..."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)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When God is Silent: Knowing God in the Silence Beyond Words

Knowing God in the Silence Beyond Words: Pt. 5

Silence as a spiritual discipline is not
widely practiced in many Christian circles
today. Silence, however, is extremely important
and needs to be a part of our lives as
Christians. We need to be comfortable
with it and not see it as something less
desirable than words.

There are times when we feel God is
silent and we feel uncomfortable with that.
Somehow, I think the silence of God often
beckons us toward our own inner silence.
For else how can deep call to deep or like
commune with like?

Sometimes I think God is silent to see if
we notice that He is absent. There can
be so much activity in our lives that
God becomes more like an automated check-in
system then the Living, Loving, Reigning God.

We, of course, pray, but our prayers are
about all the issues that swirl around us.
They are about the tangibles of need, not
the intangibles of love and sweetness and

Words are a very limited conductor of
experience. Even the word "love" pales
next to a felt experience of love. So
much of the important parts of life
lay outside of the realm of words.

Limiting our relationship with God
to the realm of words will give us
a very limited experience of Him.
Jonathan Edwards famous treatise,
Religious Affections, suggest that
felt spiritual experience is a
normative and necessary part of the
Christian's experience. I know there
is much controversy concerning the
role of experience in the life of
the Christian. We can make experience
a god unto itself, but we cannot have
a full spiritual life without
incarnationally felt experience:
other-than-words experience with God.

God is a Spirit. Of course we will
have spiritual experience when we
encounter Him. To think that English
or French or Spanish or any other language
is His first and best way of speaking
is to grandly misunderstand the nature
of Spirit. But I venture toward
the wordy realm of controversy. Please,
however, listen to the wise words of
the venerable Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

"There are ideas in our hearts, there are
wishes, there are aspirations, there are
groanings, there are sighings that the
world knows nothing about; but God knows
them. So words are not always necessary.
When we cannot express our feelings except
in wordless groanings, God knows exactly
what is happening."

Lloyd-Jones is referring to the passage
in Romans 8 where not only creation is
groaning for God, but even the Holy Spirit
within us, pleads on our behalf with
unspeakable yearnings and groans that
cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26).

"The Eternal hears what my heart
cannot utter, Hears the voice of
pain so deep, so total, hears the
voice of longings cried out in the
night, of dreams evaporated, of
fears so terrible, paralyzing.
Yes, the Eternal hears. He hears
the cacophony, The discord of my
heart strings. And as the piano
tuner tunes his beloved instrument,
so the Eternal tunes my heart, until
at last His music is born: a concerto
plays inside me." (Claire Rankin Lewis)

Recently our church acquired a baby
grand piano that needed tuning. Tuning
a piano is quite the process. Each string
must be brought into tune. Even the
smallest variation will affect the tone.
There is much tightening and loosening.
For the Tuner it is all about listening
and then adjusting. For the piano it
is all about sitting there until its
tones are sweet!

There is a place beyond words where
perfect communication with God takes
place. Holy Silence brings us to that
place. Our experience of God is very
limited until we meet God there. For
before the unique and beautiful song
that God has written in our souls
can be sung, it must be formed in

And none other then Oswald Chambers
has this to say about the silence
of God:

"When you cannot hear God, you will find
that He has trusted you in the most
intimate way possible—with absolute
silence, not a silence of despair, but
one of pleasure, because He saw that you
could withstand an even bigger revelation."

Exactly. Not the silence of despair, but
an intimate silence so full that you cannot
speak, nor wish to speak. Here you could not
make words express the ineffable joy and
melting together of your heart with God's heart.

That is a grand silence, one that is worth
abandoning words for, one that is worth
going without words for, one that cannot
be known unless you let go of the comfort
of words and swim, far out over your head,
into the depths of God.

We do not need to fear silence. Instead
we need to cultivate it and know that
more is spoken in silence then in a
dictionary of words. Spirit to spirit
communication is God's gift to us at
all times, but especially during those
times when our hearts are fit to break,
or our minds are overwhelmed or our
souls are wounded and hurting. Here,
in what is often the darkest night
of our souls, is where we know God in
a way that we otherwise might not know

John of the Cross wrote that magnificent
poem, Although By Night, in a dark
place. I have greatly adapted and abridged it

"How well I know the Fountain that freely flows

Although by night.

The eternal Living Spring, from where does it
come? It's origin I know not, ah, but well do
I know how to get there! There is no going

Except at night.

It has no origin: All other origins are here begun,
I journey there,

Throughout the night.

I know that nothing else is so fair, That heaven and
earth drink deep refreshment there.

Night after night.

How deep its depths--no man can dive to the bottom
of, nor swim cross it,

Unless at night.

Never was found a thing so clear, undimmed
and bright: From it alone, I know, proceeds
all light,

For it shines at night.

Rich are its streams and full - this know I well
They water nations, heavens and depths of hell,

Always at night.

And this, I know, nothing yields to them,
Except at night.

The eternal fount is hidden in living bread,
That we with life eternal may be fed

Throughout the night.

Be robed in the silence of God. Enter into
the quiet eternity of His Presence.
Its altogether better than words.

This is Part Five of five posts on the silence of God.

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