God’s Deafening Silence

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When I was much younger I heard stories about the 30 day nights that parts of Alaska experience each year.  I couldn’t in my wildest dreams fathom how a person could withstand 30 days of cold and darkness, even knowing that the darkness was temporary and that soon the morning sun would be seen again.  Now I know all too well what long periods of still darkness feel like and it is no less easy to cope with. All believers have been there-the periods of your faith journey when God seems to take a hiatus from leading us and leaves us to our own vices.  We may cry out to God in despair-we may dig deeper into The Word-we may fast, light candles, rise boldly with harsh words, fall on our face in submissive humility, and still nothing.  We knock with no answer, we seek but don’t find, we ask but are left with no answers.  The long periods of God’s extended Winter silence is cold and deafening.

When Mother Teresa passed on to her reward she left behind some letters that she had written in her 50 years of service.  Who among us could boast to have the heart of God that she spent her life displaying. One might believe that for someone to accomplish what she did in her life of service to the poor and needy that God must have been an ever present guide and companion. But her letters surprisingly reveal quite the opposite.  Listen to her heartfelt despair in some of her letters; “I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul, . And another, “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation. And again,  “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” And finally, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves but does not speak.” The are the words spoken by one of God’s true saints.  At no time in her journey does she ever confess a true disbelief in God, but in the silence she wrestled with the knowledge of His existence and involvement in her life against the tangible evidence that indicated otherwise.

As I read the Psalms I can hear in David’s voice his own personal agony as he sought God in his most desperate of times only to hear the sound of silence.  Does this sound like you?

“Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever”. “LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?” And even Jesus, as He hung on the cross cried out to His Father, “why have you forsaken me?”

There is no recording in scripture of God answering even His own Son.  Are we to demand more than He gave His own Son? these times in our lives are the most trying, the most painful, the most difficult times of our journey.  And it seems like the times that are the darkest are the times when God seems to be the most distant. So how do we cope.  How do we tone down the deafness of God’s silence when we can’t sense, find or hear Him?  Don’t believe for a second that I have this figured out as I have been seeking God’s voice over a situation for many years with no clear response.  Yet as a long time believer these are the things I try to rely on to get through each dark day.  First, I have to disconnect my heart from my mind.  We all want to “feel” our faith, but most times we have to choose to recall and believe God’s Word and the promises He left for us.  Hebrews says that faith is believing in things not seen-I might add things not felt or heard as well.  We have to go by our knowledge that God can’t go back on His promise to love us, to guide us and to work all things out for our good, even when we can’t see Him doing so.  Second, I have to learn how to navigate the darkness.  Those who are blind and live by themselves learn how to navigate their dwellings by recalling where objects are and assuming they remain unmoved.  I can’t always see god but I know He’s there because He’s always been there before and I must navigate under the belief that I am not alone and that God has not been moved.  Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult, even though I can’t hear His voice, I must continue to communicate with Him in prayer. It may seem like more of a monologue than a dialogue, but through prayer the line of communication remains open and things are brought to mind that compel us to keep moving forward on our journey.  Once we stop communing with God, the darkness will overcome us and leave us vulnerable and defenseless to enemy attacks.

How I wish God taught us things using any method but silence.  To those like me it is the most excruciating experience imaginable.  Earnestly seeking God but not finding Him where we think He should be leaves us feeling much the same as it must have Mother Teresa.  But even when we can’t hear Him, we know He hears us. I exhort you today to keep fighting, keep believing, keep studying and keep praying to a sovereign God Who has already displayed His love for us in ways that requires no further response.

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You, God and a Steel Cage Match

In order to write this I must with some apprehension admit to being a classic wrestling fan.  Ask most fans to name the stars of Wrestling Entertainment and you will hear the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, John Cena, Stone Cold, etc. But I remember the good old days when wrestling wasn’t a major event or pay per view, but the local circuit that performed at State Fairs and small halls.  I grew up watching Dick the Bruiser, Bobo Brazil, Yukon Moose Chollak, The Big Cat Ernie Ladd and others. As a kid I didn’t notice the pulled punches, the next move play calling in the corner or other now obvious giveaways to the “entertainment” value of wrestling.  I saw two giants trying to beat down the other.

steel cage

There was nothing better than the Steel Cage Match, a cage that surrounded the ring with a lock or chain on the door that prevented the wrestlers from running or escaping the beat down they were about to receive. This was not a match for the weak, no sir-this was a blood bath of major proportions that was reserves as the main event of the evening due to the clean up necessary afterwards.  I’d imagine being in the ring against the “bad” guys and laying a few classic moves on them, the old abdominal stretch, a clothesline or two, and before it was outlawed, the pile driver.  I always won!

There was a grappler in the Old Testament named Jacob. We find in Genesis that he was locked in a not-for-entertainment real battle with the Lord.  Jacob didn’t start this fight, but he was certainly eager to participate and he wrestled and clawed and held on for what may have been hours with the Lord or His agent in order to receive a blessing from God.  Jacob was allowed to be engaged in this fight until his will and his energy were spent and he was at the mercy of God, having nothing left with which to resist. Even after the Lord touched Jacob’s hip and put it out of socket Jacob wouldn’t let up. Jacob was eventually rewarded for his fierce tenacity and received his blessing along with a name change. Jacob named the place of the event of that night with a name not indicative of his battle and victory, but of his humility of being allowed to wrestle with God and survive.

Wow, have there been some times in my life that I envied Jacob! How I longed for an opportunity to wrestle with God in a steel cage to show my sincerity and desire to receive God’s blessing and favor in my life or over a certain situation. Foolishly, to have God in a cage where He couldn’t escape my clutches until He gave me what I was asking for. Why, I’m sure God would be impressed with my wrestling knowledge and quiver of moves. He’d really have to be on His game to beat me!

Aren’t we funny. We have God all figured out and applied to man made formulas of interaction, as if certain key words or actions will trigger His response or gain an out-flowing of His favor.  If we say this prayer this many times and quote this verse backwards while performing a step over toe hold, God will cry uncle and give in to our relentlessness.  How I wish it were that easy. The fact is God doesn’t need to be in a cage as He has no desire to escape or hide from us. Jesus said “I am with you always”, even when we (I) can’t see Him or sense Him or hear Him.  Most times we are wrestling against ourselves with what we know to be truth and the enemy who wants to power bomb us with lies. We “wrestle not against flesh and blood” but it sure seems it would be easier at times if we could.  At least the sensation of pain would be a confirmation of divine engagement.  It is believed that Jacob walked with a limp from his encounter with God until the day he died. How cool to carry in your body the evidence of a face to face with the Almighty! Better yet to be in an old fashioned slobber-knocker with God in a steel cage!