That was a beautiful anthem. Thank you. When you’re going through tough and difficult times, one thing that we most often hear is silence. We hear nothing but our own voices. God seems silent and absent from us. Someone put it this way, a door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. When you hear the silence, we feel like we were all alone. Jesus faced the silence when he was praying in the garden of good semini. He was grieved and agitated about what he was about to face, so much so that he sweated drops of blood. He prayed that God would spare him of his faith, but he heard nothing from God. King David also experienced the sounds from God. It made him feel abandoned and alone. This is what he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me? From the words of my groaning, Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer and by night I find no rest.” Silence. When God is silent, it affects us very strongly. It confuses us. It angers us. It frustrates us. It stirs up all sorts of emotions. But in us, it leaves us feeling totally helpless. It makes us question, why, why me? Why am I going through this now? Why did it happen? Why is God letting this happen to me?
Asking Ourselves, Why?
Back in August, we had our summer retreat for the Hi-C students and on the last night, as we usually do, we have a time of prayer for all the students. So students pray for each other. The pastors pray for the students, and Simon had invited all the students to come. The purpose of the prayer time was to come and lay down all the burdens that they had on their hearts. And I had a student come up to me at one point, he was young but very mature for his age. He began to share with me about the pain that he had experienced when his parents separated. He asked himself the same question, why? Why did my dad have to leave my mom and the rest of the family behind? He couldn’t make sense of why his mom had to go through so much pain because of it. No matter who we are, where we come from, I believe we all ask ourselves this question at some point in our lives, Why? For some reason, it never really gets answered.
God Answering With A Question
That was the case, especially the case with Job. He wanted to know why someone like him had to suffer the way he did. Joe was a righteous man. He was wealthy, well-respected. He had everything. He had a family and he followed God faithfully, but like that, he lost everything that he had. He lost all of his possessions, his children. He lost his health. It was so overwhelming to a point that even his wife said, all you have left to do was to renounce his faith in God. But Job wanted to know why. He demanded God for answers. He cried out to God, but he heard nothing. No matter what he did, all he heard was silence. This was what he said, “I cry to you and you do not answer me and I stand and you merely look at me.” Job felt totally helpless and desperate like he had no more gas left in the tank. He felt like he did all that he could. Yet the question of why still lingered in that silence. But in that same silence when Job laid down everything that was on his heart, God answered him. The scripture passage we read today begins like this. The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind after nearly 37 chapters of silence, God finally answers him. Yet we see that God does not really answer Job. God doesn’t even seem to acknowledge Job’s pain and sorrow. We see that God answers Job by asking him questions one after another after another. Even reading them, we feel almost overwhelmed by the nature of these questions. God sounds firm and even demanding, and this was something that I struggled with as I was reflecting on today’s passage. Why? Why didn’t God just answer Job’s question? Wouldn’t that have made things much simpler? Why did God ask him questions that seemed like they had absolutely nothing to do with what was going on? It was a difficult passage. Then it dawned on me, I asked myself, what if, what if the answer to why wasn’t what Job really needed at the time? What if God knew that what job needed in that particular moment was not the answer, but God’s own presence? Because Job’s friends tried doing that for him. They try telling him why. They try to explain to him why he was in the situation that he was in and they did it from a place of genuine care, but what they said only ended up hurting him more. Rather than empathizing with the situation. They only try to fix it, but God did the exact opposite. In silence, God gave Job space and the time to voice his questions, his frustrations, and his doubts. Rather than giving him answers, God asked him questions. We see a movement in today’s passage. God begins with the big question, he asks him, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.” God starts talking about earth and creation, things we don’t even think about in our day to day life, but by the end, God ends with questions about the smaller things of life. This is what he asked, “Who provides for the raven and its prey when its young ones cry to God and wonder about their lack of food. God points to the birds of the air and reminds Job how they find their food to get by.
God Comforts Us With His Presence
It was through these questions that God gradually brought Job to a deeper understanding. God was truly present in every aspect of his life. Even in the midst of silence and the confusion that he was experiencing, God gave Job a new perspective. In his silence, Job had a meaningful encounter with God and that was enough for him. The question still remained. The situation still remained the same, but Job, he wasn’t the same. In the end, this was his confession before God. This was what he said, “I know that you can do all things that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I uttered what I did not understand things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” In the silence of his heart Job met God in a meaningful way and God’s grace gave him the faith to embrace the mystery of his life with confidence. When God is silent, I believe we are invited to freely and honestly express our feelings, our questions, and our doubts before him. God does not interrupt us. He gives us the space to lay down our burdens before him. He gives us the time to go through our own journey of faith and it is in that same silence that God meets us. Rather than giving us answers, God answers us with his own presence and comforts us. He brings us to a place of healing and understanding the questions and the pain may still remain, but God gives us the faith to move forward in confidence.
God’s Presence In The Silence
C S Lewis, a well known Christian author. He had to go through a personal journey of his own. When he lost his wife to cancer. He could not make sense of his life nor his faith. He experienced silence from God. He was confused and angry. He questioned God and his faith and what he wrote down during this period of his life, these raw personal reflections later became a book called ‘A Grief Observed’. But through this period of silence and personal reflection, he eventually came to a deeper understanding of his faith and this was what he wrote, “I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there’s nothing at all in your soul except the cry for help. It may be just the time when God can’t give it. You’re like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated Christ deafens you to the voice you’d hope to hear.” For him what he saw as silence from God took on a different meaning altogether. At first, he saw it as God’s absence, indifference, but he came to realize that God had been present with him in that silence all along. It was a journey that he had to go through to come to that understanding on his own time and the person that wrote the book by the end, he was a little different than when he began.
When God is silent. Preparing for this message has been incredibly difficult than humbling experience. It had been brewing in my mind for quite some time, and even in my relatively short time, here in ministry, I’ve been able to witness and hear stories about the struggles and the pain of those who are in our church community. In fact, what I become most aware of when I entered the sanctuary on every Sunday is that all of us, no matter who we are, come from a place of pain and carry heavy burdens in our hearts. It is a very palpable feeling and I see that most revealed in our time of worship. When our spirit meets God’s spirit in silence. On people’s faces, I see moments of healing, transformation, and joy. You often see me sitting behind the drums up here, but I see everything and that’s what I see. I see people leaving this place a little different than when they came in. It is the most beautiful thing to see, and my prayer is that we will experience God’s comfort here in this place today, especially as we now enter into a time of reflection and prayer. I pray that our spirits will be lifted up, I pray that God will be with us here today.