Has anyone else felt the weight of silence recently? Particularly the weight of God’s silence in response to our prayers?
For as long as I can remember my father has been reading through My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (1874-1917). For those who don’t know, this is a daily devotional published by Chambers who was a Scottish minister and teacher. The book is actually a collection of his teachings compiled by his wife, after his death.
Well, back in October I decided it would be nice to start reading through these devotionals myself. Sure, I’ve read them off and on, but haven’t consistently read them through. So, I purchased a new copy, and have been reading them since October… the starts of a pretty good habit.
The first entry I read was on Oct 11 and was on the topic of silence. I presented this in our staff devotions this morning and thought I would share it with you here. Oswald writes,
“When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” John 11:6
Has God trusted you with His silence – a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? 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. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him – He is bringing you into the mainstream of his purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, but today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).
A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious – it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy – silence.
Did you read that last paragraph? “He will give you the first sign of His intimacy – silence.” Back in October I was immediately struck by that line, and by this passage. I am even more struck by it today. The past several years have been a season of waiting for us for schooling, jobs and most of all the start of our family. While we have watched with amazement at God’s provision in so many ways, we’re still waiting for that child and that waiting has taken place largely in silence. Sure, God has led us at certain points in this journey towards very specific steps, but for the most part we have walked this road in silence. And that silence at times can seem deafening. And today (in particular) I am feeling this silence.
Back in September we learned from a family member of a young woman in Texas who was considering adoption for her baby. We came to find out that she wasn’t very far along, so we didn’t put much hope in that opportunity. But we did continue to pray for her, for her boyfriend, for my Aunt, for everyone involved in the situation. Today we found out that she has chosen to keep her baby. And although we had not put much hope in this opportunity, it was at least tangible. And we can’t help but grieve this news.
What I love about what Oswald Chambers writes is that he validates the silence for us. What do I mean? Brandon and I have lots of friends & family members who would say that if you just pray hard enough, God will do it. “Name it and claim it.” And I am a firm believer that God answers prayer. But when that prayer isn’t answered, what are we to do? Brandon and I both struggled with feelings of guilt that we hadn’t prayed hard enough for our child and I, in particular, struggled with doubts about the strength of my own faith. Surely if I was just a better Christian God would grant us this request…
But if what Chambers says is true, perhaps this extended time of silence is not because we have no faith, but because he feels that our faith (by the grace of His Spirit) can take it. Perhaps, this is His greatest sign of care for us.
There are days when I think that I would take a baby over anything that God may be teaching us in this journey. Then the Spirit intervenes by His great grace and we make it another day, another week, another month, another semester, another year… in silence.
Perhaps God has trusted us with his silence as a sign of His intimacy. Perhaps. I think we are going to choose to believe that this time of extended silence can be a time of great intimacy with the Father.
And that’s pretty great.
Now, what to have for dinner…