Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Trusting God when He is Silent

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 immense personal tapestry, with a myriads 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 through 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, and so that we can become a display of His Glory and Majesty to a fallen world. 

“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 known during difficult times of testing. His purpose was often made known in where He could reveal His will to each servant individually. We are eager for quick answers and 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, was expecting God to disclose His purposes differently. 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 could reach through the agony of his torment, 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 hopelessness, that He alone 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, and 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 back in the past, upon the many times where God provided grace and strength to us, 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 did not remove the scars. Our scars have the capacity to remind us that the past was real, and rather than 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, and he closes us in where only He is present. He may seem far away, but He is always there beside you, 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 again; the promise 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 all the time that we huddled 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 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 his 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 pain, 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

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