The God of Silence
What does God’s love feel like? Is it warm and fuzzy? In opening our hearts to let God love us, do we experience pleasant sensations, like an encouraging embrace?
I don’t think so.
We are creatures of flesh and what we understand most easily are physical sensations. If something feels good, then we are inclined to do it. If something is painful, then we tend to avoid it. Although the knowledge/experience of divine love is so deeply wonderful that we desire it always once we know/experience it, getting to that place, coming to that state of being where we are peacefully joyful in God’s love… well, that isn’t always a pleasant journey. In fact, I would venture to say that opening ourselves up to let God love us is hardly ever a pleasant journey.
But, oh, what a destination.
God’s invitation to receive the endless bounty of His love is an invitation to walk through fire. Like in the song, Holy Darkness, God declares to us:
“I have tried you in fires of affliction; I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness, there I will plant my seed.
I have taught you the price of compassion; you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem like a raging storm, this is the love that saves.”
This is the love that saves us from failing as human beings. This is the love that heals the soul, brightens the mind, satisfies the heart, leads the will to eternal destiny, and emboldens loving action. But, it cannot be known through the surface things of the world. We cannot see God’s love with our eyes, hear it with our ears, smell it, taste it, or touch it with our skins. We don’t physically sense Divine love, but we can know/experience what it does. God’s love, agape, transforms burdens into blessings, difficulties into opportunities, disappointments into fulfillment, sorrows into joys, and death into life. If only we would let God love us…
It is this “letting” that is the most trying and painful part of salvation. How are we to receive God’s love? Christ’s human arms are opened widest to Divine Love when they are stretched apart and nailed to the Cross. “Take up your cross and follow me,” he tells us.
Those moments in our lives when we are suffering in the world, when we feel that God has abandoned us – those are the times that we are being crucified with Christ.
Will we fight these moments of suffering and receive nothing from them, nothing but frustration, anger, agony, and misery? Or will we accept these moments on the Cross, even lovingly embrace them, and receive from them the endless goodness, courage, healing, and peaceful joy of God’s love?
“In your deepest hour of darkness I will give you wealth untold. When the silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul.”
When we suffer, with “Heaven’s answer hidden from our sight”, we are on the brink of glory. There will be no fanfare, no fireworks, no parades, no exciting revelry when we are opened and receive God’s love – just as there were none on the first Easter. The glory will be beyond what we can think, what we can imagine, and what we can experience through our physical senses. God loving us does not feel warm and fuzzy, but, rather, deeply abiding, never ending, pure, and truly and fully good.
It isn’t all happy, happy, roses and sunshine all of the time. For, every glorious rose has a thorn and every sun that rises must also set. Let us not fear the dark nights of the soul. Rather, may we remember that, although everything else will fall away, God’s love is eternal. Let us allow Him to embrace us in the Holy Darkness.
In the season of Lent, when we more profoundly examine ourselves and our relationship with God, I will be taking this song and the truth that it expresses as my faith facilitator for this First Friday of March.
Oh, Sacred Heart of Jesus,
you bear the burden of my sorrows
and take my pain as your own;
Break open my heart with yours
so that it will not be merely aching,
but rather flooded by your grace,
with the sacred strength of weakness.
Then, may I,
broken and battered in this world,
in the stillness and silence of the night,
receive the gift of your everlasting love,
lifted up in your everlasting life.
© 2015 Christina Chase
[This is part of the Faith Facilitators series. For more, click here.]
 Holy Darkness, © 1988, 1993, Daniel L Schutte. Published by OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
Although I may “accept” suffering (usually there is no other choice), and afterwards I can usually see God’s Grace, I don’t believe I can “lovingly embrace” suffering. This doesn’t usually occur to me in the midst of the suffering. I think it must take a very special person (such as yourself) to adopt this attitude.
Hmm… I don’t think I am that “very special person”, either. Often when I write pieces here, I’m exploring an idea or ideal – and then writing words to exhort me, to inspire, and encourage me to do something I may not be doing. In other words, I am absolutely not writing as a master – but only as a student. That’s why I want to think about the words of this song and why am writing about it.
