I was booking a flight this past week and trying to figure out which airports and airlines would work best to my advantage when I arrived at this earth-shattering revelatory conclusion; GOD IS SORTA LIKE AN AIRPORT.
Allow me to explain myself.
Ever notice that there are certain locations you cannot get a direct flight to? Sometimes, to go south, airlines will fly you west, make you wait there for 3.5 hours, then put you on a connecting flight coming from the east, to get you to your final southern destination.
After studying what I'm about to share with you below, I'm convinced God's transportation system works in the same way.
So sometimes, in implementing His plans for your life, God will take you through an experience that will feel like a detour, a major delay, or even a permanent layover. Though it may feel like forever, your "wait" is just ONE of the many stops in the journey to get you to His intended final destination for your life. Other times, like an airplane instructed by the tower to stay in a "holding pattern" [circling the sky and waiting to land], God will keep you "midair" in a holding pattern, not because you’re not ready for what He has next, but because the conditions aren’t right for you to land yet.
A beautiful worship-leader friend of mine, Stephanie Carpio, captured this sentiment in a recent Facebook post:
I think she's onto something profound!
Speaking of long periods of God-silence in your life, did you know that there is a 400-year gap between the last book of the Old Testament (Malachi) and the first book of the New Testament (Matthew)? In your Bibles, it's one page apart, but did you know that this intertestamental length of time is commonly known as the "Silent Years" because there wasn't a single prophetic word from God as there had been in previous periods/books of the Bible?
It’s as if God put everyone on a major timeout…. in a 400-years-long waiting room.
I have a few friends who would probably describe this present season of their life as tantamount to being in a 400-years-long waiting room. Maybe you have your own version of this story? You’ve read your Bible, underlined the right verses, prayed ...but nothing. Perhaps you feel like you and God are no longer on speaking terms? You feel stuck and there’s no movement in your life? To make matters worse, God’s not explaining why!
Sorta like how the Biblical folks felt during those silent years?
- What if I told you that God’s silence in your life does not equate God’s inactivity in your life?
- What if the silence was simply a cover for what God was really doing behind the scenes? What if that “cover” were lifted and you realized that God was actually moving pieces around globally, strategically preparing and positioning you for His next move?
- And what if your ability to wait well in the silence was part of the very training you needed to help you thrive when God finally opens the door and calls you into whatever’s NEXT?
I know. That’s a lot of what-if’s.
Fortunately, God’s modus operandi during those 400 silent years [and pretty much everywhere else in the scriptures] indicates that He’s often times most active in the silence. Allow me to walk you through the intertestamental journey that brought me to this point of reflection.
As it turns out, from the Old Testament book of Malachi to the beginning of the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, God was behind the scenes orchestrating global events in preparation for the arrival of His Son and building a worldwide highway network through which His Gospel would spread.
Sometime in the earlier part of the 400 years, the Jews were settling back into Jerusalem after years of captivity in Babylon. The Medo-Persians had defeated the Babylonians, and a king named Cyrus was leading the world. Israel was one of the nations they had control of. During his reign, God stirs Cyrus and he acts favorably towards the Jews.
Unfortunately, Cyrus [and the Persians] are soon overthrown by the Greeks, at first by Phillip of Macedonia, then completed by a young guy named Alex, whom history remembers as Alexander the Great. Alexander is not only a brilliant military strategist, but he’s also all about spreading Greek culture and Greek thinking, a worldwide effort known as, “Hellenization.” In an effort to unite and preserve his empire, which spanned most of the globe, he implements an assimilation plan that required the learning of Greek as the common language.
As a result of this, the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, becoming the translation we know today as the “Septuagint.” While this may have seemed like a discomfort to many, it was actually a global plan birth in the heart of God to bring the Gospel across language barriers. Think about what this meant for the spreading of Gospel; it meant that people from every nation, tribe, and language would now be able to read the scriptures [which was written in Hebrew] in a language that everyone understood!
As it turns out, God was at work in the silence.
