Silent Night—When God Works in Silence and You are Wondering Where He Is

dark snowy night

This silent night was not golden, was not the beautiful, hushed version of a Christmas carol.
This was a numbing, anxiety-filled silence where God seemed far away or non-existent—when you’re not sure what you believe or what will happen to the rest of your life.

Where is He?
It was like being drawn into a dark hole, with no sun, no daylight.
Have you experienced this? I have.

I’m a pastor with faith, knowledge, and experience in walking with God. I teach the Bible, one of the great joys of my life. But suddenly I faced what has been described as “the dark night of the soul.”1   I desperately needed answers to my questions:

  • What is God doing in the silence?
  • What am I supposed to do?
  • How do I survive this?

I became depressed and withdrawn.

I clung to what was spiritually familiar and concrete—God’s Word. I could hold a Bible in my arms and embrace it, comforted by years of learning and revelation. But I also came to realize that historically, even in His Word, there is a long pause, a long silence.

Did you know that?

Four Hundred Years

Our present is rooted in the past. Everything that happens in your life today is influenced and shaped by history—your personal history, and the history of what God is doing in our lives. He weaves our stories into His story, weaving our past and future together, attending to every detail, making each life important and meaningful.

As I looked through my Bible during my “silent night,” I reflected on the 400-year gap between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first book of the New Testament, Matthew.

God’s people had grown accustomed to hearing Him speak. He was a God of words. He spoke everything into existence. He said, “Let there be light” and there was light. He spoke through the prophets and kings, angels, and ordinary people, from burning bushes to a still, small voice. He actively communicated—until this long pause.

What did a young Jewish boy or girl born in the second or third century of silence think? At some point all of the stories— the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah in the whale, the battle of Jericho, the shepherd boy who became King David—all of it must have begun to feel like mythology or fairy tales.

Where was God for 400 years? What was He doing? And what were His people supposed to be doing?

As I wrestled with fear, anxiety, and depression, and worried about what this would mean to the rest of my life, I learned some very important lessons during my “long pause.”

What is God Doing in the Silence?

The Old Testament closes with a poignant contrast to the magnificence of creation in the first book of Genesis. The prophet Malachi calls his nation to spiritual renewal, reminding the people that God said, “I have loved you.” I have loved you, but you have strayed. I have loved you, but your heart is not where it should be.

Malachi wrote, “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” Restoration is needed. God has work to do, behind the scenes, during the long pause.

Three very important world events occurred during this long period, preparing the way for the birth of Jesus.

  1. A common language emerged. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), son of Philip II and Queen Olympias, inherited the throne at age 20. He went on to create one of the largest empires in the ancient world. Before dying just before age 33, he said, “I have no more worlds to conquer.” But he did enforce a common language throughout his vast empire, Koine Greek.

Greek became the universal language. By the time the gospels were being written, many Jews didn’t speak Hebrew anymore. The New Testament was primarily written and/or translated into Greek.

  1. PAX Romana, or Roman peace, is a Latin term referring to the era from 27 BC until 180 AD. The Roman Empire was in its prime and enjoyed a long period of relative peace.
  1. A worldwide system of roads and transportation was built by the Romans. While Romans roads provided an efficient means of travel for military and trade purposes, it also made it much easier for the people to travel abroad—including the early missionaries like Paul, Barnabas, Luke, and numerous others.

If you‘ve attended a play, you might remember at the end of Act 1, going out into the lobby during intermission to stretch your legs and get a drink of water or a snack. When you return, the lights go up, and you see an entirely different scene from when you left. While the stage was dark, furniture, props, and lights were being moved. Costumes changed.

That’s what happened between Malachi and Matthew. While it seemed like 400 years of silence, God was working behind the scenes to rearrange the global stage, to prepare the way for the Gospel of His Son.

Our Silent Night

During my “silent night” the Lord did some rearranging in my life. I was spent, exhausted from a nonstop schedule. I had neglected my physical, mental, and spiritual health. Depression crept in while I was trying to figure out what was going on. God seemed very silent and far away.

I was in the midst a spiritual battle, but too tired to recognize it at first. If you asked me how I was, I probably said, “Pretty good. God is working. I’m OK.”

Reality was a dark, long, lonely, walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I kept meditating and praying and asking God, “Why are You so silent?” I pondered the idea that David the psalmist did not write, “I walk through the valley of death.” He wrote of a shadow. I’m not dead, I thought, but I felt that way.

But what casts a shadow? Light of course. I was looking for the light. Then I read Isaiah 6:5 and cried with the prophet, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

It was like walking out of dark theater in the middle of the day and being blinded by light. The Lord was telling me it was time to adjust – not to darkness but to a greater light that He wanted to reveal.

I began to see my self honestly, and to repent fervently. My selfishness, my pride, my fears, and anxiety—all were revealed. Yes, I was undone.

Coming out of the shadow is not easy. Adjusting to the blinding light was even harder. I had to learn that God was working behind the scenes of my life. His Silence is not His absence.

I sought counsel. I took a short sabbatical, I rested, I spent time with family members. I asked for help. We are not meant to go through these things alone. God uses the people around us to love us, bathe us in prayer, and draw us back into the light. I learned to accept being who I am and to be honest and vulnerable. It was very freeing.

I’m a shepherd over a flock I love. Some say as the shepherd goes, so go the sheep. My heart aches for my brothers and sisters who find themselves walking in that shadow, crushed by depression and hopelessness.

Let me try to assure you —God is working, He loves you, and He wants you to seek and find the help you need.

A Way to Rejoice

rejoice in darknessI needed to rejoice again. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Sometimes rejoicing is done by enduring. It’s not a flippant kind of rejoicing, nor a rote “Praise the Lord.” It is an enduring, deeper rejoicing that changes one’s character and who we are inside. It’s a prayer to know, believe, and trust that God is working, even in the silence.

The holidays are approaching—a wonderful time for many, but a difficult time for others. I pray that you can take heart in knowing that if you struggle, you are not alone. Reach out, ask for prayer, seek counsel, and know that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. He is working— especially in the silence.

May God richly bless you and comfort you.

Pastor Ray

1. While imprisoned in a tiny prison cell for his attempts to reform the Church, sixteenth-century Spanish mystic John of the Cross composed many of his now classic poems of the soul’s longing for God. Written on a scroll smuggled to him by one of his guards, his songs are the ultimate expression of the spiritual seeker’s journey from estranged despair to blissful union with the divine —they’ve been titled “The Dark Night of the Soul.”

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I just received this urgent letter from Anne Graham Lotz.  Please read it carefully and take to heart the message—and pray!

 April 28, 2015

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now…”  — Matthew 24:21

Anne GrahamLotzThis spring, Joel Rosenberg and I taught through the book of Joel as we led a prophecy seminar at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. It was my privilege to give the first two messages that covered Joel 1:1 through Joel 2:17. The impact on me was profound. Both times, when I stepped off of the platform, I knew God had spoken. The messages almost made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Why? Because God was clearly warning that His judgment is coming on America and it’s going to be ugly. I knew it then, and I know it now.

I believe Jesus is soon to return to take all of His followers to Heaven with Him in the Rapture. While this will be deliverance for you and me, can you imagine the impact on our nation, let alone the world, when suddenly every single authentic Christian disappears? Institutions will collapse. Banks will close. The stock market will plunge. Planes will fall out of the sky. Cars will crash on the road. Government in America at every level will disintegrate. Families will be torn apart. In the unprecedented turmoil, our nation will be vulnerable for our enemies to seize the moment and attack us. There will be mass chaos, confusion, fear, grief, despair, anger, threats, danger… judgment.

Just as God allowed the Israelites, His people, to go through three of the ten plagues He sent in judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt in Exodus 6-8, God may allow His people today to go through a time of distress and trouble before the rapture takes place. I believe we are in that time now. I believe it’s time to not just pray. It’s time to cry out to God on behalf of our nation and our world.

MAYDAY! MAYDAY! is an international distress call that signals a life-threatening emergency. And it’s the call to cry out that I am issuing May 15-May 23. These are the nine days between the Day of the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost that have Biblically and traditionally been days of prayer and fasting for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.

The purpose of MAYDAY! MAYDAY! is …

  • To claim God our Father’s promise of an outpouring of His Spirit in these days following extraordinary signs in the sky …I will pour out my Spirit in those days …The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Joel 2:29, 31
  • To implore God the Holy Spirit to compel the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God, that times of refreshing may come… Acts 3:19
  • To entreat God our Savior for an abundant harvest of souls for His Kingdom in the remaining days. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. John 4:35
  • To delay or soften God’s judgment that is coming on America and on our world. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing. Joel 2:13-14

 I’m asking you to please partner with me, and invite everyone on your email address list, or who follows you on facebook or twitter, to join us. I will be posting a blog this Thursday, April 30, at that will include specific information on how to participate. Please feel free to forward this letter to your constituents or use it in any way that would be helpful.

I will provide a prayer I have written for each of the 9 days to help unite us in one spirit and one voice as we cry out to God. Those who receive the eBlast are invited to sign up for the daily email prayers. Please be assured there is no other agenda to this initiative. This is not about promoting anything or anyone. This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgment falls on our nation.1 Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible. Time is short.



Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.                                                                                                              – Psalm 107:19

1. One month after Mayday! Mayday! the Supreme Court will make a landmark decision on marriage. And four months after Mayday! Mayday! Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish Feast of Trumpets that many people believe will be fulfilled by the rapture of the church, will take place on September 13-15. Soon after Rosh Hashanah, the fourth blood moon will occur on September 28. The time is critical, and the time is now, to pray!

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Devotional: We Are Like Seeds


Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.— John 12:24

We are like seeds. Only by dying and being buried in the ground can anything productive come of a little seed. But what if the seed could talk? Would it be asking, “Hey, why did you dig a hole and throw me in it? Why are you burying me? Help!”

