The Silence of God #1
The Silence of God #1
A couple of years back HBCC hosted the Skeptics of Orange County in
friendly debates. One of the attendees
was an adult child of a pastor, he no longer believed. He said to me” “Mike, it doesn’t seem like
your God does much anymore.” I asked him
to explain, and he said: “Well, Jesus healed the sick, made cripples walk,
opened the eyes of the blind and raised the dead, walked on water and feed the
multitudes and cast our demons. Nowadays,
not so much, nowadays, not at all.”
Miracles, we hear a lot about them happening in faraway
places. You go to a healing meeting and
the back pain gets healed, the neck pain goes away, the knee feels better, but
the MS is still crippling, the cancer is still present, and what medical
science couldn’t remedy, your last hope, God, didn’t either.
Then you hear the testimony of someone for whom God did the
impossible. They were healed from the incurable, the impossible provision came
in the nick of time, the money was in the mailbox, the prodigal comes to faith,
and the victory is celebrated. You may
wonder, what’s wrong with my prayers, what’s the secret, what do I need to do to
get the answer I so desperately need, what’s wrong with me?
It is faith-shaking, if not faith-breaking when we call out for
God’s help and there’s no help at all.
No pony in the living room. The
abuse doesn’t stop. The bullies continue to torment. Dad still loses his
job. Mom still dies of cancer. The addiction hangs on like a leech. The
divorce still happens. Your child dies. Prayer, prayer meetings, and fasting
are of no avail. We are going to explore
the silence of God, why God often doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we want
and what to do when our cries for help are answered in silence.
I don’t think it’s much of a consolation to know this, but you are
not alone dealing with heaven’s silence.
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.
Why have you forsaken me? King David was not the only
one who prayed the question. A man dying
on a cross prayed the same question. “ELI ELI LEMA SABACHTHANI,” Jesus’ cried
from the cross (Mark 15:34; Matt 27:46).
Both men, not receiving the answer to the prayer they wanted, both men questioned
if God had abandoned them.
Sometimes the prayers of the righteous do not prevail. Sometimes the elder’s prayers, sometimes the
anointing with oil, prayers lifted in faith in the name of Jehovah Rapha the
God who Heals, sometimes lifted in the name of Jesus with fasting and tears, sometimes
all of them together, are of no avail. Sometimes
even the Son of God’s prayers is answered with silence. In the silence, there
is an indescribable ache, a soul agony so deep that it can bring you to
The love of his life died.
From his notes and journals during those horrible days, a book was
published called “A Grief Observed.” C.S. Lewis wrote:
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid,
but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the
same restlessness . . . On the rebound, one passes into tears and pathos.
Maudlin tears. I almost prefer the moments of agony. These are at least clean
and honest . . .
Meanwhile, where is God?. . When you are happy, so happy that you
have no sense of needing Him . . . if you remember yourself and 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 . . .
Why is He so present a commander in our
time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble? (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, pp. 7-10).
When you are in the maelstrom, when you are in the
most desperate of needs; the most anxious of times; and you call out to God,
who is an ever source of help in the day of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and that help
doesn’t arrive, the most human of questions is to ask “Why?”
We ask why because we have verses in the scripture
that cause us to expect that God will do great things for us.
am the LORD, who heals you.”
we pray for healing for loved ones, for ourselves.
But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
So, we pray for protection, for ourselves, and
our loved ones.
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
So, we pray for the battle to be won, for our
cause to triumph, for the oppressed to be liberated, and for the helpless to be
1 John 5:14 (NIV)
“… this is the confidence we have in
approaching God: . . . he hears us”
So, we pray knowing that God hears our prayers.
The One who loves us, the all-powerful one, the One who can do the impossible
hears us when we pray.
1 John 5:15 (NIV)
And if we know that he hears us—whatever we
ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
So, we pray with the sure knowledge that God
will come through for us.
do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
So, we pray in Jesus’s name, we pray with faith
believing, to make sure our prayers get answered.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Then, in our darkest hour, silence … silence …
During each teaching in this series, we are
going to briefly consider a list of possible answers to our why question. If one sounds plausible to you, I suggest
that you take some time and contemplate the ramifications of that answer. I don’t want to get your hopes up that you
will discover an answer. We are just
going to go looking at the possibilities.
