When We Suffer With A Silent God

Text: Psalm 22

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Perhaps one of the most difficult kinds of suffering is when we are alone. Being alone with suffering can lead to feelings of isolation, which can make suffering and struggles even worse.  It is easy to become overwhelmed without someone to listen or talk to.  Being alone in our suffering can also give us more time to ruminate on suffering – time goes slower when a person is alone.

Things are made even worse, though, when we feel as if God is supposedly silent when God seems completely absent.  This is exactly what David cries out in Psalm 22.  Listen again to what David says, 

God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere? Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing. I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.  And you! Are you indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise? We know you were there for our parents: they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life. And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,  something to step on, to squash. Everyone pokes fun at me; they make faces at me, they shake their heads: “Let’s see how GOD handles this one; since God likes him so much, let him help him!”  . . . When I left the womb you cradled me;  since the moment of birth you’ve been my God. Then you moved far away and trouble moved in next door. I need a neighbor. (paraphrase)

So, what can we conclude from all of this?  What conclusions can you come to when God does not speak to you in the midst of suffering?  What do we say when we feel like God is absent? In a word: nothing at all.  You and I cannot conclude anything at all.  We cannot discern anything at all from silence.  When God is silent, He is not saying no, He is not saying yes, and He is not saying maybe.  He is just not talking.  God doesn’t always talk, and He doesn’t have to.  Sometimes He remains silent.  

But we don’t like silence, do we?  We struggle when we don’t have answers.  Remember Job in the Old Testament?  He once said, 

I shout for help, God, and get nothing, no answer! . . . what did I do to deserve this?

Indeed, we don’t like silence, and we often demand answers.  And so, when God is silent, people will often speak for Him and attribute to God their own thoughts.  Tragically, this is why people are so spiritually abused during times of suffering.  You see, well-intentioned Christians who are uncomfortable with the silence of God will often fill the dead air with dead-meaningless-thoughts.  Thoughts like:

Here, here, God will never give you more than you can handle.

You may be going through a tough time; however, you just need to bloom where you are planted. 

Don’t worry, and don’t cry; it isn’t that bad.  Look at the bright side of things!

Obviously, these well-intentioned Christians don’t mean to blaspheme God with silly one-line phrases, but atheists do when they tell us,

Your God is silent because he is absent – he is dead. 

Martin Luther’s wife, Katherine, once saw Luther very discouraged and unresponsive. One day she dressed in black mourning clothes, along with all her children. Luther asked her why. She responded, 

[Martin] have you not heard that God is Dead? My husband, Martin Luther, would never be in such a state of mind if he had a living God to trust [in].” 

Luther then burst into a hearty laugh and said, 

Kate, you are a wise woman.  I have been acting as if God were dead, and I will do so no more.  Go and take off the black!

So, what does all this mean?  Does it mean that when God is silent, we must cheer ourselves up with a hearty laugh?  No, that is not what is being said.  When God is silent, three things are needed. 

First, if we are experiencing God’s distance or silence, it isn’t because God is absent or indifferent to you and me.  Even though King David and Job cried out to God in their time of great struggle, the Lord God was not playing hard to get.  God was not snoozing on the job.  He wasn’t asleep at the wheel.  Instead, this is how they felt at the time, not how things really were at the time.  In other words, when we feel forsaken by God, we are not forsaken.  We can’t be.  God promises us that He will neither forsake us nor leave us. We must not trust our feelings or let our circumstances draw unnecessary conclusions about God.  

Secondly, God is not silent because He is dead.  If He were dead, the tomb would still have a dead body in it.  The stone would not have been rolled away.  If we have a dead God, the disciples all lied, died a martyr's death for nothing, and we are fools to be pitied.  If Christ has not been raised from the dead – if He is a dead God – then our faith is futile, and all we are doing is wandering around in the dark with suffering – lost forever.   

Thirdly, people will often say that God talks to them, and they talk back to God.  While we never discount the Christian’s voice of faith expressed before God in prayer and groans, we must be very careful to understand that no still-small-voice of God comes to you and me from the dark caverns of our hearts.  That is to say; we must be careful with our inclination to collapse inward on our emotions and suffering when God is supposedly silent.  You see, when God is silent, we have this temptation to look inward through our emotions, suffering, and pain to find God’s voice within ourselves.  We look inward and try to look past all our pain and suffering to see a small spark of hope.  We look for a Word from God and cry out, 

“Why is God not speaking to me?”  

Dear friends, God is not presently speaking to you because He has already spoken to you.  He has spoken to you through His Holy Word.  In other words, when God is silent, you need a preacher.  

Baptized Saints, God has already spoken in His Word, and that Word is meant to be proclaimed into your minds, hearts, and lives daily – especially when you are suffering.  That is the reason why God sends His church pastors.  

You see, you and I cannot trust in a God that we have not heard of.   And we cannot hear about God unless somebody tells us about God.  And nobody is going to tell us about God unless they are sent to do so.   And that is the whole point.  God sends pastors to preach the Word of God into your silence so that you may have assurance, hope, and certainty.  

You and I do not need a new Word of God.  We do not need a new recipe for success.  We do not need pious empty slogans amid our suffering.  We do not need to sort through our emotions and pain to find a glimmer of hope.  We do not need to look under every layer of sin in our hearts to find a still, small voice of comfort.  No!  We need the Word of God to invade our silence through a preacher to tell us about Christ who never forsakes us and will never leave us and a Christ that will see us through our suffering – even suffering unto death – to the great resurrection.  We need a preacher not to tell us what God might do but what God has already done for you and me amid our suffering.  In the middle of silent suffering, you need to hear that nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between you and God’s love because of the way that Jesus your Master has embraced you through the cross and in your baptism.  You need to hear that even though your skin may sag and your bones may get brittle, the Lord God is firm for you and will see you through this vale of tears, through death, and unto the hope of the resurrection of your body - where everything will be made right again.

God is not dead.  He will never forsake.  And He is not silent.  He is alive. The tomb is empty.  You are baptized and joined to Christ forever.  And He has spoken His Word for you so that you may not despair and may not fear but endure to the end.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean