Monday, October 7, 2013

Of Training Wheels and God's Silence

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. ~ Hebrews 11:1, AMP

We all want to be heard.  We all want to matter.  So when it seems as if we are utterly abandoned by God, our prayers and cries for help bouncing off the ceiling, it is easy to become completely discouraged.  Hope appears to be totally lost, never to return.

Whether we are a seasoned Christian or a teenager just coming to make our faith our own, we all battle with times like these.  I held a tearful child in my arms today, who wondered why it seemed as if prayers were unanswered, when her cries out to God were continual.  In my ministry role, I find myself comforting so many parents who wonder the same thing.

We find ourselves feeling just like our Savior in the moments before his death.  "At three o’clock Yeshua cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'" (Mark 15:34, NOG)

I have been there many times, and continue to visit that lonely place with more frequency than I would deem as "fair".  Nevertheless, I think these painful experiences help me speak with authority on the topic of pressing on when we feel abandoned.

Allow me to share with you what I told with my crying teenager regarding this agony.  Humans have felt this type of pain forever in this broken, sinful world.  From the time Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, man has suffered in his separation from his Maker.  St. John of the Cross, who lived in the 16th century, wrote his famous poem and treatise The Dark Night of the Soul about this experience of God's silence.  He learned that times of spiritual "dryness" or feeling isolated are actually a means to grow us in spiritual maturity.  And St. John of the Cross learned through many painful experiences in life, writing this classic when he was imprisoned by his own religious order for 9 months.

In my own simpler language, let me explain that I have come to learn that these times are much like God taking our "training wheels" off.  Our faith hasn't reached its fullness until we stand in that faith even when we don't sense God's presence, spiritual joy, or positive feedback from others.  Up until that point, we are operating on feelings rather than faith.  Any time we are stretched to such a new level of capacity, it is uncomfortable.  


Yet, we know that one of the names of our Lord is "El Roi" meaning "The God Who Sees".  Whether we can feel it or not El Roi is present and active, carrying out plans for our good and His glory.  No tear falls apart from His sight.  (Psalm 56:8)  God is also known as "My Shield".  (Psalms 3:3, 7:10, 18:2, 18:35, 59:11)  This means that as we suffer, we can be assured that everything we endure is "Father-filtered".  Nothing touches us without touching Him first.

These truths are breathtaking!  Pondering the fact that our Creator cares this much for us should leave us amazed.  I am especially fond of the Amplified Bible's translation of Hebrews 11:1.  As stated above it says,

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

Imagine that you hold the title, the piece of paper confirming that you already own what you hope for, even though you cannot see it with your eyes or feel it with your emotions!  What blessed reassurance!  When our hopes align with His desire for our good and His glory, we can be confident that those hopes are as good as fulfilled. 

Clinging to these truths about God, knowing they are immutable or unchangeable, is what keeps us steady when those training wheels come off.  Doing the next right thing and trusting the truth in what the Father tells us about who He is gives us endurance and perseverance in our own dark night of the soul.  That may mean scribbling what we know to be true on a notepad in our child's hospital room.  It may mean doing some "holy remembering" of all the things that the Lord has brought us through in the past.  Whatever the means, never stop reaching out to others, knowing that you are being drawn into a deeper level of intimacy with the One who really should be the greatest object of anyone's affection.

PRAY:  Jesus, even if I cannot feel You near, I will trust You when You assure me that You are always with me.  Holy Spirit, fill me with Your supernatural endurance and strength to get through these times of loneliness and spiritual dryness.  Help me to lean in to my dark night of the soul and grow in You, rather than abandoning my faith.

Footnotes:

  1. Hebrews 11:1 James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament.

Photo Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the perspective on the "dark night of the soul"! We're scared of the training wheels coming off. We want to soar. We have to risk to see how long and how far we've learned to fly! Thanks, Barb!

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