Wednesday, January 8, 2020

City Notes '20 | He Speaks in the Silence: The Fear & the Fury & the Beautiful No

"He had failed me. Failed to love me enough. Failed to take care of me. Failed to keep those time-worn promises of the good, blessing-filled wonderful life He owed me. ... He didn't care and neither would I." + Diane Comer

To begin 2020's set of City Notes, I couldn't think of a better story than the woman, wife, and young mother of three who prayed for God to heal her sudden deafness brought on in her 20s ... and He said, "No."

Seems a bit stark, doesn't it? But God has said, "No," to me a lot these past few years. Perhaps He has done the same to you to requests we think would be really good for Him to say, "Yes" to instead. And if you're like me, you're continuing to learn how to trust Him with these answers because we've heard He is the only One who is completely good, beautiful, and true, so somehow He must know something we don't. And I'm also learning there is much I don't know anyways.

Through Diane's story, God has shared a bit more of such things I don't know, and so I'm grateful to be able to now share some of her story with you. If what you read from her own words resonates with you, I encourage you to pick up and read more of her story in He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy with God by Learning to Listen.

"The Fear and the Fury ... and The Beautiful No" excerpt adapted from Diane Comer's He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy with God by Learning to Listen

As C.S. Lewis watched his wife die, he wrote these words:

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away (A Grief Observed).

Like Lewis, I felt as though a door had slammed in my face with the sound of bolting and double bolting on God's side. I was not alone in my sense that God was silent to my tantrums. 

1) Job heard the same nothingness: "I must express my anguish. My bitter soul must complain ... I hate my life ... I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. I will say to God ... why do You reject me ... ?" (Job 7:11, 16; 10:1-3, NLT)  
2) Naomi heard the same nothingness: "Don't call me Naomi," she responded. "Instead, call me Mara, (bitter) for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?" (Ruth 1:20-21, NLT)  
3) David heard the same nothingness: "Do not abandon me, O LORD. Do not stand at a distance, my God. Come quickly to help me, O LORD my Savior." "Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You are silent, I might as well give up and die." (Psalm 38:21-22, NLT) 

As I read the Bible, every sentence seemed to confirm my suspicions — that God was not nice. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, I encountered Jesus as an outspoken confronter of hypocrisy. But instead of seeing the truth in what He was saying, all I noticed was His not-niceness. He seemed harsh, even mean. People asked Him questions and He responded by pinning them to the wall. That bothered me. He bothered me, grating on my polite sensibilities of the right way to conduct relationships. He rescued some and not others. Spoke kindly to a few and blasted many. Healed randomly without much more than a caveat to keep quiet about it. It didn't take long for me conclude that God was not, and never had been, good.

In one grand display of incensed wrath, I lifted my Bible off my lap and threw it across the deck. The big, black, leather-bound book bounced at least once, then landed helter-skelter, ripped pages flapping in the wind. I was so mad, filled with the need to hurt Him for not helping me. I sat there for a long time, looking at my abused Bible, my heart pounding, breaking, slipping away from all I thought I'd believed. What would He do to me now? Despair crept in, taking up residence where faith had once ruled. In that moment, I realized that I hated Him. I loathed the One I read about in the Gospel stories He Himself had sanctioned.

He had failed me.

Failed to love me enough. Failed to take care of me. Failed to keep those time-worn promises of the good, blessing-filled, wonderful life He owed me. This Jesus was not worthy of my love. I would sacrifice and struggle no more. Not for Him.

He didn't care and neither would I. ...

Already naturally introverted, I now became a recluse. The thought of being with people who might see the churning mess inside me was terrifying. I was afraid they would see the truth, that I was an angry, rebellious, blasphemous sinner. I wrapped myself in a cloak of self-pity and shut everyone out. ...

Until my husband and the elders came together to anoint me and pray for me. The ancient custom is referred to in James (i.e. 5:13-16, NLT), the beauty of the symbolism between oil and the Spirit, of healing of the body and hope for the soul. Each of these spiritual leaders had been here before, reliant on God to do what they could not, watching and waiting with a hurting one. ... 

With these friends who cared so deeply pouring out their heart-felt petitions for my healing, I couldn't hold back my tears. I didn't politely cry — I sobbed. For me, for my future, for my fears and failures and the foulness that was threatening to undo me. I wept as I had never wept before, soaking my blouse with my tears, pleading with God to hear these men, to do for them what He hadn't done for me. With one last desperate effort, my soul begged God to hear me, to heal me.

Oh, God, help me!

When I couldn't help myself, when I couldn't be strong or good or right, when I couldn't find a foolproof set of rules to follow, a plea of naked dependence was all I could manage.

And in that moment, something shifted. 

Not in me; I sat in a pathetic heap, huddled over myself, knees drawn in, face in my lap. But I sensed the darkness dissipating, as if clouds were being rolled back. Like on a stormy day when suddenly streams of light break through black clouds. Now light peeked through, gaining brilliance until it streamed over me — a light so radiant it caused that dingy room and those fervent men to fade away. ...

I was terrified. At the same time, I was filled with the strangest sense of safety. Afraid, yet not threatened. The essence of His presence surrounded me with such unearthly power that it frightened me out of all my fears. ...

That voice. I knew who it was, and I heard what He was saying. Just two words. Two words and my name.

It's okay! It's okay, Diane, it's okay ... 

I knew without the slightest tinge of doubt what He was telling me: He would not heal my hearing. He would not intervene and do what I wanted. He would not give me what I'd begged for. He would not say yet to our our prayers. His answer was no. 

And in that no, a strange flood of hope filled me. Somehow, in some way I could not begin to understand, He made it okay. How could the word I dreaded most sound so loving and gentle? How was it that all my horror of deafness was swallowed up in that irrevocable NO? ... 

The next morning, the words from the ascribed Psalm for the day shook my fully awake: 

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that You have made me listen, I finally understand ... (Psalm 40:1-6, NLT)

I am here and I want you to listen to Me. I am giving you a gift. I am going to teach you to hear. But first you are going to have to learn to listen.

Next post: 
City Notes '20 | He Speaks in the Silence: Where the Rubber Meets the Road ... Treasures in the Darkness

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Soli Jesu gloria.

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

Email Pastor Mike | Website | Visit Us | Support Us | Facebook Us

No comments:

Post a Comment