Why is God silent?

Have you ever felt like God is silent - or absent?

I have - many times. It’s disorienting - a pain that I feel in my bones.

Does this mean that God does not exist? How do we understand these experiences?

One story that has helped me through such seasons is the experience of Mother Teresa. Known globally for her work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity. She became a global symbol of compassion and selfless service.

But despite her public persona of perpetual cheer, her private letters reveal a profound spiritual struggle. For instance, in a letter to Rev. Michael Van Der Peet in September 1979, she wrote:

Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me–The silence and the emptiness is so great–that I look and do not see,–Listen and do not hear.

As reported by TIME:

Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.”

Another reporter illuminates her struggle, quoting from these sections of her letters:

Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself – for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead," she wrote in 1953. “It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’”

Then in 1956: “Such deep longing for God – and … repulsed – empty – no faith – no love – no zeal. (Saving) souls holds no attraction – Heaven means nothing – pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

At first, I was surprised by what her letters revealed.

But then I felt gratitude: it means that I am not alone in these experiences.

After I resigned from RZIM in January 2021, something snapped inside me. As I processed how the board and senior leaders had manipulated my faith to hold onto power, misuse donor funds, and cover up abuse, I felt disoriented. I’ve spoken about that experience here. It’s an intense story.

But as I looked in the Scriptures, I found comfort in the Psalms.

Psalm 22 starts off on a bleak note:

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far from my deliverance
and from my words of groaning?
My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
by night, yet I have no rest.

As I read through it, I feel that it sounds like what Mother Teresa experienced - and is familiar to what I endured.

But then verse 21 takes a startling, shocking turn. At the start of verse 21, we read of the Psalmists’ many troubles.

Save me from the lion’s mouth,

from the horns of wild oxen.

And then, out of nowhere:

You answered me!

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters;

I will praise you in the assembly.

Somehow, in some way, amidst his deepest, most painful abandonment by God, the Psalmist testifies that God answered his prayers, and he is energized to praise God again.

So, how long did the Psalmist wait for God to answer him? We don’t know.

Even deeper, this is the prayer that Jesus quotes on the cross.

This connection is particularly meaningful because it shows us that Jesus, in his humanity, also experienced a profound sense of abandonment. The more I meditate on God as the glorious Creator of all things, the more shocking it is that God would voluntarily identify with us in our most helpless and despairing moments.

(What does it mean that Jesus was abandoned by God? That’s a complicated question we’ve discussed).

So, does this answer the question of why God is silent at times, to me or to you?

No, I don’t know that it does.

I think there’s a mystery here, and I don’t have an answer to explain it.

What I do know is that sitting in silence, with other Christians who have felt God’s absence, and meditating on Psalms like Psalm 22, over time, somehow, in a way beyond my ability to put into a formula, restored my relationship with God to a place of deeper connection.

I’m curious to hear how others have experienced this and what, if anything, has helped them in these painful seasons.


Ah it’s an experience that I’ve had several times in my life. I can’t really say how these seasons seemed to end. I have had times where suddenly I felt like I was hearing from God again and I couldn’t explain why. Other times, I have recognised that I hadn’t had a heart of worship for a while. When I entered into worship (however false it felt at the start), my worship would deepen my faith and I’d experience a connection with God again.

I’ve noticed that sometimes I will get the lyrics of a worship song in my head from seemingly nowhere. I am learning to find the song online and sing along, and often recognise that its content expressed something that I also needed to express. Usually it’s about how worthy God is of our praise and worship.

The example of Mother Teresa is interesting. I cannot speak for her at all, but I do see that there is a temptation for Christians who set out to serve God as part of their worship of him, but end up being drained by this act of service because along the way they lost sight of the fact that God called them into it by his Grace in the first place. I believe many of us experience church burn-out when we get too busy with ‘chores’. I think in these moments of God’s silence, it’s important to take time to pause the routine, remind ourselves of who God is using scripture, songs, and testimonies, and reorient our sense of place in the world so that God becomes centre again instead of ourselves.


Is God silent or do I have too much noise in my head to hear Him?


I have also struggled with God’s silence. I was driven to surrender my life to Jesus out of desperation but hadn’t much knowledge of being a Christian.
At first He spoke to me but He became more and more distant and I blamed myself, thinking I had done something wrong. I worried about my salvation and was angry hurt and confused. Sometimes I’d lash out and demand He speak to me. I even worried Satan had tricked me somehow.
I’ve always considered belief is a choice we make as a reflection of who we are and who we want to become. I knew I want to spend eternity with Jesus, no matter what. That’s what helped me get through.
I can’t say God is speaking to me with the freedom He once showed, but He assures me He loves me.
God loves me and I know He loves you too.


Diane, your heart to wait for God reminds us of James 5:7-8,

Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.

The commentator Peter Davids explains,

For the Palestinian farmer, the crops were literally his life and were therefore valuable. His energy had gone into plowing, weeding, and chasing birds away. He had sowed seed his family might otherwise have eaten. He had waited patiently for the autumn, or early, rains (October-November) before sowing. After the sowing he waited for the spring, or later, rains (March-April) to ripen the crop. All this time his food supplies were getting lower; it was not uncommon for food to be rationed and the children to be crying from hunger during the month or two before harvest. The later the rains, the worse it was. But with his life in his hands he had to wait for conditions outside his control (UTB Commentary).

It’s uncomfortable for a farmer to wait for the rains to come that will ripen his crop. Yet this is the exact scenario that James gives us for enduring the discomfort of waiting for Jesus.

So, though it does not alleviate the difficulty, it does take away the surprise. It is normal, even expected, that our waiting for Jesus will not be easy.