Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Question in the Silence

What do you do when God doesn't show up?

  • Some people ignore him, pretend he doesn't matter anyway.
  • Some try to accept his silence with stoic detachment and mistakenly call it faith.
  • Some whimper and bargain and try to convince him they are worth the trouble.
  • Some get mad and storm away, sometimes forever.

And some--not many, but a few--get mad and run straight at him. They tell him exactly what they think of his absence from their lives. They tell him exactly what they feel. They wrestle with him, they duke it out. They are Jacob at the river Jabbok. They are the woman in the crowd who grabbed his robe. They don't hold back what's really going on inside. But they don't disengage either.

I wonder if, when God fails to act as we think he should, he's actually looking for something in us: a willingness to stay with it--to stay with him--even though he doesn't make sense, even when he does things that shatter our assumptions of who or how he should be. I think maybe he wanted Job to ask him all those hard questions. I think he wanted David to write all those "where are you, God?" psalms. I think Jacob's whole life was divinely shaped just so his wrestling match with God could happen there at the banks of the river Jabbok.

There is a question lingering in the silence of God. Do you hear it?

What will you do when God doesn't show up?


deepwaterscoach said...

Hard, good words, Michael, and timely. Thanks.

lady2beetle said...

An interesting thought, to be sure. I can't help but think of all those times when I felt like I was being taken advantage of. The thought has crossed my mind, "Would they even noticed if I wasn't here? Maybe then they'd realize that they need me." I always shrugged it off as selfish and childish of me, but I can't help but think that if I have ever felt taken advantage of, there are times when God must feel that way many times over.

John said...

Michael - interesting that this came this week. I am part of a group that is struggling with something similar--God says to ask, but what happens to us when we ask, and ask, and ask, and knock, etc. And ALL we get is silence or just the opposite--a friend calls what he has gotten "dog****. In crisis, we either fight or flee. Personally I am pissed and I'm ready to fight.

Anonymous said...

I'm fickle. Or maybe passive-agressive. I go from hollering at Him to having a pout. The pout usually runs along the line of "Fine! I don't want to talk to you right now, anyway!"

Michael D. Warden said...

I'm with you, John. Bring it.

Sara said...

Hi Michael,

I'm pondering your idea that stoic detachment is mistakenly called faith. Detachment from what? God? Or the emotions of the circumstances? I recently exited from a three-year dark tunnel of loss and disappointment. I must admit I took the stoic response. I was scared of myself. When in that darkness I did not allow myself to fully embrace the emotional pain because I was terrified it would swallow me up and I would lose hope in God and in his promises to me. All I could do was desperately hold on to what I knew to be true: "All things work together for God's glory and for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes." In time, God did bring about what he'd promised, and through it I am more weathered and deeply rooted in my relationship with him. So, I ask you, when there is no strength to wrestle, is there room to simply stand?

Michael D. Warden said...

You're exactly right, Sara. I think we all need the space to be stoic for a time about things that happen to us, especially when those events are big and traumatic and we need some time just to catch up with reality. Some people I've known, however, seem to get stuck in that stoic place, even after many years, and what was for them at first a place to get to get their bearings eventually became a place to hide from life. They pretend it's all okay, and call it faith. But they are completely disconnected from their hearts.

Sara said...

Aah...very interesting. Definitely not the case here! I was shocked at the mourning process once life was back in the light. Three years of emotions tumbled out within a matter of days and short weeks. I suppose it is something to consider. What if I was still in darkness? How long could I have continued stoically without a hardening of my heart? Thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

I've tried the stoic route, but can't maintain it for very long. As upset or frustrated as I might get, I'm more afraid of disconnecting from God. So I get brutally honest. I figure that he already knows what I'm thinking and feeling, so I might as well just let it all out. I do that until, exhausted from all the internal commotions, I've regained some sort of peace. Like the quiet after the storm. It's hard to take God at his word, "I'll never leave you," but it's scarier to think of life without him.


Sara said...

I'm stoically ignoring a loss in my life, and I'm paralyzed to move forward. I've pondered this post since first reading it. If I enter the wrestling ring, will I leave with a limp? The fear of feeling the pain keeps me from the prize.

A sweet friend is dying of cancer. I admire her courage. Today she said this: "This is my greatest trial, and when I win, this will be my greatest victory."

"My greatest victory!"...let the wrestling begin.