That’s us. We forget the very nature of our being and reject God’s plan for us, which is to know Him and to love and serve others. “He who loves His life will lose it,” Jesus concluded. He also said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).

Physical death can sometimes be a lot easier than denying ourselves the rights and privileges we think we deserve.

Marriage, friendship, work relationships, and yes, parenting — all require us to take a deep breath, swallow our pride, push our agendas aside, and yield to love and servanthood.

We need to change our perceptions of what our lives are supposed to be, and of how we are supposed to go about fulfilling God’s will, and begin to recognize what we already are: God’s beloved, the objects of His desire, the vessels of His love, the recipients of His greatest blessings and gifts. But sometimes we’re too busy to be His beloved. And sometimes we’re just too afraid to die.

Be encouraged by what Jesus promised:  if the seed “dies, it produces much grain.” A life given in love and service will produce an abundance of blessings!

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” —Jesus, John 10:10


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Devotional: All Things? Really?

I can

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.—Philippians 4:13

All things?  Really? 

What a truly remarkable statement. It’s like the grand finale of Philippians chapter four. After wrestling with anxiety, learning to pray about everything, recognizing the need for the peace of God as a guardian for our hearts and minds, and, finally, learning to think with the right attitude and find contentment, the apostle Paul makes a bold statement: “I can do all things through Christ.”

Does he mean he can jump off tall buildings and fly? Or wish for a million dollars and expect it to appear? That would be akin to Jesus’ experience in the wilderness when Satan tempted Him to jump off the cliff or command bread to appear (Matthew 4). Jesus had His priorities right. He did not want to attempt any action or try to make anything happen that was not totally in the will of God. Paul says he can do all things THROUGH CHRIST—that’s a very important distinction as opposed to becoming so smart and powerful that you believe you should do whatever you want—because you can.

How do you know that what you are praying to accomplish is in the will of God?

By tapping into the hidden resources that God provides us for our lives. We see an example of this in nature. Great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw minerals and water. The most important part of a tree is the very part you cannot see—the root system. So also, the most important part of a Christian’s life is the part only God the Father sees—the deep, abiding relationship between a believer and God, and the inner strength and power that our heavenly Father gives us to handle the demands of life.

But this strength can only come from once source and Jesus described it for us in John 15: 4-5: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Jesus tells us that apart from Him we can do nothing, while Paul has passed on the powerful lesson of his own experience, “I can do all things through Christ.”

Most of us can barely muster up enough strength to get through a day or a list of tasks. But through these two verses we are given the secret to fulfilling all that God has for us.

“If you want your life to flow more smoothly—if you want to be more productive, and learn to be more selective, and your prayers to be more effective—then live in the zone: Abide in Christ.” —Steve May1

1. May, Steve, Preaching Library Volume One: Preaching Through the Year (, 2006), p. 244.



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Contentment—How to Find It


I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.—Philippians 4: 11-12

Contentment. What a comforting, powerful word. When you are bombarded daily with advertisements that promise a better looking body, a nicer home, a newer car, a room full of furniture with no payments for two years…do you feel content? Or do you feel like you’re missing out? Do you buy into that nagging little lie that tells you your life is too ordinary or boring because you aren’t off on an exotic adventure? Or dancing and partying at a fun resort (you’re probably paying for braces or school or a mortgage instead)? Or are you able to look at your life and know, I am where God has put me. He has a purpose for my life, and I can be content, no matter what.

The apostle Paul didn’t say he automatically knew how to achieve this state of mind. He “learned” to be content. He had practice, seeing the Lord work in every circumstance, in every state of life.

He had already been rebuked once by Jesus because he had a propensity to “kick against the goads” and to fight his circumstances (Acts 9:5). He had learned to calm down and not worry about his current living conditions.

He found contentment by trusting the Lord to be in charge of his life, whether he lived in poverty or prosperity.

The word “learned,” in the second half of this passage is different than the first usage. Here it means “initiated into the secret.” It is a word that was used of the ancient pagan religions with reference to their “inner secrets.” Through trials and testing Paul explained, in the language of the surrounding culture, that he had been “initiated” into the wonderful secret of contentment, whether he was “abased” or abounding.

G.K. Chesterton said, “True contentment is a real, even active, virtue—not only affirmative, but creative…It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it.”1 C.S. Lewis was more blunt when he said, “Nobody who gets enough food and clothing in a world where most are hungry and cold has any business to talk about ‘misery.’”2

God wants to pour tranquility and peace that is beyond understanding into our souls. Daily, He teaches us this powerful secret—contentment in all circumstances, based on the knowledge that Jesus loves us, this we know.


1.Chesterton, G.K., A Miscellany of Men, (Kessinger Publishing, 2004), p. 106.                      2. Lewis, C.S., and Hopper, William, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Books, Broadcasts and the War, 1931-1949 (HarperCollins, 2004), p. 271.

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