When God is Silent

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? . . . Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love. Psalm 44:  23 – 24; 26

Have you ever felt as if God has totally rejected and forgotten you? I think we all have at some point in our lives. We understand all too well how it feels when God doesn’t come through for us as we had hoped – or even expected.

With His promises to us, we may have felt that if we prayed faithfully, were obedient, and trusted and believed in His grace, that He would answer our prayers and make His presence known – especially when we have cried out to Him in pain, sorrow, or despair. But when we received no sign of His presence, comfort, or assurance – only silence, we may have felt abandoned and hopeless. We may have become desperate to know He was there and that He cared, but with still no sign of His presence, we became disappointed, angry, and even disillusioned with this God we believed we could trust.

We may never understand His silence, but we can rest assured that God has a reason for it. He has something to teach us or show us. But what difficult lessons they are, and sometimes we lose patience and even question our faith.

Phillip Yancey, in his book, Disappointment With God, gives much insight into these difficult and painful times. Yancey is a Christian author who has written numerous books and has sold over 14 million copies worldwide. Many of his books examine questions about God and his own personal struggle with faith and his desire to find answers.

In this book, he has written about the many letters he has received and the many people he has talked to who have experienced this disappointment in God which led them to question their faith, this “hoped-for relationship that somehow hasn’t worked out”.  He especially focused on the story of a young theology student named Richard, who became so disillusioned with God that he reached out to Yancey with these questions: “Is God unfair? Is He silent? Is God Hidden? Does He care?” Are these not questions we all have asked?

Yancey understood the struggle this young man was experiencing, and he longed to answer these questions for him. He searched the Old Testament to find out more about the character of God, and he did an intense study of the book and life of Job. He studied closely the New Testament to see what difference Jesus Christ has made in our relationship with God, and he examined his own faith, as well as that of others.

He wrote how this deep and earnest study into the Scriptures put the questions about disappointment with God in a totally new light. He concluded that they are not puzzles to be solved, but rather, they are problems of relationship between human beings and a God who wants desperately to love and be loved by us. A God who wants our trust in Him. These words about who our God is were especially meaningful and comforting to me:

“I encountered not a misty vapor but an actual person. A person as unique and distinctive and colorful as any person I know. God has deep emotions; he feels delight and frustration and anger. In the Prophets, he weeps and mourns with pain.  . .  Again and again he is shocked by the behavior of human beings. . . .  As I read through the Bible, I marveled at how much God lets human beings affect him. I was unprepared for the joy and anguish – in short, the passion – of the God of the Universe. By studying “about” God, by taming him and reducing him to words and concepts that could be filed away in alphabetical order, I had lost the force of the passionate relationship God seeks above all else. The people who related to God best – Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah – treated him with startling familiarity. They talked to God as if He were sitting in a chair beside them, as one might talk to a counselor, a boss, a parent, or a lover. They treated Him like a person.”

God wants this same relationship with us. He longs for us to come to Him. Our loving Father is always with us, even when we can’t feel His presence in the silence. He understands our pain and anguish.

Yancey concedes that even if we believe that our God is with us and that He cares deeply about us, it still doesn’t answer all our questions, but it can give us hope. There were so many powerful statements he made throughout the book, but I thought these words especially spoke of the eternal hope we can have in Him: “In any discussion of disappointment with God, heaven is the last word, the most important word of all. Only heaven will finally solve the problem of God’s hiddenness. For the first time ever, human beings will be able to look upon God face to face. . .  The Bible never belittles human disappointment, but it does add one key word: temporary. What we feel now, we will not always feel. Our disappointment is in itself a sign, an aching, a hunger for something better. And faith is, in the end, a kind of homesickness – for a home we have never visited but have never once stopped longing for. . .”     

What a comforting thought to know that these feelings are temporary and our eternal home is on the horizon. Yancey ends Disappointment in God with these heartfelt words which describe how he felt when he finally put his doubts to rest about God’s presence in his life: “Someone is there, I realized. Someone is watching life as it unfolds on this planet. There is more. Someone is there who loves me. It was a startling feeling of wild hope, a feeling so new and overwhelming that it seemed fully worth risking my life on.”   

May we, too, be willing to take the risk and believe in this amazing God.

 Prayer

Dear God, we so long to know that you are always with us and that you care. We want to believe and trust in you even when we experience times of silence and disappointment. Help us to be strong in faith and realize that we may never truly understand the mysteries of your divine sovereignty, but we can always have the assurance of your love and saving grace. Amen

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