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Faith When God Is Silent

Finding Faith in the Dark by Laurie Short 9780310337119,Mother with baby outdoors. Happy family with newborn in summer

Trust, by its very nature, must overcome distance to build its bridge. And yet that distance, when it comes to God, can just as easily produce doubt. This seems to be a risk God is willing to take.

In my season of basking in the silence of God, my eyes caught a short psalm in the Bible I had never noticed before:

My heart is not proud, Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

I am like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.

– Psalm 131

I thought about the image of a weaned child, beginning to be taught to feed on his own, and what that process feels like for a child. What that process feels like for a mom. What it would be like if the weaning never happened.

Time magazine ran an article on “attachment parenting” in May 2012, which included a cover shot of a mom dressed in workout clothes, breastfeeding her three-year-old boy. The child was standing on a chair, while his mother stood next to him and nursed him. If it was going for shock value, Time succeeded, and I’m sure there were more than a few discussions around the water cooler concerning the “right” time to wean a child.

No matter what we believe about when to wean a child, I have never witnessed an adult breastfeeding. So I conclude that at one time or another, we have all been withheld from something we want by someone who loves us – which may be one way to understand how it works with God.

What does it look like when God weans us? Maybe more importantly, what does it feel like? When we feel God withholding, pulling back, or staying silent, we are tempted to cry out, “You don’t love me!” In fact, just the opposite may be true.

After my engagement broke off, I would wake from a blissful sleep and lie there looking at the ceiling, whispering a halfhearted prayer. “Why have you done this to me?” I felt abandoned, uncared for, and alone. It never really occurred to me to think about what God was feeling.

When a mother withholds something from her child, it pains her when her child believes she doesn’t love him. But because she does love her child, her greatest desire is that he grows. And so she is willing to deny her child and sacrifice his temporary affection for the growth he’ll experience for his future.

Could this be a microcosm of how God feels about us?

Author Philip Yancey says there are three questions we struggle with when we feel God’s distance and want or need him to be close. The questions are these: Why is God hidden? Why is God silent? Why is God unfair? At the root of our doubts, usually one of these three questions lurks.

As our souls are weaned, we are sometimes permitted to live in these questions for months and years at a time. Some handle it by embracing a lukewarm faith, relegating God to the category of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. You don’t want to give Him up altogether, but you no longer expect anything from Him. However, you still visit Him on holidays and in times of need.

Others divorce Him altogether.

And then there is a third choice. It’s the willingness to live in the disappointment and silence, waiting to see how God shows up. It may not happen the way we think it should or want it to, but it may be our first glimpse of the God who truly is.

Excerpted with permission from Finding Faith in the Dark by Laurie Short, copyright Zondervan, 2014.

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Your Turn

Are you struggling with disappointment and those lurking questions about God? What do you do when God is silent? Where are you in your relationship with God? Are you in the process of being uncomfortably weaned? Join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily