Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When God is Silent in The Quiet Place

The Silence of God has always been perplexing, and very difficult for any of us to understand. We long for a whisper of God's wisdom, to gain some insight into His purpose in allowing pain and suffering to cast a gray shadow upon our daily lives. There is no sound that burdens the sufferer more than the Silence of God.

The psalmist found himself near complete collapse as he faced a series of setbacks, enemies that sought to harm him and the cruel ridicule of others. Nothing seemed to help and God seemed to be absent and silent. Feel the painful desperation in his voice as he writes...

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold; I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched…My eyes fail, looking for my God.” Psalm 69:1-3

The Silence of God Tests our Faith

There is a time in the midst of severe testing, when human endurance, one's ability to cope, unending physical pain, the weariness of depression, and the overwhelming fatigue that goes along with suffering, take a dreadful toll upon one's life.

While suffering is an inevitable dimension of life, it seems foreign and unnatural....out of place when linked to a loving God, full of mercy and compassion. In reality, it is not possible to develop Christ like character and spiritual depth apart from experiencing seasons of personal suffering.

God Works throughout our Lives Silently

Each stage of our lives is woven as an intricate  personal tapestry, interlaced with a myriad of threads reflecting our own individual pilgrimage upon the pathways that we have taken. One cannot truly see or understand the true story behind the tapestry until it is turned over, and then the kaleidoscope of threads reveals a progressive work of infinite beauty.

Over our lifetime, God's skilled hands weave the tapestry, knowing what it will one day become. Others, even ourselves, cannot  make any real sense of the myriad of threads, especially when suffering and heartache, edge the rough borders of the pattern.

Only God is able to select each thread that is needed at a specific time in our pilgrimage here, and weave it into our lives, be it the first experience of feeling loved, difficult challenges in high school, depression, sorrow, the birth of a child, loss, success, failure, anxiety, illness and ultimately death.

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” C.S.Lewis 

God's Silence does not mean He is not Present

All along the pathway, an infinite, all knowing, all powerful and ever present God, has been at work in our circumstances with the primary purpose to lead us to His heart. He purpose is to radiate His Spirit through our lives, so that we can become a display of His Glory and Majesty to a fallen world. 

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power  may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair." II Corinthians 4:6-8

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10a

When God is Silent in The Quiet Place

There are numerous examples in Scripture where God made His will specifically known during difficult times of testing. His purpose was often made known whereby He could reveal His will to each servant individually. We are eager for quick answers, while He is desirous that we trust His Word, and learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Some of God's answers can only be heard in our own personal Gethsemane.

On some of those occasions, the individual being tested, expected God to disclose His purpose to them in a different way than He did. Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and many other Bible characters, struggled with this very issue. There is a principle that is universal to life: 

The natural man must see in order to believe, but the spiritual man must believe in order to see. 

During a time of great struggle, the psalmist was able to reach through his anguish, cling to God in faith, and eventually trust in the reliability of God's faithfulness, and the complete reliability of His Word.

“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:10-11

God Speaks to us in the Midst of Suffering

God may seem to be silent, but He is speaking through His Word. The experience of suffering does not produce spiritual depth in our lives in and of itself. It is how we react to suffering that determines one’s spiritual growth through sorrow and pain. 

The discipline of suffering has a primary purpose to accomplish within each of us: God wants above all else for us to be His.

We discover that when we are thrust into trials that are filled with sorrow and laced with hopelessness, that it is He alone that understands. He draws near to nurture and comfort us, and He is desirous to heal our broken heart more than our physical pain.

“This is the purpose of pain for the redeemed: it is one of your Father's ways of speaking to you; it is the evidence of His limitless love, by which He would draw you farther from evil and closer to Him, the divine remedy which can cure you of pride and help you lean more trustingly on the Lord.”  Walter A. Maier

When God is Silent - Listen with your Heart 

In the midst of suffering, we discover a rare and blessed intimacy with God that is comforting, as slowly the emotional or physical pain gives way to a sweet song of worship and praise. God’s grace is most present in the lives of the weak, the humble, the downtrodden, the weary and the those who are broken. God may seem to be silent, but He speaks through His promises that are scattered like diamonds throughout the Scriptures.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you…” James 4:8

When we reflect upon the past, we remember the many times where God provided grace and strength, and we are reminded that He has always been faithful. He is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in the midst of sorrow with a nurturance and care that only He can provide (See II Cor. 1:2-4).

We remember that He came near to hear our cry, and He reached forth and healed our wounds, but He did not remove the scars. Our scars have the capacity to remind us that the past was real, and rather than represent mere reminders of our suffering, they become memorials to the grace and glory of God.

Ideally, when a child is hurting and afraid, he runs to his father, and the immediate response of the father is to open his arms and embrace him. So it is with our Heavenly Father. His desire is to bring comfort to us and sooth our tears with His love. In His arms, the silence gives way to the sound of His heart beating against ours, and we become one with Him in the fellowship of His sufferings (See Phil. 3:10).

“The suffering of sickness and the suffering of persecution have this in common: they are both intended by Satan for the destruction of our faith, and governed by God for the purifying of our faith... Christ sovereignly accomplishes His loving, purifying purpose, by overruling Satan's destructive attempts. Satan is always aiming to destroy our faith; but Christ magnifies His power in weakness.” John Piper

God Allows Suffering to call us to Stillness

The Quiet Place is often bathed in the tears of God's people, for it is the very dew that covers the pathway to the heart of God, and it is precious to Him. God sometimes silently and purposefully shuts the door to a relief from our sorrow and suffering. We hear the click of the door to our freedom from pain, as he closes us in where only He is present. He may seem far away, but He is always there beside you, just as He has promised in His Word that He would be.

(See Deuteronomy 4:31; 31:6, 8; Psalm 27:10; 37:28; 94:14; John 14:18; Matthew 28:20)

He does this so that He may speak in the midst of our grief and pain, and softly whisper precious promises to us of His abiding presence.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

That is His most cherished gift to us in the midst of the storm. He commands the storm to be still not to prevent our boat from sinking, but to enlighten us who need to see in order to believe, that He has been there with us in the midst of the storm as we huddled fearfully in the bottom of the boat.

God's Silence and Unanswered Prayer

One of the realities of unanswered prayer, in the midst of difficult trials and suffering, is to learn to be obedient, regardless of any change in our circumstances. The book of Hebrews reveals to us that Christ Himself learned obedience to His Father as He passed through the crucible of suffering.

“During the days of Jesus' life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”  Hebrews 5:7-9

God is not Silent - He is Speaking in the Quiet Place

It is very tempting for a Christian to become bitter in the midst of suffering by hardening his heart toward God for allowing the suffering, and for not delivering him from it. Disappointment with God can create a seed of resentment toward Him, and unless it is laid before the Throne of Grace, it turns into a root of bitterness. We are urged to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7), and to kneel before the Throne of Grace in the hour of our greatest need. 

God is not Silent - He is Listening to your Heart

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16

When Christ Himself suffered the indignities and shame of the cross, while enduring unimaginable torture and pain, He remained obedient to the will and purpose of His Father. He knows what it is like to experience physical, emotional and mental pain and sorrow. Drawing near to Him in the midst of suffering helps us to bear up during our hardship and remain free from bitterness.

God is not Silent - He Understands what it is like to be Tested

“Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”  Hebrews 2:18 

What are we most tempted to do when we are experiencing insufferable pain and unrelenting disappointment? Our greatest temptation is to blame God, and become bitter toward Him as we wonder, “Where is God when it hurts?” We can struggle with His seeming absence, and conclude that He just doesn’t really care.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.” John Henry Newman

God is not Silent - He is wants us to give Him the Unbearable Burden 

The only shoulders strong enough to carry our burdensome suffering, once carried an old rugged cross to become our substitute for sin...He suffered and died for every one of us. He alone can bear the Unbearable Burden for He already has.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”  I Peter 1:18-20

God is never Silent… He speaks through the darkness of your lonely night. God is never Silent...He speaks to you though His Word. God is never Silent… He whispers your name to call you to Himself. God is never Silent...He is there beside you as you read these words…ready to comfort you. God is never Silent…He is waiting for each of us in The Quiet Place where comfort and trust in Him, will become more meaningful than understanding the reason why.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him…” Lamentations 3:22-23

Take a moment to listen to this song by Andrew Peterson entitled The Silence of God


Monday, January 21, 2013

Time: God's Gift to You

What an incredible experience it would be to travel back and forth through time. 
Albert Einstein theorized,  "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." What a chaotic kaleidoscopic imagery that conjures up in the mind. 

The truth is that God created time for man in order for him to be able to exist upon this planet. Day and night happens because the earth turns on its axis once every 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1005 seconds, and it orbits the Sun once every 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, and 9.7676 seconds. 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Genesis 1:1-5

We have made our clocks to indicate the same time of day after a period of 24 hours. Where we live upon the earth affects the amount of time that we are actually living in daylight. There are 4 minutes a day affected by this complex mathematical anomaly of physics, or discrepancy, and that adds up to an hour every 15 days, or 2 hours every month, or 24 hours in a year. 

The Reality is that Time is Precious

Time...measurable precious time. We can get stressed out and feel driven and rushed because we don't have enough of it. We can be depressed because time moves too slowly, and for many, sleep is a way to not have to be awake to face the pain of another long day. 

We sometimes feel bored and irritated because we have time and cannot find anything fun or meaningful to do with it. Too much time, not enough time, time passing to fast, time passing too slow, borrowed time, stealing time....
If we could Travel through Time

There is something very intriguing about the idea of navigating through time at will that tugs at our curiosity. To have a chance to go back and fix a tragic mistake made in the past that has dogged our conscience, or to make right a wrong that has hurt someone deeply is very appealing.

Time Travel to the Past

Many of us have read the HG Wells classic, The Time Machine, and most of us have seen Michael J Fox trilogy, Back to the Future. What if right now, this very moment, you could go back in time to a quiet place.  Where would you choose to go and why? Does an image dance across the mirror of your memory? Is it a certain place? Do you see the face of a particular person? 

Maybe you are at bat in a baseball game and it is the top of the 9th with bases loaded. The count is 3 balls and 2 strikes…the next pitch decides the game and it is your moment...... 

Whatever place you might have gone to in your memory just now had some significant meaning to you, and like a laser beam, it drew you back to reflect. Would you change anything, or bask in the tender moment of a cherished memory one more time?

Time Travel to the Future

It is just as intriguing to contemplate the fascinating wonder of time travel into the future. It would seem incredible and highly tempting to have the option to prepare with utmost care today, for what we are certain is coming our way tomorrow. 

Consider the possibilities of great power and success to put the plan together and with certainly, know that you would pull it off. You would always have the edge. You could fix things so that you would always be assured of that promotion because you would have prepared for every problem with a contingency strategy should one not work out as planned. 

However, the lie of Satan that knowledge and autonomy would give us godlike powers is still the same old lie. Our Sovereign creator has chosen for we who are finite, to have no complete control over anything but our free will. That alone is under our control. Satan's target is our mind, his weapon is to cause us to doubt God, his purpose is to cause us to be out of God's will, and our weapon is Truth...the inspired Word of God. If God thought it best for us to know everything about tomorrow He would have created us to be able to know it. Instead, His Word says,

"So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble" Matthew 6:34 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Time is in God's Hands Alone

We may not do as well as we think, if we had such a powerful edge on life. Only God is Omniscient and knows all things. It is important to remember that some events have moved through time on a specific schedule to meet us at a certain time and a certain place…..a Quiet Place, where time catches its breath and we are suspended in a moment of decision. Destiny waits in the wings of our choice, as angels gather near in silent anticipation. A crossroads moment in time, and we do not have any way of guaranteeing the outcome…only God knows. 
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens ." Ecclesiastes 3:1  

Learning to Live in the Present

Think of it…God has an infinite plan for our lives. A plan that each day leads us down a pathway that will not only impact our own  life, but create the opportunity to meet specific people and thus literally influence the rest of their lives and perhaps their eternal destiny. What an adventure and privilege we have to play such a vital part in unfolding time with the Eternal Sovereign God of the Universe. 

Letting Time Drift By

There is another kind of time travel that is far less dramatic; a kind of time travel that robs us of the wonder and mystery of living life in the present each day. It happens in a micro-second and is brought on by a myriad of internal and external influences. We might be engaged in a spirited conversation with someone, or reading our favorite author, or about to turn into our driveway to be home with our cherished family at the end of a long and tiring day, and it happens….  

The Subtle Drift to the Past

There are times when our focus dims, we are distracted, and we can find ourselves traveling back through time to relive a painful experience in our past. Often when we have gone there, we remember some bad decision, mistake, a sinful act, a broken relationship or a cherished dream that was shattered. Some of the emotions that can tumble forth with an intense kaleidoscope of feelings are guilt, anger, fear and sometimes profound grief. Once back there, life may only  be filled with, “If only I would have….” or  “Why didn’t they just,… or “I wish I could have..."

Reliving the Past

To live in the past drains our concentration so that we cease to have the precious resources that we need to live life in the present. To our partner we can seem far away, to our friends and family we may seem distant and bored, and at work we stray off task and come across with an attitude that says “I just don’t care about my job anymore.” These sentiments may not be true, but as a time traveler we may unintentionally come across that way.

Anxiety about the Future

In the blink of an eye, we can bounce right over the present and into the future and we are suddenly flooded with feelings of stress and anxiety. We try to figure out how we will find the resources to handle the responsibilities of the future. The unknown can feel as if it is sucking the very oxygen from our lungs, which can lead us to have unsubstantiated panic filled thoughts, that can cause us to be tempted to create scenarios in our minds that may never even happen.

Trying to Fix the Future before it Happens 

We can suddenly be plagued with anxious dread filled thoughts that cry out to be answered, “Why don’t they….” or “He just can’t do that….” or “If that happens, we are literally in big trouble, we will lose everything…” It isn’t easy to live with the regrets of yesterday, or the fears we may  have about tomorrow.

Creating Fantasies about the Future
We can also find ourselves time traveling to the future by daydreaming a kind of ideal life that would seemingly solve our problems and make us happy. “If only we had more money…” or “If only I would get that promotion….” or “If only I could meet that special person to love me and take care of me…” Getting stuck in such thinking is understandable, but it is a set-up for disappointment, for reality never quite measures up to any fantasy.

Time... a gift to us from God

The reality is that life is now...today...and whatever regrets we may have that have happened in the past can shackle us, or motivate us to do things differntly today. 

God Regulates and Controls Time
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19

Let's Give back to God a Gift that keeps on Giving


"So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12