Chapter 15 - The Sound of Silence

This morning I read chapter 15 of Prayer. Yancey discusses in this chapter the times when God seems to be silent. (For those of you in my small group, I hope you are continuing to read while we have not been meeting. That has been one of my goals in writing about each chapter. I'm hoping we can finish this book and start something new when we get together after taking our Christmas break.)

It seems like every chapter of this book brings back a memory for me. The memory this chapter brought to mind is sad, but also humorous.

Over twenty years ago, my mother was terminally ill with untreatable colon cancer. The cancer was not treatable because it had already spread to all her vital organs before it was discovered. She got this diagnosis just before Thanksgiving of 1986 and passed away in June of 1987, just two weeks after her 49th birthday.

Following her diagnosis, we were all praying for her healing. Many people I was close to at the time had spiritual experiences about her healing. I was told by people I had a lot of confidence in that God had said it was His will for my mother to be healed and that she was not going to die.

Some had believed God had given them scriptures.

Others had dreams.

Others admonished our family that God could only heal her if we, the family, believed strongly enough (along with everyone else). In other words, we, the family, could mess up the healing by not having enough faith -- in spite of everyone else's faith. (This person meant well and is someone I've always loved. I'm just trying to portray the scenario as it was.)

One person said that at precisely 9:something or other in the morning on a certain day, God had told her "I have healed Jane. It's done."

Some made public statements (in testimonies) suggesting it would be the people's fault (sin in their lives) if Jane was not healed. This person talked about sins such as women cutting their hair or wearing make up, or the wrong kinds of clothing.

I would hear all of these things and then return to my mom's bedside to help care for her. She continued, despite all the miraculous experiences, to decline. It was very confusing to me.

I don't view physical death as failure on anyone's part to believe. Although He can, God does not physically heal every one of His children who is diagnosed with cancer. Death is a part of life. And even miracles are temporary. Even Lazarus, who was raised from the grave, ultimately died a physical death. I wondered if people's experiences were more a reflection of their own emotions (and love for my mom) than truly hearing from God. I did not see any evidence of these experiences being real (or from God). And I wanted the truth, not false reassurance.

So here is what I did. Because I grew up in a place where it was not uncommon for people to ask God for an answer by opening their Bible randomly and putting their finger on a scripture, I decided to do that. But before I did, I prayed a prayer that went something like this: Lord, a lot of people are telling me what you are saying. But their experiences are not enough for me. I accept your will, whatever it is, even though you know I long for my mother to be healed. I know you are able to heal her. That's not in question. But I also know you don't heal everyone and that the number of our years here are not of ultimate importance from your perspective. If all of these experiences are from you, would you please give ME something to confirm what you're giving to everyone else?

When I opened my Bible randomly and looked down at the page, I almost could not believe my eyes. My Bible fell open to the blank pages between the Old and New Testaments. I remember shaking my head and smiling.

Now, I could view that as God's silence. But I could also view it as an answer.

So many times we think God is silent because we are not getting the answers we seek, or the "feelings" we seek, etc. But God's silence can be our perception and not the reality.

I believe that God had begun a path of deliverance for my life long before I could ever envision it, let alone see it or "feel" it. The foundation He was laying for what He would do in my life MANY years later was as miraculous as the culmination of it.

Our walk with God is all about trust. Do we trust Him? Or are we continually seeking specific evidences to prove to us that He's there, that He's listening? I could see God in those blank pages many years ago. I didn't fully understand. Nor will I ever. But through every situation, He has taught me over and over again of His faithfulness and that I can trust Him.

I loved this quote from Chapter 15. A British convert named Jonathan Aitken said it this way: "Trusting in God does not, except in illusory religion, mean that he will ensure that none of the things you are afraid of will ever happen to you. On the contrary, it means that whatever you fear is quite likely to happen, but that with God's help it will in the end turn out to be nothing to be afraid of."

And to that I say, "Amen."


Anonymous said…
That is a very touching story and reminder of our need to trust in God instead of answers. I am always amazed how God continues to teach us more about Him years after we have experienced something. Silence is such an accurate description of how often we feel all alone in difficult times. Having faith that God is there can be challenging when we don't "feel" like he is there. Thanks for sharing your experience and how you have grown through God's gentle leading. Lots of love from Georgia!