You ask the loaded question… “Do you still love me?” and there’s no response. That nothing says everything.
After a decade of infertility and failed adoptions, you are holding your son. Not a single word squeaks out, only tears. That sob says everything.
You leave the busy streets and bustling crowds, heading out on country roads that only you know. You turn off the radio and flip your phone’s ringer down. As you pull into a hidden patch of field, a span of sky that appears unending stretches overhead, and the tightness of your chest loosens. For the first time in a long time you feel like you can breathe. That breath says everything.
Sometimes heavier than any shouted words, sometimes sweeter than any celebration, and sometimes a gift in and of itself.
Being that we follow a God who does everything with perfect intent, His silences mean something. And so do our silences, though often much less perfectly.
So this week, your Hopers are going to explore seven different places in scripture where silence is mentioned, and seven different ways silence (and what it “means”) is expressed.
In keeping with the theme, what if right now you readied your heart and spirit to receive these words on silence by turning down the Spotify or the murmuring television, and sitting – for just a minute – in silence.
Invite the Holy Spirit into this space. Breathe in and out deeply.
I will too.
I brought a stack of favorite well-worn paperbacks to Starbucks with me this afternoon, chomping at the bit for next week’s posts on favorite books. So fortunate am I that two sweet friends joined me for a time of chatting and prayer, and one asked about my crumpled copy of “A Grief Observed” tucked in the pile.
It’s hard for me to “sum up” a book I love so much, but I tried… it was the journal C.S. Lewis kept after his wife died that he never intended to be published. And because of that it’s incredibly raw.
And then I flipped the pages with my thumb, and my own underlining in pen from years ago caught my attention:
“Turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble? I tried to put some of these thoughts to (a friend) this afternoon. He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why has thou forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?
Not that I am, I think, in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like.'”
Much like Clive, my own heart has decided who it believes God to be, not based on His words but based on His silences.
I’ve logged more hours begging Him to “please respond!” or “please speak!” than I could count. And if I haven’t heard Him then I flip open the figurative journal I keep in my back pocket and scratch another tally mark under the column that says “God doesn’t love you.”
But is that what His silence means?
When He stops speaking has He stopped loving? Listening? Leaning down to meet us in our wonderings?
Here was my verse for this week’s theme, from Isaiah 42:
“For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.”
How much we could assume by those words, and assume incorrectly, if we didn’t read the words that came before and behind…
We could (I have!) assumed that God has not only remained silent but that He has kept silent for far too long and held Himself back when He should have rushed to my aid.
But I would encourage you to read the whole of Isaiah 42 because…
Isaiah the prophet starts the chapter telling us more of Jesus, God’s son, and who He was created to be… he goes on to share God’s heartbeat for the creation of His other kids (us!)
He will hold our hand. He will use some of us to help give light to others of us. He will use some of us to open the blind eyes of others of us. He will bring freedom. He will bow in defeat to no one but will proclaim His glory in, through, around, and over us. And we will sing for joy!! And then Isaiah tells us: “The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior He will stir up His zeal; with a shout He will raise the battle cry and will triumph over His enemies.”
The Lord has kept silent but He will not stay silent!
Yes, His silence was on purpose, but His silence did not, and does not, mean that in times of quiet that He is not working; He is waiting on Holy haunches to CRY OUT – ready for battle and REIGNING VICTORIOUS!
If He only ever shouted than His war cry wouldn’t shake the world awake, but as He moves about in and through our world and hearts and time (without dimension as He is Creator – eternal & boundary-less) keeping Himself quiet, holding Himself back … how majestic and powerful it will be when He cries out, gasping and panting!
To you my friend, and to my own almost-always-doubting heart, let’s cling to this glimpse of our God’s true character …
He might be silent now, but the door has never been double-bolted.
You might long to hear Him holler and it might hurt that He seems unresponsive, but His keeping quiet is on purpose, and He promises just a few verses further down:
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;”
Believe His words.
Don’t assume from His silence.
He won’t stay silent.