It’s an age-old question that’s echoed in the hearts of many Catholic singles: why does God seem to hide from me especially when I need Him? Why is He silent in the prayers of those who love Him? Where is He when vocational discernment lacks any sense of clarity? Why does the Lord choose to speak in a still, small whisper instead of an audible voice from the clouds?
During my season of singleness, I would often wish that God would write out His message to me in the clouds. But instead, I often sat in what seemed like fruitless silent prayer.
The Lord’s silence is even more frustrating when it feels like we’re doing all we can. When we do good things here in this life on earth, we don’t get a “job well done” from the Lord, though. We don’t get gold stars from above while we’re striving towards holiness as Catholic singles. But the same is true for when we stumble. When we make a mistake, we don’t hear a voice rebuking us.
The longer the season of singleness is, the more frustrating God’s silence becomes. When we question if we’ll ever be able to reach peace in our vocational discernment, we can feel completely abandoned by our Heavenly Father.
Father John Portavella knows exactly what it feels like when God seems to be hiding. In his book, Why God Hides, Father Portal shares his personal experience of decades of listening to God, only to hear radio silence. This Catholic priest has spent years reading, listening, praying and thinking on the silence of God.
What Father Portavella discovered is that God is not silent. God isn’t hiding, either. Instead, we can find Him if we only know how to listen and where to look.
Here are five things to remember when it seems like God is hiding from you as a Catholic single:
1. God gives us the gift of freedom
God’s silence in a season of singleness can often leave you feeling abandoned. “One instance wherein humans deeply experience the absence of a manifested Master is when we face important decisions, such as discerning our vocation in life,” writes Father Portavella. “We tend to ask for signs, but even in these circumstances, God remains concealed. He will not cease to be an unseen God, for He wants us to discover His will in the advice of reliable persons, in prayer, in self-knowledge, and in the events of daily life.”
But this silence from the Lord isn’t an abandonment. Instead, He’s offering us a choice. Father Portavella goes on to explain that God withdraws Himself from our senses. He does this so that “man can exercise freedom in search for the truth.”
2. God asks us to follow Him (especially when it’s a challenge)
If you’re a single Catholic, you probably can relate to being in the boat during a storm with the apostles. Your interior life can seem to be caught up in a storm. You’re not the first to be confused by this season – it’s easy to wonder if maybe Jesus is asleep!
“When we face such situations, it is possible to think that God has abandoned us,” Father Portavella writes. “But nothing could be further from reality. It is just that our faith is being tested. Such occasions prompted Saint Paul to tell the first Christians in Rome: ‘How unsearchable are his judgements and inscrutable are his ways!'”
3. If God is silent, that doesn’t mean He isn’t present
It can seem that God’s silence means that He isn’t near. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. “The God of our faith is not a distant being who contemplates indifferently the fate of men: their desires, their struggles, and their sufferings,” writes Saint Josemaria Escriva. “He is a Father who loves His children so much that He sends the Word, the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity, so that by taking on the nature of man He may die to redeem us. He is the loving Father who now leads us gently to Himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts.”
“God must be invisible to us,” Cardinal Christopher Schonborn confirms, “so that we do not mistake Him for a bit of the world. The less He manifests Himself in a material way, the more we recognize that He stands opposite the world as its Creator.”
4. Often, God works behind the scenes
Saint Pope John Paul II realized that God works ‘behind the scenes’ in our spiritual lives. “He works in human history although He does not operate on the first plane,” the saint explained. “He respects the freedom of His creature, but holds in His hands all the world’s happenings. The certitude of the providential action of the Maker is a source of hope for believers who know that he can count on the constant presence of the One Who ‘formed the earth, made it, and established it.'”
Father Benedict’s writings reaffirmed what Saint Pope John Paul II wrote. “God gives Himself to us. He does not give us something, He gives Himself. And this is not something that happens only at the moment of our conversion. God continues being always the one who gives. He offers us His gifts continuously. He precedes us always.”
5. We can see God even in a season of singleness
After a tsunami hit the coasts of Asia and Africa, a Filipino bishop responded to an American writer who asked “Where was God?” In a newspaper column, the bishop wrote about how God could be seen even in the worst circumstances.
“We can see and not only hear this word of God: in the unprecedented generosity with which the world raised more than $5,000,000,000 for the victims of the tsunami, in response to the appeal of the Pope and bishops for prayers and help. . .God speaks His word of love in the erasure of the boundaries and distinctions among people. . . This terrible tragedy brought about a new sense of a great, single, human family.”
Even in a season of your life that can feel like a hopeless situation, it’s comforting to realize that God doesn’t hide from you in these moments of desolation. He abides with you in this stage of life and desires your good.