My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, Psalm 109:1
There are times when my faith is challenged by what feels like God’s silence. All the the things I believe about Him, in those times, require confidence that I am not simply living by my own constructed narrative. Beyond just those doubts about His activity and even reality, there comes the thought that if all those things are in fact true, He has chosen to ignore my e-mails, so to speak. Much like asking someone out on a date or reaching out to someone with whom I don’t yet really have a relationship, those people are justified and quite reasonable in saying “no”. While a non-response feels a little rude, and simply a response of “Thanks but I have to decline” would at least feel more respectful, I know I’m not entitled to a personalized celebrity response.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matt. 7:9-11
Ellie really wants a bunny for Christmas. I really want her to always have what she wants because in some ways, she doesn’t really doesn’t ask for much. But we’re not getting a bunny. We don’t even pay enough attention to our dog. We don’t have space for a rabbit nor time and resources for even the basic care of another creature in our home. So, I have tried to be as straight forward with Ellie as possible to let her know she isn’t getting one, as much as I want to be enthusiastic about the things that excite her, I don’t want her to be expecting that on Christmas and feel misled in her hopes. If I then, “though I am evil, know how to give good gifts” to my children, in this case by being clear with her about the no answer, I lately have wished God could steward my hopes by simply telling me “Thanks so much for asking but I have to decline at this time.” The silence, often, diminishes my dignity more than the “no”.
Why is that? It certainly has to be true for the homeless beggars who people avoid acknowledging rather than just saying no. And perhaps even without a specific request being made, being seen acknowledges not only dignity but substance and sometimes worthwhile complexity. Being looked right through or ignored altogether dehumanizes. I see that in my neighborhood, or probably more so with my neighbors as they navigate other neighborhoods and public places. Even the show Parenthood used, “I see you and I hear you” as the focus of one episode as a necessary tool to creating a healthy relationship.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,“let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Psalm 22:1-8
And then I am reminded that the very One about whom God said, “This is my beloved Son, with Him I am well pleased”, felt the silence of the Father and the shame of His own temporary position. Yet glory was at work even then, redemption was in full action, restoration was imminent. The truth of the moment was not evident, but was true nonetheless.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deut. 31:8