..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Monday, March 12, 2007

When God is Silent: Silence & Jabberwocky- Part 1

The silence of God. In the next few posts I want
to talk about when God appears to be silent and
what we might learn from it. First, I hope that
I will not make your pain worse if you are
really trying to hear from God and you seem to
be hearing nothing.

On one end of the continuum there are
mysteries too great for us and these I am not
capable of addressing. For who has known the
mind of the Lord, who has been His counselor?
Romans 11: 33-35).
If this be the case
I do not want to give you the kind of advice
that Job's friend's gave him.

On the other end of the continuum of why
God is silent could be the cold hard fact that
you or I do not want to hear what He has to
say. I trust that is not the case, but if it
is, you and I must work that out with God.
Somewhere in the middle I am offering some
hard won insights.

Jesus promised us that His sheep would hear
His Voice (John 10:27). We can expect to hear
from God. But there seems to be times when
God is silent in general or silent in
answering a specific question we might have.

Sometimes it is so easy to hear God, He seems
to be constantly present, speaking clearly, and
life is a joy. Yet, we can become so accustomed
to hearing God that we forget that scripture
tells us that we see through a glass darkly
(or in this case, hear through the roar of
many voices, faintly.) We mistakenly think
that God sees and hears and thinks as we do.

We assume that the way that we see things is
the way that God sees things. So sometimes
when we ask God for an answer, even though
our petition seems to us to be perfectly
reasonable, God is silent.

We do not hear an answer. There are
seasons when I can ask God many
things and most of those things get
immediate answers that I know come
from God. Yet sandwiched in between the
clear answers are some things I would
really like God to answer, things I
beg Him to answer, and ...nothing.

When this happened to the apostle
Paul, specifically about his thorn
in the flesh, all God would tell Him
was that His grace was sufficient
(2 Cor 12:9). So biblically, we have
a precedent for a kind of prayer
that is not so much unanswered,
but simply given grace for. God will
always provide us with grace for
all that concerns us and on that we
can and should rely.

But what does it mean when God
does not seem to answer? What sense
can we make of it? We can
suppose ourselves to be "deafer
than doornails," and there may be
an element of truth to that, but
in the Scripture, spiritual deafness
seems to come more from disobedience.

What if there is no real disobedience
that I know of? Here is one
possibility: my inability to hear
is more ignorance and lack of fine
tuning to the ways of the Spirit.
It is not knowing what to listen

I used to go out with some expert
birdwatchers and they would hear
a bird song, or see a little flicker
of movement and know just what
bird was there. They could see a
bird a mile high in the sky and
know what kind of bird it was.
They knew what to listen and look for.

We need to be so taught.

As children grow and learn they go
through a stage when they like to
ask questions, and the questioning
comes from a variety of reasons:
they are learning to think, learning
to see cause and effect, learning to
wonder about the world. They also
may be asking questions just to
get your attention and be with you,
or just to hear themselves talk!

Questions that come forth in this
stage of growth often have a non-
sensical tone to them. They are
often non-sequiturs, meaning that
the child's ability to reason in a
straight line is way off.

I love Lewis Carroll's Alice
in Wonderland
because he
explores some of these hilarities. Alice
finds herself at a tea party given by
a Mad-Hatter and a lot of questions are
asked that either have no answers or whose
answers do not match the questions posed.
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

Or later, on the nonsensical poem,
Jabberwocky, she comments, "It seems
very pretty but its hard to understand..
it fills my head with ideas--only I don't
know exactly what they are!

Precisely! We have all sorts of
ideas in our head that sound pretty,
but we don't know exactly what they
mean, if they mean anything.

Our thinking is muddled, our
perspective is muddled, or at least
not in accord with the mind of God,
and so we ask for things out of that
confusion and our questions make
little sense in God's reality.

Sometimes when I ask God a question
He may not be able to answer because
I am asking it out of my own
childish perspective and sense of
reality and He is not willing to
bolster up that childish perspective.
God would not go to the Mad Hatter's
tea party and leave the poor madman
in his craziness. Neither does He
want to leave me in my childish

God wants to bring me into HIS perspective
and reality. So when He does not answer me
on my terms He is making a way for me to
notice that something is amiss and
that further adjustment may be needed to my
perspective or even to myself!

Do you notice that, despite the difficulties,
there is an element of trust in our
relationship with God? We trust
that God speaks and will answer our
prayers and we are puzzled when He
does not seem to answer. This is
actually a good thing. Our expectation
is in the right place: simple expectant
trust in the relationship!

When I ask a person I know a question
and they do not answer, the first
thing I look for is to see if they
were close enough to me to hear me.
Are God and I close enough for me
to expect Him to answer? Is my heart
in order so that He can hear me?

Then, if I see my earthly friend
hesitating, I look at them to see
if somehow they think that
answering me will cause a
disturbance between us. The
typical, "Honey, do these pants
make me look fat?" kind of question.

Do realize that we ask God these
kinds of questions and He needs
to answer us in such a way that
it brings us out of our own
thinking to His level and

Sometimes our questions are not
even in the ballpark of what God
wants us to ask, and if God
answered them He would be playing
ball with us in the t-ball league.

Now, of course, we are all
probably in the t-ball league, but
God has us destined for the majors,
so He has to get our senses sharpened.

When God does not answer my earnest
questions, then first of all I already
have one answer: His grace is sufficient.

But I also sense that sometimes He wants
me to question my questions or what I
have asked Him. I may need to work on
the motivation behind the question.
I may need to look at the big picture
with Him. I may need to take a good long
look at what would happen if He gave me
the answer that I wanted at the moment
I wanted it. If He answered me
quickly, knowing that my request contained
potentially devastating errors, so much
opportunity to learn would be lost.

We think He should say, "Oh, I know what
she means", indeed, but do I
know what I mean? Not always. Maybe not
even usually. If God answers and does
not correct, I would not come to know and
understand Him for who He is, I would
simply get what I wanted. This would
be a lesser good at best.

So I want to end this first section
on God's silence with this: I am of
the earth--earthy (I Cor. 15:47). God
is a Spirit--spiritual. He is trying to
give me a taste of Heaven! He is trying
to teach me about His character and
His kingdom. I should not take the
silence of God as a rejection but
as an opportunity to seek God out
in a deeper way and find Him.

When we are children and we often
play, "hide and seek". We call out
for the Hidden one and He is hiding.
The game is to find Him. But He wants
to be found. When God is silent in
reference to our questions, ask Him,
"Is my question so earthbound You
can't answer it?" Ask Him, "What should
I be asking?"

The answer, to even that much, may
take time because you may need to
undergo some changes to be able to
appreciate the answer.

God is a good God, a good Father,
and He loves to speak to us. His
Words are Truth, and they lead us
toward Truth, toward Him. There is
no falseness in Him. Ask and listen.
Ask and wait. Keep asking. Refine
your asking as He directs. He will
surely answer. He is worth pursuing!
Don't give up and stop asking.
You shall surely be changed.
He shall surely answer.

Tune in soon for more on the
silence of God.

No comments: