A couple months ago, I received a dream job offer: Hawaii. The job involved working with birds (want to know why I dedicated my career to birds? Check out this post.) In addition, I would be living in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Could a job offer get any better? But something felt off and no matter how much I prayed, God remain remained silent.
Well, actually he said I trust you to make your own decisions and after I refused to accept this as his response, he chose to keep silent. So, I asked advice from all my friends, flipped coins, and even cast lots. Eventually, I reached a very ungraceful decision which involved backing out after I had already accepted the job offer.
Why did God let me stumble around in the dark? Why did he not provide clarity for my discernment? Why did God remain silent? Why didn’t God just tell me what to do?
God remains silent to strengthen our relationship with him. His silence is an opportunity to grow in trust and love of God. At times, his silence is because he has already given us the answer and he is waiting for us to accept it. At other times, we are simply not ready for the answer.
Let’s expand on these reasons.
1. He Already Gave You the Answer
I caused myself a lot of unnecessary distress when discerning whether or not to accept the Hawaii job offer. In my heart, I didn’t want to go. My desire for stability and long-term friendship was greater than my desire for adventure (check out my last post about desires and discernment). But my mind couldn’t comprehend how I could give up such an opportunity. After all, wasn’t this type of job something I used to dream of?
God speaks to the heart, not the mind. And my heart had already received the answer. I did not desire to go. This itself was God’s answer to me (subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s post about when God asks us to go against our desires). He had planted the desire in my heart. He had already given me the answer. What else could he do but wait for me to listen?
2. You Aren’t Ready for the Answer
Sometimes God doesn’t give us the answer because we’re just not ready. No one knew this better than Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo. A young woman and newlywed, Chiara found out she was pregnant. But the joy of the news was accompanied with news of her unborn baby’s fatal malformation. Despite knowing the baby could not survive after birth, Chiara and her husband chose life for their child. The baby died hours after being born.
Not long after, Chiara got pregnant again. The unborn baby was diagnosed with a different malformation. Once more, Chiara and her husband chose life, loving the child until it died hours after birth.
Finally, Chiara was pregnant a third time. This time, the baby was completely healthy. No malformation, everything was normal. It was Chiara who was sick this time. A cancerous tumor was discovered on her tongue. In order to protect the health of her unborn baby, Chiara delayed treatment. That delay cost her her life. Her baby was born healthy and well and she died at 28 years old.
Chiara’s life was an exceptional witness to the dignity of human life. But she admitted that if God had told her early on what her path would be, she might not have been able to do it. Piccoli passi possibili, she said to describe how God guided her down the path: small doable steps.
Perhaps, just like Chiara, we’re not yet ready to know how God has called us to follow him. In these moments, God is taking the time to strengthen us.
3. He’s Giving You an Opportunity to Grow in Trust
It’s easy to trust in God when everything is going well. Life is just how you desire it and you continually sing God’s praises. But is this trust?
The Bible is full of examples of humanity failing to trust God, from Eve failing to trust that God had her best interests to the Israelites failing to trust that God would lead them through the desert. Just as Eve decided to take matters into her own hands by tasting of the fruit, and just as the Israelites decided to build the golden calf, we might be tempted to rely on ourselves. But where there is temptation, there is always an invitation from God.
In times of silence, God is inviting us to trust him.
When God seems silent in our discernment, let us cling to the Litany of Trust
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You,
Deliver me Jesus.
From anxiety about the future,
Deliver me Jesus.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You,
Jesus I trust in you.
4. He Wants You to Love Him for His Own Sake
How often do we treat God like a vending machine? Input a prayer, receive what you requested. But prayer isn’t a transaction. Rather, prayer is entering into communion with God. As St. Augustine says, “True prayer is nothing but love.”
How much purer is our love when we approach God for no other reason than to be with Him?
“For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence” (Vatican II, qtd CCC 27).
Man is created by God and for God. Only in communion with God will we find joy and satisfaction. By remaining silent, God invites us to approach him for no other reason than to love him. This allows us to experience a taste of beatitude, Heaven.
5. He Wants You to Make Your Own Decisions
Finally, God sometimes keeps silent in our discernment because he wants us to make our own decisions. After all, he endowed us with free will because he wants us to use it. One of the marks of adulthood is taking responsibility for ourselves, Fr. Mike Schmitz says.
God has a plan for our lives. But within that plan there is more flexibility than we might realize. God allows us to choose our path. This includes simple everyday choices such as what to have for breakfast to bigger decisions such as whether or not to go on a date with a person.
Sometimes God’s silence is an invitation to make our own decisions. To me, this was the hardest thing to wrap my mind around. Doesn’t the Our Father itself teach us to seek after only God’s will? It’s a mystery I am only just beginning to enter into, but already I can see: free will is God’s greatest gift.
Though it can be frustrating, God’s timing is perfect. And his decision to remain silent is itself a precious gift. In my ungraceful discernment about the Hawaii job offer, God refrained from giving me an obvious answer. Though this was unnerving, it ultimately led me to a deeper relationship with him. I have a fuller appreciation for the gift of free will and have a deeper connection to the desires of my heart.
So next time God is keeping quiet in your own discernment, take it as an opportunity to grow closer to Him!
Thank you for reading today’s post! Don’t forget to check out my last post on the importance of desires in discernment. And come back next Tuesday for a reflection on God asking us to go against our desires.