What do you do when God is silent?

What do you do when God is silent_

(Seemingly) Silent Saturday.

The day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. The day the disciples were in the middle of shock, bewilderment, discouragement and (I imagine) asking all kinds of questions.

Had we been wrong about Jesus after all? Maybe He wasn’t the Messiah.

What about all the miracles?

What about all the things He taught us?

We’ve all been there. We’ve experienced heart wrenching disappointments and wondered if God was aware or listening. And if so, why wasn’t He saying anything?! There are nights I’ve laid in bed so distraught and undone that the only prayer I could whisper was, “Please, God. Help.” The only response was the sound of my own heartbeat echoing in my ears.

What do we do then when God is silent? When we’ve prayed and there seems to be nothing but crickets on the other end of the line.

As I’ve meditated on Psalm 22, I feel like we can find some guidance there. Upon reading the psalm, you will quickly see that David was writing from a place of deep pain and walking through a difficult trial.  This psalm is full of prophetic language. In fact there are 33 prophesies found in it that would be fulfilled when Jesus was on the cross.

In Psalm 22 we find Jesus’ last words in the very first verse (1) and last verse (31). (I will be quoting from the Passion Translation throughout this post.)

“God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?”

“It is finished.” Or as Mark 27:50 describes it, “Jesus passionately cried out” these words with His last breath.

It sounds like Jesus is asking, “Where are you God?” Sounds like a familiar prayer. One I may or may not have prayed myself 967 times. Give or take a few.

But it’s Psalm 22:2 that words it so well:

Why do you remain distant, refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day and my desperate cries for your help in the night? I can’t stop sobbing. Where are you, my God?

There are times God feels silent. When that happens what do we do? Well, here’s some of my thoughts.

  1. Bring God a song.

Right after asking God where He is David continues in verse 3 by saying:

Yet I know that you are most holy; it’s indisputable. You are God-Enthroned, surrounded with songs, living among the shouts of praise of your princely people. (or common queens as the case may be 😉 )

David goes back to the basics. Even if God is silent, He is still holy and because He is holy it demands a worshipful response on my part. Not exactly my first response, to be honest. When I’m discouraged the last thing I want to do is worship and praise. Why is praise important when God feels silent? Simply put, I think it just keeps things in perspective for us.

2.  Remember His faithfulness.

In Psalm 22:9 & 10 David recounts how God has cared for him since the moment he was born! This reminder brings him to this conclusion at the end of verse 10:

I’ve trusted in you and you’ve always been my God.

You can trust the character of God….even when He’s silent. Everything you know about Him is still true. Go back and remember how He’s come through for you before. Maybe crack open an old journal (that’s what I like to do) and read stories of God answering your prayers and getting you through hard times. If He’s done it before, you can trust Him to do it again.

3. Know He is there.

In 2006, I experienced the worst pain I have ever gone through. In that season, I remember one night in particular where my best friend sat down on the couch next to me and didn’t say a word. She didn’t attempt to give me words of comfort or explain why this horrible loss had happened. All she did was sit silently next to me.

It was a beautiful act of love and all the comfort I needed because I knew she was there.

God may be silent, but I promise you He is there.

Psalm 22: 24 reads,

For He has not despised my cries of deep despair. He’s my first responder to my sufferings, and He didn’t look the other way when I was in pain. He was there all the time, listening to the song of the afflicted. 

I don’t think these are the only things we can do when God feels silent. One of the things I do often is reach out to a trusted friend who I know will immediately start praying on my behalf. She’s sent me countless verses to encourage me or songs to worship to on YouTube.

Sometimes (dare I say, oftentimes) we need people on this journey. Safe people you can go to and share your questions and hurts and know they won’t judge you or use those things as weapons against you. Those kinds of people are diamond friends. You’ll only have a few, but they are extremely precious.

If God feels silent in your life right now know that silent Saturday isn’t the end of this story. Sunday is coming!

 

 

 

 

 

Rising Up From the Ashes

Rising Up From the Ashes

This one is for the people who find themselves burnt out from life or ministry or marriage or disappointment or anxiety….or whatever is leaving you a heap on the floor (literally or figuratively).

I’ve been burnt out for a number of years now. It’s not a new realization by any means. I knew it. I tried to deny it out of shame convinced if I was a good enough Christian I wouldn’t be feeling this way. It was this drive that sent me deeper, much deeper into this pit where I was determined I could serve my way out of this condition.

Serving. That was my hamster wheel that kept me spinning endlessly and getting nowhere but tired and angry and hurting. Things that once brought me pleasure and joy now left me anxious and bitter and I wonder if I was ever called to ministry after all. I question my purpose and calling, which has been the very core of my being since I was a kid.

