When God Is Silent

Text: Matthew 15:21-28

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We have all had those times in our lives where things feel out of control.  You know, those times where you find yourself out of a job.  Or those times where you have to move to a new town.  And there are even more difficult times; alcoholism wreaking havoc on a family, the news of adultery destroying marriage, the diagnosis of cancer, miscarriages, the death of a child, and the loss of a spouse.  Now, whether it is problems at work, the affects substance abuse, or the sting of death, all of these situations hit us like a ton of bricks.  They turn our worlds upside down.  We learn real quickly how fragile our lives are.  We learn how easily our lives can be thrown into turmoil.  We learn just how powerful sin is and how sin can grind down any sense of normalcy in our lives. 

When these tribulations of life come upon you, more often than not, you look for hope.  You begin to look for something to give you comfort – something that you can hang yourself upon to endure the storms of life. 

It does not take too many situations for you to realize, though, that there is not much out there to help you. 

Unemployment compensation helps but can’t replace a lost job.  Alcohol Anonymous helps curb the problems of alcoholism but doesn’t eliminate the thirst for the bottle.  Doctors prescribe medicine but many times do not have a cure, and so forth.  And so, you may find yourself like the woman in our Gospel reading today – at the end of your ropes.  Indeed, like the Canaanite woman in the Gospel reading from Matthew, you will find many times in life with nowhere else to turn, which is why many people return to the church when all hope is lost. 

But like the Canaanite woman in our Gospel reading, we are caught off guard when we are not met with comfortable and peaceful solutions to our problems in the Lord’s Church, but an icy silence of heaven.  We often come to the Lord in our troubles expecting either an immediate quick-fix or at least some sympathy, but we are never prepared to get what seems like an icy rejection from the Lord. 

You would think that Jesus would have embraced the woman in her distress, for she was croaking like a raven – shrieking for help.  But Jesus does the opposite. He seems to give her the cold shoulder.  He did not answer a word to the woman.  He remained at a distance from her as if He had a barrier between her and Himself. 

Dear friends, we have all experienced this reaction at one time or another.  You know, those times where we need the Lord the most, but it seems as if He is quiet and distant.  But why is it this way?  Why did Jesus give the Canaanite woman the silent treatment?   

The answer is quite profound.  Jesus is refining and strengthening the woman’s faith.  Yes, Jesus is driving her faith deep into her heart so that it becomes strong and firm.  In other words, Jesus was not displeased with the woman’s faith, and Jesus was not apathetic but was refining her faith with silence. 

The same thing is true for us.  When the Lord is most quiet or when He seems to become silent as a stone to you, this can cause great distress.  As a result, you and I imagine that the Lord is distant or angry.  Furthermore, it may seem that the Lord conceals His grace and help.  And what is even more troubling is that during times like this the devil tempts us to despair, whispering into our ears,

“See the Lord does not care for you.  He probably can’t hear your cry for mercy. He probably is even happy to see you suffer.” 

Contrary to what we may feel, though, the Lord is not trying to give the devil a free pass to spew forth his deceptive lies, but rather, the Lord is strengthening our faith by allowing us to come to the end of ourselves so that all we are left with is the promises of the Word.

Dear friends, keep in mind that the nature of faith is the ongoing awareness of our terrible sin condition – understanding our unworthiness, weakness, and frailty before God and this world.  Faith also is an awareness of the salvation that God freely gives to us on account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  That is to say; faith knows that we are great sinners, while at the same time knows that we have a greater Savior. 

And so to strengthen faith, the Lord must bring us to the end of ourselves, often through silence so that when we look around, we will see nothing that we can cling to.  In the silence, we won’t even see the Lord as a quick-fix solution – someone that we can just use to fix our problems and then discard when we are done.  But instead, amid the silence with nothing to cling to, this faith remembers the promises of Christ in His Word. 

Now, we must keep in mind that when the hardships and tribulations are the worst, it will be very difficult for you, just as it was for the Canaanite woman.  However, when the going is tough, and your faith is tried, it is in these times that this faith in Christ shines the brightest through you. Yes, in the great struggles, there is only one thing to do, and that is for this faith to cling to Jesus all the tighter. To hold to Jesus and say: 

“Jesus, whether I feel close or far from you, I will not leave you or doubt that you love me.  You are my only help.  You are my only hope.  You are my only rock.  On You, I will rely because You went to the cross for me, and you died so that I might belong to you forever.  To You alone, then, I will cling.  Do with me as You will, for I know that I am Yours in good times and bad times.  I am with you in life and death for your promised to never leave me or forsake me.”

After the time of testing is done, and after your faith has been strengthened, you will then begin to learn that it was part of the Lord’s care for you all along.  Indeed, you will learn that through the struggle you were strengthened in the faith by learning to rely a little more on Jesus and His Word of promise. 

But once the struggle is gone, is it gone for good?  I’m afraid not.  You see, the Canaanite woman in our text is a picture of Christ’s Church.  She is a picture of the Church living by faith – always crying out, always trusting, and always being refined and strengthened by Jesus. The Canaanite woman is a picture of you and me coming to this sanctuary every Sunday confessing that we are poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deeds, yet still boldly rising and coming before this altar to receive sips of wine and pieces of bread – the body and blood of the Lord.  The Canaanite woman is a picture of us coming to the throne of grace in faith with all our suffering and all our trials.   

This is the great struggle of faith dear Baptized Saints.  Faith does only one thing, it clings to Jesus and His Word and Sacraments, in spite of everything around us and in spite of our feelings and circumstances.  Faith hangs tightly to Jesus who loved us all the way to the Cross and the Empty Grave.

So remember this day, dear Baptized Saints that as Christ’s church you and I are always crying out to the Lord by faith.  We are always trusting.  Our faith is always being put to the test to be strengthened.  Again and again, the Lord strengthens our faith all the days of our journey until at last, we reach our heavenly home.   

So, when the world throws its worst at you, by faith, we cry out with the whole Church of heaven and earth,

“I take comfort in you Christ.  I am sure and certain that you will not fail me.  Your will be done.”

And when silence comes upon us in the time of struggles, we cling all the more to the Lord’s promised Word and Sacraments saying,

“I take comfort in you Christ.  I am sure and certain that you will not fail me.  Your will be done.”

This is faith – faith that clings to Jesus.  Faith that is continually strengthened and refined to call upon Jesus and rest in Him regardless of the circumstances.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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