Scripture Reading: John 1:1-18
Silence can be a gift. This is especially true in our 21st-century world where i-Phones, YouTube, laptops, Zoom, television, radios and multiple other technological wonders fill our lives with noise. Though technology keeps us connected with others, it also can cause us to experience silence deprivation. I am referencing the kind of silence that we embrace because it quiets our spirits, calms our racing minds and enhances our ability to hear from God.
There is another form of silence, though, that we do not receive with gladness. It feels ominous, like the eerie quiet that precedes a major storm. Or long & boring like a night when we cannot drift off to sleep. It seems scary, heavy and depressing. This is the type of silence that the people of Israel knew in the four centuries between Malachi’s prophecies and Jesus’ birth.
God had previously been communicative with a consistent message through judges, prophets, kings and events. “I am your God and you are my people. Love me and others. Live ethical lives. Be a light to the world. Confess your sin, turn away from your idols and worship only me.” But then the words from God were replaced with a long and deafening silence.
Sometimes we also experience seasons of silence in our relationship with God. During such periods, our prayers do not seem to get further than the ceiling. No matter how carefully we listen, we do not hear from God. The Latin phrase for this kind of experience is Deus absconditus, meaning “the God who is hidden.”
Such silence can be a clue that we need to examine our hearts in search of obstacles that are preventing us from hearing God speak. After all, our journey with God takes twists and turns. We fall down; we walk straight; we lose our way; we are gung ho about our Christian journey; we waver in our focus; we are restored to right relationship with God. On those occasions when through prayerful reflection we discover aspects to our life that need to change, we do well to seek forgiveness and transformation — gifts God offers readily to each of us.
Silence is not always about our need for forgiveness and transformation, though. It can also be a signal that God is preparing to break into our lives in a significant way. Much like the darkness before the dawn or a deep sleep before we awaken, it may seem like nothing is happening. But in reality, during such periods God is getting ready to break the silence in ways that will both surprise and change us.
The ultimate example of this was when God sent Jesus Christ to earth. John’s Gospel states it very succinctly. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14) Talk about God breaking the silence! God spoke to the human race in a child . . . in the second person of the Trinity . . . in God the Son. The silence was broken as God spoke through the Christ Child, described by John’s Gospel as the Word with a capital W.
And God continues to break the silence today in the person of Jesus Christ. More than a man who walked and taught centuries ago, Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and lives in the hearts of his followers. He leads, inspires, empowers and encourages us. Even more, he makes right relationship with God possible. This reality is what gives us hope when we are in difficult circumstances and motivates us to do that which is good, right and honorable.
The next time you are in a season of silence in your relationship with God, consider that God may be preparing you to experience a major spiritual growth spurt in the near future. If that is the case, when the time is right, God will break the silence.
Sometimes, we welcome silence for a short time in our noisy world. But when God seems silent for an extended period, we struggle. What if we instead approach such silence expectantly, recognizing that it is a signal of God at work in our lives? Perhaps God is pricking our conscience about a change we need to make in our words and actions (or lack thereof). Or maybe we are being prepared for a huge breakthrough in our relationship with God.
The next time you are in a season when God seems to have gone silent, know this with certainty. God will break the silence. God did so when Jesus was born centuries ago and continues to do so today.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference