New: When God Seems Silent

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 1.

 I have not lost hope though I have lost the ability to hear God. Whether God is silent, which I doubt, or whether the pain throbs too loudly in my heart’s chamber to hear, I don’t know.

What my family is experiencing is not suffering. Life is hard and this distinction is important to me. There is true suffering going on in the world.  This is not that.

 2.

There are people who I like to call Shiny Happy Christians. I don’t understand them in any way, except to say they must not have not experienced real pain. Not yet. I’m uncomfortable around them, but I don’t blame them. Pain and suffering in this life is random I believe.

The randomness of pain is poignant when you are the one experiencing its sting.

3.

Life is misery, life is joy.

For much of my life I thought: “If I was better child. If I were pure of heart” then my father would be less angry and controlling. And my mother would come alive again. And perhaps I would feel less of the constant melancholy that clouded my days. But my actions, my heart, my prayers, my understanding of the Bible seemed to change nothing in my mother or father and the melancholy hovered, always.

My faith became ritual. I began to doubt God. I never thought, in my teen years, WHY was our family so sad, and angry, and afraid, and dangerous? Rather, I supposed that I must deserve this pain somehow.

Oddly, this ache drew me to God, the “Man of Sorrows,” hoping surely God would take my hand and lead me through the darkest valleys of my melancholy heart.

In college my depression worsened to the point of hardly holding on to learning. My father’s disappointment in me increased. The panic and dread I experienced when I was with him made me constantly sick to my stomach.

He took control of my life, as he had each step of it, including attending college. It was not that I didn’t want to learn but the cloud that had hung over me for most of my life was bleak and heavy.  It made college nearly impossible.

My father had always controlled my outcomes. I wasn’t in control and by the looks of it neither was God. All those year, my Dad didn’t change from the raging and controlling man he was at home. No matter how often I prayed.

 4.

From Tim Keller, I see with total clarity that the Bible, which I have always loved and studied, has suffering as a main theme. I hadn’t seen this though in certain books I have found solace. The Psalms has offered prayers when I had no words.  Ecclesiastes is empathetic.  Job holds truth.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms. 34:18

 The great truth which I am clinging to today is that even in Job, his sufferings were not punitive.  As Keller wrote the purpose of Job’s suffering is an “enlarged life with God.”

Though God is silent these days, I find it is more important than ever to read the people of God who lead us into greater understanding in our faith, Keller being one.  Beyond that, I sit in silence no matter how uncomfortable.

I have found fifteen minutes breathing in and out, and in and out, again.  This supports a quieting of my mind.  Perhaps you like me have thoughts  that clutter up your head and worries push their way in. Allowing yourself just fifteen minutes of quiet is a stunning exercise.

In the in breath ask God to SPEAK.  In the out breath, release your doubts and fears. Let yourself be there.

To me this is prayer.   This is clinging.  This is dependence.  This is hope.

Even when God seems silent.

P.S.

My Psychiatrist and I have cut my antidepressant dose in half. It has taken about a two weeks and I already feel emotions. Although they are not all positive emotions, at least they are feelings. And I can focus enough to read!  I am reading Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. I’ll be writing my way through the personal insights I gain from this book in the next few weeks.

{On Listening for God in the Midst of the Din}

I’ve lived with what I’ll call spiritual insecurity for most of my life, a fear that I don’t know how to hear God.  At some points my younger self thought that I didn’t know God.  Hadn’t given my heart, surrendered fully, perhaps I didn’t even know this creator God, this Jesus who died — for me, and you, who lives.  It was a grave spiritual insecurity you see, as I have wrestled with idea that this faith walk I’m on

isn’t real.

Some might call it lack of faith and that is what I feared for many years.  But that is not the case. I know that now.  I fully believe that God is, was and always will be.  (Except for those day trips into disbelief, no they don’t help.  But mostly they are kept at bay.)

This spiritual insecurity is something else entirely.  I fear that I cannot hear God, that most of my spiritual nudging are at worst something I’ve imagined and at best me being smart.  Or even if I am inspired in some spiritual way, I fear that it is not the Holy One speaking.  Simply something I’ve conjured up to comfort myself.

It has been a cry of my heart, for as long as I can remember — I want to know (for sure) that I hear God.

I recently found a spiritual director.  I am amazed by what I have learned already from this woman. Firstly being with her, I have felt affirmed.

She said: “You are “different” and this is okay.”  Pieces of myself clicked into place in my soul when she said that.  “Some people are a Stradivarius and others are banjos.”  We had only just met, so I surely didn’t have the courage to ask?

Which one am I? Though I wondered.

I’m okay with being a Banjo.  Who’s judging?  But I think I know what she meant.

(I only think you see, because that’s one thing about spiritual directors. They do not spell out the answers. Answers must be discovered yourself, that’s kind of the point you see. Learn to listen, to trust yourself.  Discover it all for yourself.  Sheesh, this isn’t easy let me tell you.  But I believe it will be worth it.)

Anyway, she meant you are not like most people.

I don’t face my days in the same way — for me, life is a frequent drumming lament, a heart crying.

I am an artist, I think hard and long about the oddest things. All of which cause me to agonize over every aspect of life, its meaning and importance.  With this new understanding, all of a sudden more forgiving of myself for all the time that dissipates and is “lost”, that seems to vaporize from my day

as I sit  pondering the imponderable. And I seem to

imagine, absorb and ache, contemplating everything.  And this, this way that I am, that God made me to be,

is good.

It can be strange for others that I’m so intense but it needs to be okay with me, being this way.  Firstly, I accept it.  Secondly, I learn to love myself.  Thirdly, I learn to listen.  This is where I will find myself and find my God, ruminating late into the night, and losing sleep.

Living a sigh.

I am undone by many things, even

a poem such as this.  For I am a listener and I long to listen well.  I am learning that the din doesn’t have to undo me, but when it does I must listen.

And so, for today I’ll just leave you to this…

The Din Undoes Us by Walter Brueggemann.

Our lives are occupied territory…
occupied by a cacophony of voices,
and the din outdoes us.

In the daytime we have no time to listen,
beset as we are by anxiety and goals
and assignments and work,
and in the night the voices are so confusing
we can hardly sort out what could possibly be your voice
from the voice of our mothers and our fathers
our best friends and our pet projects,
because they all sound so much like you.

We are people over whom that word shema has been written.
We are listeners, but we do not listen well.

So we bid you, by the time the sun goes down today
or by the time the sun comes up tomorrow,
by night or by day,
that you will speak to us in ways that we can hear
out beyond ourselves.

It is your speech to us that carries us where we have never been,
and it is your speech to us that is our only hope.
So give us ears.

Amen.

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann.