There was a span of several years in my life when all the plates that had been so beautifully spinning came crashing down around my husband and me. We’d been married a few years, started having children and my husband was finally starting his professional career after eight years of postgraduate school (that’s 12 years of school after high school, if you’re counting, and I was counting). We were gleefully knee-deep in diapers and naps and life just seemed to be on an ever-upward trajectory.
Until it wasn’t.
All of a sudden, our beautiful, well-planned life was in the throes of a family member with a terminal illness, betrayal by someone close to us, sure-fire business decisions going up in smoke, and that’s just to name a few.
I remember at the beginning of the unraveling feeling threadbare. Little did I know it was just the beginning. I was anxious, constantly tense, a ball of worry, but all the while praying that God would swoop in and fix all the problems that seemed to be closing in on every side. I prayed specific prayers. I prayed tearful prayers. I vividly remember driving down Preston Road in Dallas (I can see the exact block in my mind), and banging my open palms on my steering wheel saying, “Lord, can’t you see what is going on? Why don’t you DO SOMETHING? Where are you?!”
Nothing. My chaos was met with quiet. Not only were my prayers not being answered, it felt like they weren’t being heard at all.
During this turbulent time, my most prominent desire was a solution for each of the disasters that we were facing. But we didn’t get solutions – at least not for a while. A long while.
But that long while wasn’t wasted. As I was praying for solutions, I began reading my Bible more intently, looking for any reasons these things could have happened and anything I needed to repent of. I scoured scripture and turned thousands of pages of books by trusted authors. I fasted (so, you know it was serious).
Was God mad at me? Why was He holding out on me?
Then, in my studies, I came to the book of Daniel, a book I thought I knew well. I knew about the Israelites being in exile in Babylon under the narcissistic King Nebuchadnezzar. I could retell down to the detail the stories of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as well as Daniel in the lion’s den – anyone who’s gone to Sunday School for any length of time will at least get those two stories.
Then I came to Daniel Chapter 10, a chapter I guess I’d never encountered before, or didn’t understand if I had read it previously. In Chapter 10, Daniel is grieved because God seems… QUIET. Now, I’ve never been in a literal fiery furnace, nor have I been tossed into a den with a hungry lion, but there I was at Chapter 10 living the tear-stained days of God’s silence and “unanswered prayers.” Daniel had my full attention.
In Chapter 10, Daniel received a revelation from the Lord regarding Israel and he was troubled. He set out to get an answer, but God gave Him nothing. For three weeks Daniel prayed, mourned, gave up choice foods – but he only received silence in return. Daniel was a man of visions and dreams from God, so he was not used to the deafening quiet.
After three weeks, an angel appeared, probably panting and out of breath. He told Daniel, almost apologizing, that he’d been dispatched to help Daniel in answer to his prayers, but he’d been detained three weeks because he was in combat with a fallen angel. The angel tells Daniel that he came in response the first day Daniel prayed. God wasn’t mad at Daniel. God wasn’t holding out on him. He’d sent help immediately, but there were other forces at work that didn’t want Daniel to receive this help.
If Daniel had been able to hear what was going on in the spiritual realm during his “quiet’ three weeks, he would have heard the clanking of swords, loud grunts of struggle and roars and battle cries on his behalf. There was never a moment of silence for Daniel after he uttered that first prayer.
Nor was there silence for me.
As a matter of fact, God became so loud during this season in my life. Nothing in our circumstances changed for quite some time (some things actually got worse), but He made His presence known. When I thought God was silent and holding out on me, He was weaving together blessings, relationships and opportunities I would have never even thought to pray for – they were more than I could have asked for or imagined.
But more than that, He did His biggest work in me. I went from just praying for a solution to praying words like, “Lord, I want a solution and reprieve, but if a solution comes and it’s not from You, I don’t want it. I would rather stay here in this yuck with You than have temporary relief without You.” That was a total heart change, a complete 180 degree turn from the woman banging on her steering wheel asking for a bail out now. God’s perceived silence was a transforming agent in my life – may I never recover from it.
In the beginning of our troubles, I thought He was stripping everything from me, but He was laying a banquet table. I don’t wish to go through it again, but looking back, I know God accomplished more in me during that time than all of my previous years combined. Until then, my faith had been merely a theory.
Dear Lord, thank you for replacing my fear and anxiety with peace and joy that only comes from You. I wanted You to change my circumstances, but first You offered something better – Yourself. What is better than You, Lord? There are times You may seem quiet, but You are never disengaged or indifferent. Thank You that I can look back on this difficult time in my life and trace Your hand through every detail. Praise Your holy name. Amen.