Last summer I watched a four part documentary detailing the training program for the Navy Seals. I was struck by the intensity of the training and the trainer’s apparent lack of regard for the health and safety of the Seal candidates. The candidates suffered from lack of sleep and proper nutrition while being required to do incredible feats of strength and stamina. In one instance the candidates had not slept for 4 days and, after laying in the cold ocean surf all night, were required to run up and down the beach with a 150 pound beam above their heads. One candidate was doing all of this with a broken leg so that he would not get dropped from the program. At one point the Navy Seal trainers were interviewed and explained that the training may appear harsh and unrelenting, but it is necessary to ensure that they find the elite Navy Seals. Each year a 1,000 men will attempt to become Navy Seals, but the average number who successfully complete the training is only 200.
After I watched the film, I reflected on the tactics used to identify the elite soldiers. These tried and true measures appeared to be abuse, but they actually created one of the most feared fighting forces on the planet. Then I had a thought; How does God train his elite soldiers? I reflected on the lives of Joseph and David and began to see similarities to the Navy Seal training program. They were each recruited (Joseph’s dream/David anointed king) and then subjected to some intense suffering and apparent silence from God. Read some of David’s laments from the book of Psalms. He could not figure out why God was torturing him and refusing to answer him. Then imagine how Joseph felt after having a dream of greatness only to spend years rotting in an Egyptian prison.
I have also read the writings of some of God’s more modern (last 300 years) Christian elite soldiers. People like Francois Fenelon, Jeanne Guyon, George Muller, A.W. Tozer and Oswald Chambers. I identify them as elite because we still read, and draw encouragement from them today. They all identify a training period that involves suffering and silence from God. They even caution their readers to be prepared for this (count the cost) before asking God to reveal more of his power in their lives.
It appears that God has not changed. The elite training tactics that he used on Joseph, David and so many other Biblical characters is still being employed in more modern times. I have witnessed scholarly Christians reach the bottom of available knowledge of God and, wanting more, ask for God to more clearly reveal himself to them. Then they become frustrated by his apparent silence and give up completely. I believe this is due to being unaware of God’s training tactics and, as a result, failing to fully count the costs. If we closely examine the historic examples of God’s elite soldiers we will see his pattern of training. I do not purpose that this knowledge will make the training easier to endure, but it will at least allow you to go in with eyes wide open and not give up when things get tough and he appears silent (Matthew 8:23-27). Each of the people I have identified as God’s elite were faithful to seek God, despite his silence, and did eventually enjoy a communion with him that exceeds that of the common Christian. That is why their writings live hundreds of years after they are dead.
I want to encourage all of you that have desired more of God in your life and experienced difficulty and an apparent silence from God. He has not abandoned you, he is in the process of making you an elite soldier that he can trust with the power to influence beyond your short lifetime. Hang in there and lean into what God is doing.