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Navigating Spiritual Winter

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Christian Rowlands

Last time we looked at the seasons. And of the four, I think we don’t want to wade through winter.  Can’t we get through the hard times or the dark times any quicker? Winter is cold and lonely. In Winter, God seems silent.

Perhaps you’re walking through a season of Winter right now.

So I want to offer you a few suggestions for this season of quiet that might help you navigate it.

1. EXAMINE YOUR LIFE

In seasons of Winter it’s possible that something is blocking you from hearing God’s voice. Take a moment to examine your life and ask “Is there any sin in my life that might be standing between me and God?”

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened”

A close self-examination will require you to go deeper than perhaps obvious things.

Where is your thought life these days, what do you spend your time doing? And remember, there is no shame in asking for forgiveness. Sometimes that’s what is needed to set the relationship back.  And of course, God does not hold grudges, nor is he immature that he would be giving you the silent treatment, rather I think sometimes the volume is turned down, to force you to stop what you’re doing and ask. “What just happened? What am I missing?”

God wants nothing more than to be in right relationship with you, and sometimes we just need to say we’re sorry to make it all better again.

2. ACCEPT GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY

You know what that means? It means sometimes God is silent and he has every right to be, he’s God. He actually doesn’t owe you an answer.

A.W. Tozer said, “God is said to be absolutely free, because no one and no thing can hinder Him or compel Him or stop Him. He is able to do as He pleases always, everywhere, forever.”

When the trials hit Job, Job’s wife offered her own advice, she told her husband to curse God and die. But in the very first chapter of his story, when Job hears that every single one of his children had died and that many of his flocks and herds had been stolen, the bible says in Job 1:20 that “Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.”

During season of Winter, we each like Job, have a choice in how we react. Job faced the choice of acknowledging—or rejecting—the sovereignty of God. In response to his suffering and loss. Job chose to let God be God.

I love what Job says in Job 2:10 “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

Accepting God’s sovereignty also means actively trusting God and realizing He is in control and can be trusted.

Job says in 13:15 “Though (the Lord) slay me, I will hope in Him”

Nothing in Job’s life, or ours, happens apart from God’s knowledge and plan. Remember you are his project, you are his masterpiece. Da Vinci used to walk away from painting the Mona Lisa for years. Can you imagine how she felt? Did I do something wrong? Does Da Vinci still love me? But all the while it is Da Vicni who is the master. He knows what he’s doing. He can’t be expected to explain himself to a painting.

And if you read the story of Job, as the reader you know that there are no moments where God was not in control. God knows what he is doing and sometimes the hardest moment are just to trust him.

3. LISTEN TO WHAT GOD IS SAYING

Although God may seem silent regarding a specific request or petition, remember that He is always in a constant state of communication with us. In fact, it is possible that you already have an answer from God. The Bible is full of specific answers about what is right and wrong as well as information about God’s character and His intention for us as His children and His followers.

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

So don’t forget to dig into God’s Word—even if God seems silent in prayer and life, He is always talking you through his word. To find out what God has to say about the problems you’re facing or the questions you’re asking; read the Bible. I think many times in silent times, verses in the Bible can have new significance in light of current problems you are facing.

4. RECOGNIZE THAT SILENCE CAN BE INTIMATE

Oswald Chambers says, “When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible—with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.”

Silence does not have to be bad. Sometimes its a sign of comfort and familiarity.  You know, when you are completely comfortable with a person, it is possible to sit in a room together and not utter a single word. When two people are in love, silence can be a sign of intimacy.

1 Kings 19:11-13 The Lord said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

It’s such a beautiful picture. All of these mighty and disruptive sounds – elements that we might assume would be announcing God’s presence, but it was in the last sound, the sound of a whisper where God was heard.

God whispering results in us leaning in closer. Maybe that’s what God wants, maybe he’s tired of yelling at you. Maybe he’s tired of yelling over the distractions in your life. Lean in.

5. CONTINUE TALKING TO GOD

Psalm 22:2 “Oh my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest”

David is expressing anguish in God’s silence but notice what he says, “I cry out every day.” Just because God is silent, that doesn’t mean David has to be. If I baby can’t get his parents attention with cute little coos and giggles, what do they do? Cry even louder. Crying is like a baby alarm isn’t it?

I think seasons of quiet can be just as much an invitation to us to press forward and seek Him even more boldly.

Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying.

Because the truth is, even though it’s Winter, there is still activity going on isn’t there?  Just because it’s winter it doesn’t mean things aren’t growing. Those dead trees sticking out of the snow, they’re still alive aren’t they? They don’t look like it, they aren’t bearing any fruit, but deep down inside those roots are still growing. Even in Winter, God is still working.

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