There are times in our prayer lives that we feel God is absent, or we struggle to feel or hear God in prayer. Those dry periods of prayer are incredibly challenging, especially when trying to discern. It is not until the dry period of prayer ends that I understand the value of what feels like God’s silence.
In a conversation once with my spiritual director, we celebrated the end of a dry period of prayer. As we unpacked the dryness, I said, “It was quiet nothingness, but it was everything.”
Quiet nothingness was what my prayer felt like. There were many days I was thankful just to be able to get my mind quiet. When the quiet came, I heard nothing from God. Not only did I feel I could not hear God, I could not feel God in prayer. I found myself agitated and angry at God. More than ever, I needed to hear God’s voice. More than ever, I needed to feel the strong pull of the Holy Spirit towards a direction. There was nothing.
But quiet nothingness is everything. Only now, looking back, can I see that my desire for God remained. With the help of an incredible spiritual director, I held steady in my prayer. While I did not feel or hear God in prayer, I could look at my life and readily see God’s active hand working through others and in nature. I knew God was there with me as I ministered to and with others. I was surrounded by fruits of my prayer, signs of God’s living presence.
Quiet nothingness brought me to a place of trust, a place where I experienced God inviting me and trusting me to discern and make choices without the constant gift of consolation. Only now, standing on the other end, do I see that God was not all that quiet; God was inviting me to experience our relationship in a different way. And that understanding means everything to me.