It was…is.. my identity. It has entwined itself around my worth and in order to be loved I needed to DO. Holly wasn’t enough. Rather Holly simply BEING wasn’t enough.

So, here I sit in my ashes.

There’s a story of man named Job who had everything he could have ever wanted– money, prestige, family, friends, a thriving business. Then, one day, he lost it all. He lost his family, his health, his wealth and found himself in an ash heap. He sat there (according to Job 2:8, CEV) to show his sorrow.

Ashes can so often represent destruction and devastation. Earlier this year, Australia experienced horrific wildfires that destroyed more than a fifth of the country’s forests. People and animals died, too. Sure sounds like devastation to me.

And yet, every time I think of ashes I am reminded of the Phoenix. A Greek mythological legend says the bird dies by bursting into flames and then is reborn from its ashes. In its death there is renewal and resurrection. It does not limp or walk away from its ash heap. It SOARS away with a grand, majestic and glorious display of strength and vigor.

As we enter this Holy week, that is the image I am mediating on because that is the image Christ Himself exemplified. Not some folklore story mind you, but an actual literal empty grave where His body once lay. Christ did not limp from the borrowed tomb, but victoriously trampled death, disease, discouragement and everything in-between.

In doing so, He has given that same victory to me (and YOU)– to soar on the wings like eagles (& Phoenixes) , to run and not grow weary (or burnt out), they will walk (not limp) and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31, NIV with parenthetic additions made by yours truly).

To go back to our friend Job, he didn’t limp away from his ash heap, either. In fact, he got back everything that had been taken from him and MORE. As you’ve reflected on what has been lost maybe you need that reminder. You will get back more than you had before.

In your marriage that has been on the brink of divorce you will see redemption. In your soul that has been wracked by anxiety you will experience a peace that transcends even a global pandemic.

In my burn out, I believe, a passion will be reignited that will propel me on to do the very thing(s) I was created to do. Not to get love, but from a beautiful understanding that I am loved simply for who I am and not the ways I serve.

Rise up from the ashes, friends! Soar!

My Modern Day Miracles

mochaloca

One Sunday after church, I decided to stop by a store to check the Clearance racks for some items friends mentioned needing. Girls, you know how those conversations go: “Hey, next time you’re out, will you see if you can find such-and-such for cheap?” It’s like a fun scavenger hunt to find the best deal. My mom has taught me well. She’s perfected this game, knowing what days certain stores do their discounts and where they’re located in the store. She could teach classes. She’s a pro.

This particular Sunday, I was feeling down. Getting dressed for church that morning, nothing seemed to fit right. My bed held the clothing casualties from my rapid search for something to wear. It was awful. Knowing I’d never be pleased, I decided on the last outfit I had tried on and resigned myself to the fact that it would just have to do.

While I was at the store, I decided to quickly browse the new dresses that had come in for the new season. I love dresses. There’s something about a dress cut in at all the right places that makes you feel feminine and beautiful without trying too hard. That’s the beauty of dresses– one piece and “Voila!” you’re ready to go!

There’s one dress that I’ve been searching for that I hadn’t found yet. I’d been looking for a dress that had lacy half sleeves. I saw one on Pinterest and had the image stuck in my head. Every time I was at the store I’d look for one like it. I hadn’t found it. Until that day.

It immediately caught my attention. There it was– the perfect dress– hanging on the wall. Everything I had wanted. Everything except for the price. Also like my mother, I’m an immediate check-the-tag shopper and never buy anything full price. Buying something at full price is a luxury that I cannot afford. And this dress would safely be filed under the “could not afford” category. The only dresses that I had spent that kind of money on was bridesmaid dresses.

But it was so lovely. So, like a little girl, I decided to play dress up. I knew I couldn’t buy the dress, but I could at least try it on and enjoy it for a few minutes.

Part of me hoped it wouldn’t fit or that it would look horrible on me. Sometimes that happens. You see something that looks amazing on a hanger, but you try it on and you’re sure that a brown bag would look more flattering.

If there are guys still reading this–please, stay with me. There’s something here for you, I promise.

I tried it on and it was….perfect. I loved it. The green of the dress made the color of my eyes stand out. The lace sleeves were the exact length they should be, which is usually a problem for my 5′ tall frame. It cut in at the smallest part of my waist–win! I examined myself in the full length mirror and I didn’t feel disgusted. So, I snapped a few pictures because that’s what we do now, right?

dress

As I put the dress back on the hanger and then back on the rack I thought to myself again: “It’s just so lovely.”

At home, I was sharing with a few girlfriends about the dress and how beautiful I felt in it. I showed them my mirror selfie and they agreed that it was indeed the perfect color and cut and that I looked amazing in it. One friend in particular, saw the picture and immediately knew she needed to buy me that dress. I told her that I didn’t expect her to do that– to spend that type of money on me– for a dress! But she said, God laid it on her heart to do it and who am I to refuse such an offer!

This past year, I’ve seen some huge unexpected expenses come in– from my emergency 6-day hospital visit this time last year or the car maintenance that drained my savings account this month so I could get it to pass the New York State inspection. It seemed like the moment I got over one mountain, I’d take a giant sigh of relief and there’d be a new issue to deal with.

This past year, I’ve also seen the many ways God was taking care of me– from free laundry detergent, free pie, free dish soap, car bills paid, free flowers, a free laptop and now a dress. A dress I don’t NEED, but that I wanted.

God isn’t just concerned about your NEEDS, but He cares about your desires. Even the unspoken desires. Even the things you haven’t dared to tell anyone you wanted. I don’t know about you, but that’s a beautifully humbling thought.

Sometimes, we have this idea that we are lost in the multitudes, but then God does this amazing miracle and our eyes are open to the fact that He hasn’t been blind to our yearnings. Maybe that’s how the woman with the issue of blood felt (Luke 8:43-48). There was a multitude of people surrounding Jesus. It was loud and chaotic. And there she was an outcast of the Jewish society because of her ailment. She was hoping to stay unnoticed, not asking for prayer, but just simply touching His garment and then heading on her way.

But Jesus noticed.

The moment she touched Him, He knew it. The Bible says, He felt the power leave His body and she was immediately healed. He looked at the crowd and asked who it was that touched him. His disciples laughed– “Uhhhh, errybody, Jesus. Don’t you see them pushing and shoving and trying to be close to you?” He wouldn’t let it go.

I’m sure the woman didn’t want to be pointed out, but I can only imagine how hard her heart must have been beating. How intense the encounter had been for her. How real. I wonder if He looked her in the eyes with a knowing glance and if it was in that look that she felt the comfort to come forward and admit it was her who touched Him. No longer just another bystander in the crowd, but a receptor of a miracle.

I don’t know your needs and wants, friend. I haven’t heard the whispered longings of your heart, but He has. And those whispers, those prayers have not fallen on deaf ears. God notices you. Even more than that, He loves you. Deeply. Intimately. Knowingly.

He shows us His love in so many ways– as a reminder that He’s aware. That He is very much present.

As I shared this story with a friend over lunch this week she said, “It sounds like God is just bringing you closer to Himself.” And that’s what all of this boils down to. Every gift. Every blessing. Every encouragement. Every struggle. Yes, every pain, has been there to bring me close to His heart.

He’s there– I’ve just got to reach out and grab Him.

Something beautiful.

something beautiful

Why?

Why did he have to die? He was too young. Had so many dreams. He loved you, Jesus.

Why?

Why wasn’t my childhood safe? Why did I have to see those things? Experience those things?

Why?

Why are things so hard? Why does it feel like one bad thing after another?

Why?

You’ve undoubtedly asked the “Why” question many times yourself. You’ve experienced hardships. If you haven’t I’m assuming you’ve had some kind of major brain injury that has stunted your memory– in which case, you have experienced a hardship. You get my point. No one is exempt from life or the trials or heartbreak that come in shifts, or seasons or waves.

I’ve seen people I love, reeling in pain because of loss. I’ve seen many tears fall because of physical pain in their bodies. I’ve seen fists raised in frustration because of a financial burden that never seems like its going to go away.

I’m 30 now, and it hasn’t gotten easier to watch. I wouldn’t say I’ve come away with answers to the “why” question, either. Sorry to say. I wish I did. I’d package that answer up, and put it in a book and sell it to the masses. Reasonably priced and all. And I’d live comfortably off its sales.

A lack of answer does not mean a lack of hope, though.

I sat listening to a spoken word at a youth conference a few months ago. I was most struck by one line in particular– “A dry land can still rejoice and blossom like a rose*.” I’ve meditated on that thought many times since then. Sometimes making it a prayer to Jesus, asking Him to take the ruins and mess of my life and bring wholeness there. Other days its a declaration to myself that I can indeed STILL rejoice and that I do STILL blossom and grow. And sometimes its a reminder from my Savior that yes He does the miraculous. That He can cause a flower to bloom in a desert. That He can take me and make something beautiful.

With questions still looming, tears still streaming and a heart still broken I will confidently say with outstretched hands, “Jesus, please make something beautiful.”

And He will.

 

(* Spoken word written by Josiah Ball)