Entering into the silence of God
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
I have always been impressed with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21–28. How could this woman face the silence of Jesus when her need was so great? How could she stand firm while the living God was standing right in front of her? She could touch Him. She knew He had the power and authority to heal her daughter because she calls Him Lord and addresses Him as “Son of David.” Yet, Jesus remains silent.
What is extraordinary is how this unknown hero of the faith pushes into the silence. She ignores the words of the disciples. She forsakes the wisdom of humankind and pushes into the abyss of silence.… Without fear and with courage she looks behind the silence. Helmut Thielecke says, “The silence of God and of Jesus is not one of indifference. It is the silence of higher thoughts.”
The greatest silence in the history of humankind took place on Golgotha when God the Father remained silent as His Son cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words echoed and reverberated through the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys that surrounded Jerusalem. Slowly fading into deeper silence. But God lay hidden behind the silence, planning the demise of Satan, overcoming the inability of the Temple to forgive sin, and designing a plan to conquer sin and provide a way for humankind to know God personally. God raised His Son to life. A feat He planned to repeat for everyone who calls on the name of His Son.
Somehow, with eyes of faith, this Canaanite woman sees this God behind the silence as her only hope. She risks everything and pushes into the silence of God. She is rewarded. Her daughter is healed.
A pause for reflection
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God … My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:1–3 NIV)
Here is someone who is hungering for a word from God. He alludes to a difficult time, a season where he has been calling out to God in the midst of pain, grief, or confusion. From all angles, it appears as if God is silent to his cries. So much so that those around him say, “Where is this God of yours that you pray to?” But notice what he goes on to write—words that read as if they were transcribed from the most reflective of journals:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God … My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.” (Psalm 42:5–6 NIV)
The psalmist comes to see that there is no silence—there’s just an answer coming from God that’s deeper than words. God is present, and speaking, but what He’s saying isn’t resting on the surface waters of life.
When I was nineteen years old and in college, I was invited to a weekend party at a nearby university. My friend, Phil, was going, and encouraged me to come along. He said that there would be five of us in the car, but there would be room. I wanted to go, and tried to make it happen, but couldn’t.
They left without me on a Friday afternoon. Two days later, as they returned to campus, a car from the opposite flow of traffic crossed the dividing line, became airborne, and landed headfirst into their car. All four were killed instantly.
I first heard the news late that Sunday night. I left my dorm, walked over to the nearby athletic complex, hopped a locked fence, and sat in the empty football stadium under a moonlit sky. I grieved for my friend; I thought of the brevity of life, and how close I had come to being killed. I remember crying out to God to help me sort it all out, to make sense of it all. To talk to me … to say something … anything!
In truth, it was one of the deepest conversations we had ever had. He was speaking to me, moving within me, communing and communicating with me on levels that had never been opened to Him before. It was the start of many conversations—some even more traumatic.
Within four months I became a Christian. It is of paramount importance to consider that it’s not silence we’re encountering, but a pregnant pause; a prompting to engage in personal reflection so that the deepest of answers, the most profound of responses, can be given—and heard.
—James Emory White
God suffers with us, feels every anguish, knows every doubt. Being infinite does not mean merely infinitely large, but infinitely small as well, so that he understands and experiences our silence, our pain, with us, not just in a theoretical way, but deeply and completely. Sometimes in our suffering, in the midst of silence we have the wind knocked out of us, and there is nothing left to pray with. God knows this, and you can be sure that he is at that moment praying for you.
Cultivating vintage faith
The world of today is a fast-paced world, where everything has been sped up and continues to be speeded up with each year that passes. You live in a fast-food world, a world where more and more emphasis is placed on acquiring things quickly, and there is less emphasis on the quality of things. People are becoming used to everything happening more quickly, taking much less time.
At the drop of a coin a machine spits out a drink, or at a fast-food counter a meal is served in minutes. Once upon a time, people spent a very long time building their houses and acquiring the money to do so, whereas in the world of today, houses are thrown up at a breakneck speed.
People expect to work less and to acquire more and have more leisure. People can instant message and send e-mail or large amounts of data around the world in seconds, or travel to the other side of the world in a matter of hours.
This speeding up of the pace of life has changed people’s expectations of what is normal or acceptable. It can lead to heightened expectations on the spiritual front as well—expectations for instant answers to prayer and spiritual manifestations to occur upon demand.
I know the nature of man, and I know what is needed to bring about true spiritual maturity and depth, so that your faith will be properly cultivated and aged, like a rare and valued vintage wine. In today’s world the expectations are such that when you pray, believing that you receive it, you shall instantaneously have it. And yet that was not My original intent when I gave that promise to My disciples.
There are times when I do bring answers to prayer instantaneously, but there are also many times when I expect you to allow for the wine of your faith to mature and develop and to reach the fullness of its flavor.
Throughout the centuries My people of faith have been tested and tried through not receiving immediate answers to their prayers. They waited thousands of years for Me, their Messiah, and prayed and pleaded with God to send Me. Yet He could not send Me until the timing was exactly right‚ when all was aligned, world conditions were right, the hearts of men were prepared, the government of the world was what it needed to be in order for My Word to spread and My followers to survive. So many conditions had to be just right, even though so many clamored earnestly for years on end for My coming. Then, after I came, many of those same people rejected Me outright, because the answer to their prayer did not come in the packaging they had hoped for—that of a king of earthly Israel.
You have need of patience, that after you have performed My will, you might receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:36) Patience is not an easy virtue to cultivate, and in fact, it goes entirely against the modern way of the world, which is all about speed, “right now,” and quick answers and instant results. But even though you live in the world, you are not of this world, and the spiritual dynamics have not changed—patience takes faith, and faith is the cornerstone of your lives for Me.
You will continue to experience answers to prayer when I know it is best. But you will also continue to experience the tests‚ trials, and challenges of life that arise when I appear to be in silent mode and My answers do not come immediately. And this trying of your faith will work patience, which is a very important facet of faith.
Faith isn’t manifested only when you receive immediate answers to prayer; it is also manifested in endurance, longsuffering, and the patience to keep on persevering in the faith even when you don’t receive a response or see action as a result of your prayers. Let patience have her perfect work, so that your faith can be whole, and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:4)
Remember, faith takes patience, and patience is the mark of a vintage faith‚ one that has been deepened and ripened and is mature, rich, and full-bodied.
—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
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