Yesterday I introduced the idea of coping when it seems that God is silent. In the hard times, where is God? Does He still care about His people in difficult times? I said that God is still there, speaking to us even when it seems impossible to realise.
The writer of Psalm 102 knew this experience when he said,
Lord, hear my prayer!
Listen to my plea!
Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress.
Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.
For my days disappear like smoke,
and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
My heart is sick, withered like grass,
and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning,
I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.
I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
He felt in distress because he felt God was silent. He didn’t know what to do. He was in distress. His life was disappearing before him like a puff of smoke. He was ill, and his heart was breaking. He had lost his appetite, and couldn’t sleep. He was wasting away and felt like a lone bird sitting on a roof-top.
This guy is hurting, and where was his God? He wondered if God was playing hide and seek with him. He has had enough and wanted some answers. It may seem strange, but in the silence, God reminds us of His reality. When He is silent, it’s painful because we need Him. That pain is a reminder of His reality. We tend to think that He is absent, but His Word reminds us that He will be with us always, even to the end of the age. He is never absent from us. He promises us that.
But have you noticed He gets our attention in those dark times? We get caught up with daily living and forget about Him. But then, we need Him, and that need will push us towards doing something about it. It pushes us towards Jesus Christ, God’s Son who also felt the silence of His Father. In one horrible moment, He experienced total silence as He was nailed to a cross and He cried out in anguish, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And what was the answer? More silence.
It was Barbara Taylor Brown who wrote the book, When God is Silent. She says, “God’s silence is as much a sign of God’s presence as of God’s absence. That divine silence is not a vacuum to be filled, but a mystery to be entered into. Unarmed with words and undistracted by noise, we too can sense the power of God.”
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George Matheson was a Christian songwriter born in Scotland in 1842. From a young age he had trouble with failing eyesight, and by the time he was 18, he was blind. In spite of his disability, he was a brilliant student, earning a doctorate at Edinburgh University and becoming a renowned preacher and writer. But when his fiancé learned he would never regain his eyesight, she refused to marry him. He was devastated and alone, but he wrote a beautiful hymn:
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain
and feel the promise is not in vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust, life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
These words have helped many through dark times. He wrote of the joy of God’s sunshine that never failed him. Out of his suffering, he wrote of joy that, like a rainbow in the rain, held a promise for him.
Perhaps you’ve had times when God is silent, times when you’ve felt abandoned and rejected.
It was back in the 1680’s that John Bunyan wrote one of the world’s great classics, Pilgrim’s Progress, while he was in prison. Earlier on, he had passed through a dark period, trying to find faith in God. In fact, as a young man, he had turned his back on God and did some evil things. And he had to live with the consequences. He had what is sometimes described as a “broken world experience”.
Read the life experience of Moses, whose world broke apart when he was 40 years old. He had a privileged upbringing, but killed a man and ran away into the wilderness. For 40 years he lived as a fugitive, thinking his life was over. He disappeared into the desert. Where was God in those years?
The Bible tells us God hadn’t finished with this remarkable man, and he became a hero, one of the greatest leaders of all time. God has His wonderful way of bringing hope and restoration into the darkest hour of our lives.