Why unanswered prayer #1. Perhaps the request
defies common sense (Peter Greig, God on Mute,
p 111). God does not normally interrupt the natural order of life. There is a terrible joke about a man needing
to be rescued from a flood. The warnings
came to evacuate but he prayed “Lord, you will save me.” The flood came and a recuse boat came by
urging him to get aboard. But the man
refused, for he had faith that God would rescue him. The flood waters rose, and the man was now on
the roof of his house. A helicopter flew
over, and lines were dropped, but the man refused, he trusted the Lord to save
him. Suddenly the man found himself
soaking wet, spitting water, standing before Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates
and he was angry. He demands of Peter:
“Why didn’t God rescue me?” To which
Peter replies, your faith blinded you to the evacuation notice, the rescue
boat, and even the helicopter, that were all sent to rescue you.” In other words, there was an answer to your
prayer, but it didn’t come in a form you expected so you didn’t recognize it as
Why unanswered prayer #2. Perhaps there are
contradictory requests (p.115). “Some prayers aren’t answered because they
contradict other prayers” (p. 115). Holy
and devout followers of Jesus are rooting for team A, praying their team wins
the big game. Holy and devout followers of Jesus are rooting for team B, praying
their team wins the big game. It’s not
that contradictory prayers negate one another, it's more that God does not
intervene in outcomes that have no impact on His desire to reconcile all people
to Himself. Could that explain why there is so much suffering and misery in
this world, that pain has no impact on God's plan to redeem? Unless, of course,
Why unanswered prayer #3. Perhaps “some prayers
aren’t answered because they would be detrimental to the world or the lives of
others” (p117). Modern science thrives because the world is well ordered and
therefore predictable. Certain things
are necessary for other things to happen.
You’ve heard of the butterfly effect.
This is the thought that a small thing can have a major impact. The butterfly flaps its wings and on the
other side of the world, it rains. Is it
possible that you do not have your answer because on the scales of bad and good
it would be bad not only for you but for others that you don’t even know?
Why unanswered prayer #4. Perhaps it is because we live in a broken
world (Romans 8:22). There are
consequences of the Fall of Humanity from righteousness that cannot be
avoided. Some of these consequences are
sickness, suffering, and death. Some are
natural disasters. Some are the result
of humanity’s rape of the planet’s resources, poisons in our air, our water,
and our food. Jesus said, “in this
world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
Somethings will not be fixed, set right, or restored until God visits us
with a renewed heaven and earth in the Last Days (Revelations 21:1).
Why unanswered prayer #5. Perhaps “some prayers
aren’t answered the way we think they should be because our understanding and
expectations of God are misguided” (p.128).
When it comes to our understanding of the scripture, we tend to be
egocentric. “All the promises in
scripture are for me.” That’s not
correct. For instance, Jeremiah 29:11 is
so often used to bring a sense of security, a sense of hope: “For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you
hope and a future.”
We read this verse and immediately think that
God has an individual detailed plan to prosper our lives. Thus, the oft-spoken words of ill advice:
“It’s ok God’s got a plan.” The verse is
taken out of context for it is a promise to the nation of Israel, not the
individual. The plan is the gospel,
salvation by faith in God, the results in obedience to His commands. If we
believe the promise is for us the individual when things happen that don’t
prosper us, that wages war against our hope, that make our future look grim,
our conclusion is God’s plan is no good.
So, if you are going to stand on a scripture promise of God, make sure
it is a promise to stand upon (Psalm 19:13).
You’ve earnestly prayed but the answer you have
requested, the solution you need, the help you desire, is past due. The silence of God causes your heart to ache
even more. Have you found any solace or comfort or direction in any of those
five “whys” of unanswered prayer? If so,
hang on to it, contemplate your answer, and let it draw you ever closer to
God. If not, you are still suffering in
the silence. Amid silence you have two choices, you can reject God or draw near
to God. If you chose to draw near when
God is silent, you may discover the empowerment to take your unanswered prayer
in stride. You draw near to God as you
exercise trust that what you believed in the good times is still true in the
Thomas Merton wrote: “You do not need to know
precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is
to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment,
and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.” When you take the unwanted in stride you find
that even though God is silent, He empowers you to keep on keeping one. The silent God gives strength for the