Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I was talking about this amazing subject, When God seems silent. What happens when people cry out to God, expecting an answer and all we hear is nothing. I think I talked about Richard, who was a young theology student. He actually burnt all his Bibles and books one day. He was so disappointed that God had actually not spoken to him.
And then there was Tom Sutherland, who was imprisoned in Beirut, Lebanon from 1985 to 1991. This man abandoned his faith; he said, “I prayed so many times, and so hard, so hard I prayed, and nothing happened.”
We mentioned how deeply affected was Christian author C. S. Lewis when his wife, Joy, died of cancer. He cried out for some reassurance that God was there, but he heard nothing—only silence. Just when Lewis needed God most, he felt like God had abandoned him. After the death of his wife, “it felt like God had slammed the door in his face and he heard the sound of locking on the inside.” These may sound like harsh words, but Lewis was in the deepest despair imaginable.
These are the sort of stories of course that are real, that actually happened. Maybe you’ve gone through a similar experience, where you cry out to God for help and nothing seems to come through. What are we supposed to do when God seems silent?
Well-known and highly respected author Philip Yancey examines the experience in his 1988 book called Disappointment With God. It’s a excellent book—well worth reading. So how do we handle the dark times—the times when God is so silent that we want to force him to speak, when we want to throw our Bibles on the barbecue? Philip Yancey finds the answer in the example of Job.
Believing in God when it doesn’t make sense
“The key is that Job believed God even during the period when it didn’t make sense,” he explains. “I think of Romans 8:28. It says, “We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves Him. They are the ones God has chosen for His purpose”. It doesn’t say that we’ll get only good things. But God can even use hard times to work together for the good of those who love Him.
“To me,” Yancey says, “faith is a projection into the future. I may not be able to figure out what’s going on right now. It may be hard for me to trust God. He may seem far away. But I’m going to go ahead and stake my faith on Him. I’m going to trust Him and believe that one day it will all make sense.” “I once heard someone define the difference between magic and religion,” Yancey concludes. “In magic, we try to get the gods to do our will, as though they were our little pets. In religion, we commit ourselves to doing God’s will.”
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And as we do his will, we let God be God—even when he seems to be silent.
Recovering a sense of God’s presence
What can we do to recover a sense of God’s presence when we feel abandoned and alone? Sometimes it helps just to ‘go through the motions’. Jewish Theologian Abraham Heschel has said, “The way to faith is the way of faith.” Believing in God, even when it seems that God is silent, can be sustaining in and of itself. Our faith can help to carry us through even the darkest of times.
During the 1930s and 40s, more than six million Jews were killed in concentration camps. Those who survived the Holocaust witnessed countless atrocities, and many were tortured and left to starve to death. When the concentration camp in Auschwitz was liberated by allied troops at the end of World War II, the following words were found written on one of the walls inside the compound:
I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I am alone.
I believe in God, even when he is silent.