December 8, 2013

Silence and Solitude


1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel

(Psalm 22:1‑3 ESV).

 At those times when God is silent, when He lets us struggle and leaves our questions unanswered, we should humbly and patiently submit to the solitude that His silence imposes on us. Solitude is not some evil circumstance to be avoided at all costs. It is God's will that we be alone sometimes, wrapped within a silence unbroken by even God’s word.

Job, for example, found himself in the middle of events that he didn't understand. Not only did he not understand them, the outward appearance of these events was such as to call God's goodness and justice into question. From the information given to us by the scriptural account, we know what was going on “behind the scenes,” and we can see that nothing inconsistent with either God's goodness or God’s justice was allowed to happen. In fact, the ordeal Job was called upon to endure was the result of God's gracious confidence that Job was one of God’s most faithful people (Job 1:6-22). But none of this was explained to Job himself. It simply looked like a hostile “attack” by God, an attack all the more hurtful because God wouldn't answer his questions about it. And in the grip of such a situation, Job found that the help of even his best‑intentioned friends only made the pain more perplexing. The lessons to be learned during the time of God's silence could only be learned in solitude. For a time, Job had to be left alone.

Even Jesus Christ, who well knew why His suffering was necessary, still had to endure the “abandonment” of God. Mark writes that “at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Mark 15:34). At that moment, neither the company nor the counsel of earthly friends would have been fitting. When it is God's purpose to surround our suffering with God’s silence, it is foolish to break the silence with the chatter of human conversation.

 “The silence of God must be met with the wisdom of solitude.”

Paul Ciholas