My favorite musician is Scottish folksinger Dougie MacLean, known for his song “Ready for the Storm.” It’s such a great song that I wrote an extra verse to it an gave it to Dougie the last time I saw him in concert. We’re being hit with the impact of Irene, not as bad as Jersey, yet enough to rattle us here in New England. I won’t be kayaking today!
When natural disasters hit we’re reminded that we live in a broken world that was once perfect. Paradise is gone, and we’re seeing the effects of the Fall, a world where we experience what seems like the absence of God. Sometimes God is absent because people choose to exclude Him from their lives. They aren’t seeking God and don’t want to be found. This too is an effect of the Fall.
God works even when it seems like He’s absent. Praying in a seemingly empty room, it is a temptation to think that God is indifferent to our needs. We don’t actually see Him, and when we pray, we wonder if and how our prayers may be answered. We struggle with doubt. Jesus told the patron saint of doubters, Thomas: “You have seen and believed; blessed are they who believe without seeing.” We yearn to hear our Lord’s voice, but have to be content with the record we’ve been given in Scripture.
We find ourselves much like the children of Israel who waited and endured 430 years of Egyptian slavery, hoping for deliverance. Where was God all that time? Why was He silent? The Jews began to wonder if God no longer knew His once-chosen people. They felt abandoned…and so do we during low periods of our lives.
There are vast stretches of time, even in the Bible, when nothing remotely like salvation seems to be happening. We feel this absence and don’t know what to make of it. We need to understand that the absence of God is part of the story.
The Psalms are full of impatient waiting. In Psalm 13, David doesn’t hesitate to express his frustration; he cries out, “How long, O Lord?” God understands, yet He is not obligated to come at our beck and call. When He is silent, He has a reason, which He is not required to share. And if He did, we still might not comprehend His answer. And so the greatest part of faith remains waiting.
When Jesus was born, a 400-year period of silence was going on in Israel. The last word Israel had from God came in the Book of Malachi. In our Bibles, one turn of a page separates Malachi from Matthew, but that single page turning took over 400 years. By the time of our Savior’s birth, many wondered if they were a forgotten people. Pagan Rome was occupying their land, and bad things were happening to good people. But another Moses was born in Bethlehem who would deliver His people from the bondage of sin.
A minister was hiking the Appalachian Trail; he was tired and cold and had no place to sleep. He found a place to lay down under the stars, and it started to rain. Deciding to be like a prophet of old, he cried out, “Lord, I rebuke the wind and the rain in Jesus’ Name: Stop in the name of Jesus!” Yet the rain continued, and the minister looked heavenward, confused and discouraged and prayed, “Lord, I love You anyway.”
The rains come and we wait. Nothing changes God’s commitment to us; not even time. If we’re sensitive to God’s ways, we may glean some insight. It’s been said that “coincidence is when God chooses to be anonymous.” We believe He is sovereign, which means He is doing things right now in our lives, whether we realize it or not. One day this will be clear. God doesn’t guarantee that life will make sense, but there’s a comfort in knowing He has a plan, a reason for everything.
Faith means stepping out with no clear end in sight, and perhaps even no clear view of the next step…all the while, trusting in God whom we do not see…and regardless of how we may feel, we accept that He is present, caring, active. We look around at what appears to be a God-forsaken world and we still trust and obey.
When God is silent, we’re reduced to patient waiting, anticipating, and trusting. A better, brighter day is coming.