Alexander eventually dies at a very young age and his kingdom is split between 4 of his generals. After his death, the land of Judea is ruled by a series of successors, culminating in rule of a Syrian ruler and psychopath named, Antiochus Epiphanes. All you need to know about this madman whom the scriptures describe as, “the abomination that causes desolation” is that he desecrated the Jewish temple, created a lot of tension between Jews and Syrians, all of which resulted in what’s known as the Maccabean Revolt. Ever heard of Hanukkah?
Sometime after his mess, the Roman Empire rises to power in a period that was accompanied by war, violence, bloodshed, and lots of infighting. The redeeming quality about the Romans is that they were brilliant engineers who ended up building a massive network of roads that connected disconnected corners of the world. If the Greeks are known for leaving their intellectual and cultural mark on the world, then the Romans should be recognized for leaving an infrastructural map for navigating your way through it.
While it remains true that God was silent, you can’t help but observe Him silently at work in the background in this plan. Think about it, not only could the Gospel now be read [through hellenization], but the Roman roads now made it possible for evangelists to actually travel those same roads to spread the message of hope to distant lands. Ever read of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys?
Not only was God at work globally in the political scene, but back in Israel, He was also readying His people spiritually. During the Roman rule, the Jews once again found themselves conquered and oppressed by a foreign nation. Remember, they’ve lived under the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, the-Antiochus-Epiphanes madness, now they find themselves as subjects of their oppressive Roman rulers.
To make matters worse, it was sometime during this period that two important political/religious, (major Jewish factions) emerged in Palestine; The Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Sadducees were liberal aristocrats. They were wealthy, and did not believe in resurrection of life after death. The Pharisees on the other hand were conservatives who added their own laws to the actual laws of Moses. In fact, they sometimes considered their own laws more important than God’s, which explains why Jesus always seemed so ticked off at them. At one point, He even referred to them as pretty caskets.
So think about all the political, religious, and social pressures the Jews were facing. The religious leaders who should have been their spiritual fathers were taking advantage of their ignorance and spiritually abusing them. The Sadducees robbed them of any sense of hope or joy with their no-resurrection theology, and the Pharisees placed religious burdens on them even they couldn’t keep. Their Romans rulers taxed them heavily and oppressed them.
Life was miserable and God was silent. Spiritually, the world was desperate for a savior.
Until one night when a mighty angel appears to an engaged teenage girl in an obscure village and tells her that in her womb would be conceived the solution to humanity’s problem.
The rest, is the Gospels.
So why did I just give you that long snooze-fest-worthy lecture? [By the way, if you’ve read this far, bravo! Way to stick it out!]
I shared all of that to remind you that God’s silence in your life does not equate His inactivity in your life. Though the quietness may feel deafening, never forget that there is often a flurry of activities taking place behind the scenes. Often times, those activities will not directly involve you, but will be worked out by God, for your good, and ultimately for His glory. Just like it did in redemptive history.
Further more, God might seemingly be placing your life on hold, not because you've done anything wrong, but because the conditions He wants to move you into aren't yet set. It's possible that the people who will help you along your journey [to get you to God's intended destination] might not yet be ready, or are in the process of being prepared. Sorta like how God sent John the Baptist ahead of Jesus [though their births were relatively close] to prepare people's hearts before God actually revealed the Son to the world in His baptism.
Now of course, there are some of you who might very well be in an extended season of waiting because there are things in your life you need to surrender to God. If that's you, chances are, you already have some idea what it is God's calling you to start doing, stop doing, do more of, or less of. Whatever it may be, you'll find that as you let go, God gradually "brings you in for a smooth landing" into whatever destination He's prepared for you. You'll also need to get to a point in your faith where you learn to trust that God's silence in your life is meant for good, your good!
So, find yourself waiting?
Don't fret, and please don't conclude that God is punishing you, or has abandoned you. It's not His nature to create a passion and a hunger in you for something He never plans to feed. Your desire [that you're waiting for] was first born in God's heart before it became something you desired.
He WILL finish the good work He's begun in you.