When God doesn’t answer, what do we do?

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God’s silence is a choice. His silence in my discernment is not ignorance; it is trust. Sometimes, trusting in God means trusting in ourselves. 

God, give me an answer, I pleaded. Alone in a dimly lit Roman chapel, I frantically flipped through my tattered copy of Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Fr. Jacques Philippe. I was looking for some advice, some divine intervention, in regard to discernment. 

Everyone’s advice is always to pray about it, but what do we do when God doesn’t answer?

As I sat on the edge of my seat in that chapel on a cold, March morning, I faced a great problem (great in both senses of the word): I was given just a few days to decide between my two dream graduate school programs. One was for Catholic youth ministry and the other was for academic theological studies.

Not only was I choosing the next two years of my life, but I was also choosing my future. I wanted to pursue both ministry and academia, yet saying yes to one meant saying no to the other. In the following days, I felt as if my whole life was in turmoil. All I could do was ask God to make the decision for me.

And He was silent.

As I turned each dogeared page, I searched hard for peace in making a decision, which is paradoxically what the book explains not to do. It is all about trusting in God; this is the road to peace. Yet how do we trust in God when He seems absent from the equation?

In the book, I found an answer that was unsatisfactory at the time but has been a guiding force in my life ever since: God’s silence is a choice. If He told us what to do in every situation, that would be demeaning to the agency He gave us to make our own choices. Sometimes, trusting in God means trusting in ourselves. 

While I still look back to my past self in that quaint chapel and wonder where I would be today had I settled on the other school, I trust that I made the right choice. In allowing me to decide for myself, God showed me that I am capable of doing so. While I will still always ask God before making any decision, no matter how big or small, I now know that His silence in my discernment is not ignorance; it is trust. Even when we can’t hear Him, He dwells within us, and that alone should bring us peace.


This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

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