Receiving revelation from God has always been a challenge for me. I’m an over-thinker. I’m the kind of person who will prayerfully agonize over an important decision—I’ll fast, go to the temple, do whatever it takes—but at the end of the day I’ll often feel like I’ve gained very little divine direction.
Sometimes that’s a hard reality to face. Especially when the scriptures are filled with miraculous stories of visions, burning bushes and angelic appearances. I mean, I know the Spirit often speaks in a still small voice, but what gives? Am I doing something wrong? My spiritual antennae must be bent out of shape, because reception is pretty fuzzy.
Why my God is quiet
As I’ve struggled to understand the language of the Spirit, there are a few principles I’ve come to terms with. I’m not too excited about them, but I think God is.
God is quiet to encourage faith, growth, confidence and work
In an increasingly screwed-up world, faith becomes increasingly important. We are not God’s science projects. We are His children. At some point children have to start making their own decisions. That’s not to say we can’t/shouldn’t ask our Father for help (we should), but it means that sometimes the answer will be, “Well, what do you think is best?”
God did this with the brother of Jared when he inquired of the Lord as to how to fix the light problem in his boats:
And he cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.
Surely the Lord had an endless number of possible solutions to the problem, and it probably would have been easier for Him just to have told the brother of Jared what to do—but He doesn’t. He lets the brother of Jared take the reigns.
Sometimes we’re unwilling to do that. It can be frustrating, especially when the decision is of paramount importance. I recently faced one of those crucial life decisions. My months-long conversation with God went something like this:
Me: “God, this is a big decision. Pleeease help me out here. Should I choose path A or path B?”
God: “Well, that’s a tough one, son. What do you think?”
Me: “No no no, God. I don’t think you understand. This is one of those decisions I need you to help me out with. I can’t make a decision until you tell me which path is correct.”
God: “Well I’m not going to tell you which path is correct until you pick one.”
Me: “OK but try to understand, I trust your judgment much more than I trust mine. I can make mistakes, but you can’t. This is me showing my faith in you. A little help would be much appreciated.”
God: “I appreciate your effort, but I have faith in you too. If you trust me, trust that I know what I’m doing. ”
Me: “Uuuugh, fiiiiine. Path A. I choose path A. Was that right?”
God: “No no no, David. I don’t think you understand. You need to show me this is what you choose. If it’s wrong, I’ll let you know in one form or another.”
Me: “OK God, I’ve taken steps 1, 2 and 3 down path A. So far so good. Unless you tell me otherwise, this is what I’m choosing.”
God: “Sounds good to me.”
I’m going to be honest, it’s a frustrating process, but I see why God would work this way. One of the most valuable gifts God has given us is our ability to choose our own path, our agency. What use would that gift be if He were constantly making decisions for us?
Will we sometimes choose the wrong path? Of course, but the lesson we learn from the impending course correction is more valuable to us than a divine cheat-sheet for life. And for some forks in the road there isn’t necessarily a wrong path. All options may be just fine.
God is molding us. He wants us one day to become like Him. He wants us to grow, have faith and learn how to do spiritual work. God needs us to gain confidence in our Spirit-based decision making. He wants us to learn how to use the Holy Ghost as a tool, not a Magic 8 Ball.
What this doesn’t mean
God is relatively quiet in my life, but there’s a world of difference between quiet and silent. God is not silent. The Holy Ghost is always willing to help us along our path (or back onto the right path). God wants us to include him in the decision-making process, but for me, He takes the role of a quiet confirming voice rather than a clear voice of instruction. Elder Richard G. Scott’s definition of inspiration is much more common in my life than his definition of revelation.
Revelation comes in “divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.” God is generally quiet in my life, but He may be very loud in yours. Or maybe you fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The point is that God is our loving Heavenly Father, and that He will speak to you in whichever form will benefit you the most. The hard part is figuring out what that form is.
The language(s) of the Spirit
Foreign languages are difficult to learn. Some pronunciations might employ parts of your mouth you didn’t even know existed. Sentence structure is different, sounds are different, expressions are different. It takes a monumental amount of practice and dedication to become fluent. Now imagine learning a foreign language that is more felt than spoken. That’s the language of the Spirit, and it takes a lifetime (or more) to learn.
To make matters even more complicated, each of us speaks a slightly different dialect. Some may relate to my experience with revelation, some may disagree completely.
But if you feel like God is quiet in your life too, don’t worry too much. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong. In fact, it could mean you’re doing everything right.