Editor’s note: Diane Comer prayed for God to save her hearing, to heal her. God said no. Diane knows the spiritual rattling that can come from disappointment and loss. And she knows the depth of joy that comes from intimately trusting in Jesus. We hope you are encouraged by this excerpt of her new book He Speaks in the Silence.
After being rejected as a candidate for an implant, I lived mostly inside my head, the strain of trying to make sense of what people were saying too difficult to keep up for more than a few minutes. Unable to enter the stream of human conversation, I longed more than ever to listen and talk and ask questions and disagree. I wanted to debate, to probe. I desperately wanted to enter into that unique fellowship of shared humor, to see the twinkle in another’s eye and know why it was there.
I vividly remember the ache of not being able to call my daughter, then in her last year of college. I knew I was missing out on the delicious details of my girl’s adventure. No one tried harder than Bekah to let me into her life, but the thick barrier of sounds that didn’t make sense kept me from knowing what every mother wants to know, those secrets that leak out in unguarded moments. It’s hard to catch those when every word must be articulated at full volume, then clarified using synonyms if I couldn’t get it the first time. Not exactly an atmosphere that fostered intimacy.
I was lonely.
And yet, God was there — the One who stood by my side when the loneliness of my deafness isolated me from all others. His voice became clearer every day. A seventeenth century monk, Brother Lawrence, best expressed how I felt:
“When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself.”1
God continued to invite me into a continual conversation with Himself. He drew me so near that I could virtually see the twinkle in His eye, catch His humor in shared delights.
Dallas Willard wrote, “Learning to hear God is much more about becoming comfortable in a continuing conversation and learning to constantly lean on the goodness and love of God, than it is about turning God into an ATM for advice, or treating the Bible as a crystal ball.”2
Yes! In my alienation from human conversation, I was becoming more and more comfortable in that continuing conversation with the One who calls Himself Logos, the Word. This, as Brother Lawrence put it, is the key to practicing the presence of God — that moment-by-moment awareness that invites His kingdom into real time rather than relegating worship to the occasional tryst. In my loneliness, God was continuing to draw me into an intimacy with Him I had never known possible.
Could it be that God invites every one of us into that kind of intimacy?
My husband and son started a church that year. An offshoot of the church where Phil was on staff, Solid Rock was launched on Easter Sunday with a core team of one hundred and fifty people to help us get started. I itched to jump in and wrap myself around our people, longed to know each and every person who graced us with their presence. And I tried. But there’s not a lot a woman can do when she can barely limp through even the most elementary of conversations.
So I walked the suburban neighborhoods near my house and simply talked to God about our venture. Up and down the hills, I passed houses and prayed. For blessing, for spiritual hunger, for desire to know God.
And I listened. Sometimes, as I was walking by a particular house, I sensed a sort of intensity of need. So I’d walk a little slower, pouring out petitions, syncing my heart with God’s. I was propelled by the uncanny sense that what I was doing was vital. That my listening and my asking were somehow unlocking doors the enemy had fastened tight. One day, I stumbled on a story in the book of Daniel that convinced me I was right.
Daniel lived in desolate times. He was alone in his faith, or nearly so. Surrounded by people who neither knew God nor wanted Him, Daniel’s heart ached with a burden to see God move. In his aloneness, Daniel cried out to God over and over for these people.
“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”3
And God heard! While Daniel was praying and pleading for his people, undoubtedly wondering why God seemed silent, a war was raging in that unseen world the Bible refers to simply as the “heavenly realms.”4 For three full weeks, as Daniel prayed, an unnamed angel wrestled for control of that region against “the prince of the Persian kingdom.”5 Somehow, Daniel’s prayers summoned the help of Michael, God’s top agent, and the two angels asserted the power of God to put an end to the strangle-hold the evil one held over that area.6
As I walked and listened and asked God to lift the stranglehold that has kept the Pacific Northwest one of the most unchurched regions of America, I began to get a growing sense that my contribution to our church plant might well be mysteriously embedded in these rambling walks. As a nearly deaf woman, I couldn’t do much, but I could talk to the One who is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”7
So I did. For hours and hours and hours, I prayed my way past households of people I knew needed Jesus.
The church that started with a relatively small nucleus of worshipers now welcomes thousands every week. Traffic jams the road leading to the warehouse-turned-holy place where we hold services. Everywhere we go, we run into people who recognize Phil and eagerly share their stories of life-changing redemption.
How could I have doubted that God was using me in the obscurity of my silence? How could I have believed my disability made me inept for ministry?
I wonder sometimes while I’m listening to yet another story of someone inexplicably drawn to our church and subsequently to Jesus — what if I hadn’t? What if I hadn’t listened to that voice urging me out the door to slog through Oregon rain?
On Friday nights, I watched from the back wall of the church as my son’s teaching helped turn over a thousand college-age people into passionate followers of Jesus. And as I leaned against the cold concrete, wishing I could understand what John Mark was saying,
God’s presence again enfolded me and assured me of my worth.
I knew I was needed — not for what I could do but for how I could pray.
My eyes scanning the backs of shaved and tattooed and bleached and dreadlocked heads, I asked God to open their hearts to hear. Watching the worship, seeing the way they leaned in to listen to the words my son was teaching, I listened to that voice and let Him lead me in how to pray. I knew parents were praying, could imagine a grandmother’s prayers luring her offspring to this very spot. I felt as if I was partnering with people I didn’t know in asking for His mercy to flood this place.
Could this be why I had failed the test?
Even as I was warmed by the sight of so many young men and women making the courageous choice to let go of the comfortable and go after God with abandon, I questioned my fear of cochlear surgery.
I wanted to hear my son. I wanted to embrace these people, to enter into their stories, to talk and listen and be a part of this family. And I wanted to hear my own family.
Remembering that Thanksgiving table — the dreadful sense of isolation, of being out of the loop, unable to experience the joy of relationship — I decided then and there to take whatever risks were required to get back into the circle of friendship and fellowship and family.
Watching was no longer enough. I wanted to hear again, and I’d do anything to be sure I could.
- Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 14.
- Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, 10.
- Daniel 9:17-19.
- Ephesians 2:6.
- Daniel 10:13.
- Daniel 10:20-11:1.
- Ephesians 3:20 NASB.
Excerpted with permission from He Speaks in the Silence by Diane Comer, copyright Diane Comer.
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If you’re in a place of loneliness today, lean into Jesus. He is there for you. In the silence. Use this time to pray and listen. Pray beyond your normal prayers. See what God does! Come share your thoughts on the blessings of isolation and loneliness on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily