, I longed to hear from God with all my heart!
Then, in 2006 I discovered something wonderful: That God was speaking to me though my dreams! There are many dreams in the biblical nativity narrative, but I hadn’t made the connection between those and my own daily dream life.
But, once I realised God was speaking though them, I suddenly found that I could have a relationship with God! He was no longer silent. I could hear from Him most days by praying through my dreams. It was life-changing for me; the light is particularly welcome after we have experienced darkness.
Walking in darkness
It must have been a similar feeling similar for Israel when Jesus appeared on the scene. When Isaiah prophesied that the people walking in darkness would see a great light, it was truly spoken to a people in a place of spiritual desperation and darkness.
- Isaiah 9:2, NASB The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.
This year has felt like a year of darkness to me, spiritually speaking. It has felt like wondering in the wilderness, or walking a dark path.
God has ‘gone dark’ on me again: I have been dreaming, but my dreams have been confusing. God seems to have been deliberately leading me one way and then another, until I have totally lost the plot. The future is not clear at all.
I have had hundreds (literally) of dreams that I don’t understand, which is unusual for me. After many years of dreams bringing clarity to my life, it hurts! I’m struggling like that child who woke up in a dark tent; I’m crying out like Israel in their 400 year silence.
But I know it’s not me. Like in the dark tent, I know I haven’t gone blind. It’s just that God has turned the lights out for a while. And I know that the darkness has a purpose.
Darkness has a purpose
Recently I attended an evening where we spent some time in prayer and reflection. At the beginning, the leader turned off the lights for a short while and we contemplated the darkness.
Even though it was dark, there was still some light visible. God reminded me that it is never totally dark; there is always some light. And He also reminded me that night is a necessary part of the cycle of life.
For there is a time for night. There is a time just to rest and trust; to replenish our energy and stop striving. There is a time to lie down and sleep, knowing that God is still close by – just like my parents were close by me in the tent.
When we are crying out in panic, God is there to turn the night light on briefly – just enough for us to calm down – and He does! He gives just enough encouragement during those times to reassure us, so we can trust Him again.
You are close like no other
God has never left us – not even for a moment – even though it may feel like He has! He is close by, as David wrote in Psalm 23:
- Psalm 23:4, NIV Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
There is a wonderful line in the song Goodness of God, sung by Jenn Johnson at Bethel Music, which has spoken to me many times this past year:
In the darkest night,From Goodness of God by Bethel Music
You are close like no other.
If God seems distant right now, you could have a listen to the song (follow the link above) and let the words minister to you.
As sure as day follows night
Through all of these things, God has impressed upon me the fact that there something else we can be sure of: Where there is night, morning follows.
The past year has seemed dark in many ways.
The world has been a confusing place. There is disagreement, dissatisfaction, grumbling, fear, and strong opinions abound. It’s hard to know what it true and what isn’t. There is sickness, death, frustration, dashed dreams, financial struggles, loss, uncertainty, and the like. God can seem far away.
Yet night is only for a short time. Morning is coming!
Just like Jesus burst onto the scene of a dark world, so the light of Christ bursts into our darkness and brings the morning light.
Light comes in the morning
Despite my frustrating year of struggling to hear God, there have been moments when He has been so close. Just like that little torch that calmed me in the tent, God has given me little encouragements along the way to reassure me that He is near – and still in control.
And over the past few weeks, over Christmas, God has filled me afresh with the wonder of what happened when He became one of us – in the person of Jesus Christ.
I still don’t have clarity or understanding about many of my dreams, but I do finally feel at peace – and know that God has led me through this phase for a reason. I suspect it has been about me learning to trust Him when I don’t understand. And I do know that the light of understanding is coming, as sure as the day follows the night.
Welcoming the light
I don’t know what situation you are facing right now. Your past year may have been extremely difficult. You may be worrying about what the next year may bring and how you will cope. God may seem silent right now.
If so, I invite you to pause, and reflect on the things we have shared:
- Night has a purpose.
- In darkest times, God is close like no other time.
- It is never truly dark; there are always glimpses of light.
- Night never lasts forever; light comes in the morning.
So why not stop right now, turn off the lights, and reflect on the areas that seem dark or difficult in your life: And then invite the light of Christ – our Immanuel – into those places!
You could light a candle, or sit with just the Chrstmas lights on (if you still have them up) to symbolise His closeness – for He is indeed close by.
Embracing His presence
I can think of no better way to start the new year than by resting on the hope that the birth of Jesus has reminded us about through the truth of Immanuel: God is with us.
You can have that same wonder that I have experienced over the past few weeks. You can experience His presence – even in the midst of dark times.
I leave you with a song called Immanuel by Joshua Aaron. This song has been part of the inspiration for my article today. I cannot help but lift my hands in worship as I join in with the words.
I invite you to listen to the song and watch the scenes from Galilee in the video below.
And as you do so, remember that God Himself became a man and walked upon these shores. He did indeed descend to our world, to show us that He is near – and to reassure us that, whatever our current situation, the light dawns.
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