Seasons of Silent Suffering
Updated: Nov 3
This month’s guest blog is written by Donna Bucher, founder of Serenity in Suffering blog. In this month’s blog, Donna generously shares her story of suffering and finding serenity in its midst.)
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV
Softness, joy, kindness, and just a hint of mischievousness peeks out of the deep blue of his eyes. Sandy hair blithely caresses his forehead, while his casual grin captivates my heart. My hand gently wipes the fallen tear from the glass of the photo frame as I place it back in the box, closing the lid.
Though taken more than thirty years ago, it remains my favorite photo of my son. One of the few portraying his sweet, sensitive, kind nature, I return to it as a means of anchoring my heart when grief overwhelms my days.
Sadly, not long after that picture was taken, he suffered an unspeakable trauma while we served on the foreign mission field of Albania. One that claimed the boy in that photo, but not all at once; a slow fade, it would be another twenty-five years of addiction and self-destructive behavior before the truth forced its way free.
Season of Persistent Prayer Over the years my prayers felt much the same: a slow fade. Zealous at first, full of determination, armed with scripture, I stormed the throne of God. Confidence in God’s soon answer to my prayers for my son, my faithful intercession recruited friends, family and often strangers.
The tremendous support and comfort of notes, phone calls and quick visits assuring me my son’s name bombarded God’s ears regularly, sustained me many months. Until, slowly the notes waned, calls and visits stopped and our family’s situation became “awkward”.
Looking back over twenty-five plus years, I fidget. Hotness rising in my cheeks, my eyes scan the floor, like so many other times over the years as I sat with yet another revelation. Many would say God was actively answering my prayers, but all I saw was the endless unravelling of pain.
A crisis of faith forced a clearer view upon me.
Time reveals all things, indeed it tries motives on the altar of faith.
In Job 2:9-10, after Satan incites God against Job resulting in great personal tragedy, we read:
“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Truly a stellar response. One much like my own, not just in the situation with my son, but on other hard paths too. But then suffering continues unabated, God’s silence is almost deafening and friends offer nothing but empty platitudes or ignore your pain altogether.
Suddenly the faith propelling you forward in hope, trusting God, now barely keeps your head above water.
Second guessing everything: your faith, the value of your prayers, the truth about your situation and if God even hears you, you sink into silence.
Season of Silence Closing my eyes as I sigh deeply, I wonder if maybe I heard wrong. A well-meaning “friend” gifted me a book on prayer. Intended for encouragement, it only mocked my current state of prayerlessness. Was God speaking after all?
The amount of baggage we bring from our earthly parental upbringing to our relationship with our Heavenly Father continually amazes me. In my case, a particular facet of my early interaction with my parents defined to some degree, my prayerlessness.
Repeatedly told by my earthly parents to “only ask once” for anything, and that “no, meant no”, I read God’s silence in my seasons of unanswered prayer as a sign of trespassing those laws. Interpreting his inaction as a “NO”, I ceased seeking his help.
Adopting a “Why ask? God said no,” mentality gave me an excuse for remaining stuck and spirituality stagnant.
Adopting a “Why ask? God said no,” mentality gave me an excuse for remaining stuck and spiritually stagnant.” ~Donna Bucher
Yet, as apathy grew more common, the situation with my son worsened, adding hopelessness to the daily menu of discouragement. Deep down I knew my prayerlessness flowed from a flawed perspective, but I felt powerless to change anything.
Reframing God’s silence opened a window into God’s heart and shifted a myopic perspective focused only on my desired outcomes to God’s sovereign plan of sanctification.
Season of Serenity Without delay every prayer reaches the tender ear of our gracious Heavenly Father and an answer issues forth. Jesus, our tireless, faithful High Priest continually intercedes on or behalf (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV) and the Holy Spirit prays for our need, when in our weakness we cannot pray as we ought. (Romans 8:26 ESV)
Yet, at times the space of silence between the uttered prayer and visible answer spans a cavernous abyss of time and unabated suffering. Viewing God’s silence as disapproval, like Job, our hearts cry out,
"Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?”Job 13:24 ESV
My limited vision only saw heaven’s door closed in my face; suffering obscured the sight of his face and the sound of his voice.
Failure in receiving an immediate answer to prayer tests our faith in, and relationship to God. Stripping away superficial ideals, false perspectives, and earthly comforts all force us into the light. A light which begs answers to the hard questions of why we place belief in God and if God truly is who we believe.
Always at work in and through us for the ultimate good of our sanctification and his glory; God uses the silence as a refining tool. While at first the silence spoke only condemnation, leaning into God’s love transformed silence into serenity.
The work of silence revealed God’s steadfast love for me and my son, moving me to complete trust in the God who hears and indeed answers every prayer from his abundant goodness in his perfect time.
Season of Waiting But trusting in the silence with unwavering faith requires waiting. How do we wait well?
Remember. God is good, he redeems any pain he allows for our good and his glory. He calls us to do hard things, as a means for growing spiritually more like Jesus. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
Pray. Seasons of silence bring defeat and spiritual weakness unless we persevere in prayer with complete faith. Praying not as beggars, but as God’s beloved children possessed of the promised provision of our Heavenly Father. (Mark 11:23 ESV)
Trust. Know God hears and answers every prayer. Know within the silence he is at work preparing the answer to your prayer and preparing you to receive that answer. (1 John 5:14-15 ESV)
Move. Walk in the faith of answered prayer. Let go of your desired outcome, surrendering to God’s chosen outcome. Seek opportunities of serving others in the same situation. Still waters stagnate, actively nurture your own spiritual health.
Embrace. View your situation as an opportunity for growth and knowing God more intimately. Choose a group or individual Bible study related to your current situation, to allow God and others opportunity of speaking into your life.
Sanctification, the work of a lifetime occurs on the hard paths, in the darkest nights, and in the long seasons of waiting.
While we grow weary, longing only for an end to the suffering and silence, God tirelessly purges the dross of our lives away. Viewing the difficult seasons through the lens of sanctification moves us from the inaction of despair and self-focus, to the action of a willing participant in God’s transforming work of love.
Seasons of silent suffering demonstrate God’s love, not his condemnation. For in the silence he invites you into the serenity of knowing him more intimately and trusting him more deeply. His voice more keenly heard in silence, your faith strengthens as you realize his presence is the prize.
We are grateful to you for all seasons of our lives, the seasons of serenity, the seasons of waiting, and the seasons of silence, for in every season you reveal to us your great love for us as your children. Amen.
Beautiful Blessings, Dawn
Donna is a women’s ministry leader, teacher, speaker, retired missionary, CASA volunteer, experienced counselor and hospice and palliative care support personnel. Founder of Serenity in Suffering blog, where she shares articles, resources and counseling designed to help you grow personally and find spiritual intimacy with Christ; ultimately finding purpose in the trials you face. Her writings have appeared in various online sites as well as print devotional journals.