I think, maybe, too, that there are different kinds of suffering…? Everybody naturally suffers in some way – because we are all imperfect and there seems to be always something that we would like to be different. We suffer the loss of loved ones. We suffer deep disappointments in our lives. We suffer broken relationships or broken down bodies. The suffering is like a condition of life – not like intense pain. I’m pretty sure that every human being, in the midst of pain (when a loved one is hurting, when a loved one is dying, the moment that we are betrayed or abandoned, or when we are injured or seriously ill and the physical pain is intense) in those moments it’s hard for anybody to think of anything but the pain. It’s human. Even Christ cried out on the cross. Like you said, later on we may see God’s Grace at work – but not in the moment. But, maybe, that is the Holy Darkness. It’s dark so we don’t see God’s grace. Later, when God has healed us somewhat, or conditions have improved, or time has simply gone by, we can look back and see the Grace. But, not always in the moment.
As for embracing suffering… Well, I can’t embrace intense pain. I’ve tried. I’m not good at it at all! And I’m not exactly “pious” in those situations! I think that there are two kinds of accepting, though. We can “accept” something by merely tolerating it. We don’t have a choice, there’s nothing we can do to change it, so we just try to put up with it. But, then, there’s another way of accepting that may be more like… Trusting. We trust, we believe, that God will bring something good out of the suffering – that it’s not all in vain. We receive the suffering as a way to deeper experience and deeper knowledge of life – of truth, of love. We don’t like it. It’s really, really hard to bear, and, if we could, we probably wouldn’t choose it. But, we don’t merely tolerate it. We try to invite it into our lives the way that we may accept a surgery or a troubled acquaintance showing up at our doorstep in need of shelter.
I don’t know if all that makes sense! I really, truly appreciate your comment – obviously it really has got me thinking! This piece, I think, was more of a question then an answer – and the questions continue. 🙂 But we can still have faith even when “Heavens answer is hidden from our sight.” Thank you very much, Pat!
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When we sin Christina we are choosing to go through the hard things , God does not willingly afflict us as the Scripture below confirms, like the Prodigal son we reap what we sow and so we suffer until we come to our senses and repent or Satan puts us to the test or he motivates others to hurt us and accidents and chance also happens.
Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
To say God does evil to bring good out of it is slander, even to say it about Christians, He does work everything for good in our lives including whatever we suffer and gives us the strength to endure so we don’t have to be Happy Clappy about our suffering but we can be thankful and rejoice that God is with us as we go through it. Isaiah 43:1-3
I will leave you a link Christina that explains this Truth in more detail, what is not understood by those who believe God chooses to afflict us, is His discipline and chastisement and how these impact our lives as believers.
God’s Truth in affliction – https://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/summer-camp-blues/
God speaks to me loud and clear Christina, No not audibly but in my heart and confirms His Truth through Scripture or in His Creation through the empowering of The Holy Spirit with facts not theories or man’s fleshy understanding.
Christian Love in Christ Jesus – Anne.
Thank you very much, Anne, for this comment and the link to your blog. I’m always very appreciative when others reflect with me upon the love of God!
Please note that I did not say in this post that God intentionally afflicts pain and suffering upon us. Although the words of the song that I quoted could, perhaps, be interpreted that way by some, I do not interpret them that way because I do not believe in any way shape or form that God causes evil things to befall us. Everything that God creates and does is good. Evil only exists when good things are used badly – by the devil or by ourselves.
As you have written, we do live in a Fallen World where things are not perfect. There are things that occur in the world that can be the source of great suffering – like typhoons, earthquakes, cancer, genetic defects and diseases. Do you believe that these things are the result of sin or Satan? Or do you believe that they are the result of what you called in the first paragraph of your comment “accidents and chance”? What about my spinal muscular atrophy?
God knows everything that happens. Some things are ordained by God to happen (we can call them God’s Ordained Will) and other things are only allowed by God to happen (we can call these part of God’s Permissive Will.) All of our freewill human choices have consequences – consequences for ourselves, for others, for the environment in which we live. But, not everything that occurs is a consequence of our individual willfully made choices. For example, I have a genetic defect. My parents had no idea that they were carriers. Because of my genetic defect, I never walked, I progressively weakened, developed severe scoliosis, and became completely dependent upon others for my survival. I’ve never been able to bathe or dress myself. By the age of 24, I could no longer feed myself. Breathing becomes a little more difficult every year. This is a hard thing to live with. But, I know that God didn’t inflict it upon me in order to teach me a lesson. God didn’t give me a debilitating disease as a chastisement or as a test of faith. Does that mean that God just “let it happen”? Well… Yes.
Although I am physically diseased, I am still created in the image and likeness of God. Yes, my body is disabled and deformed – and it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The difficulties of my disease are real suffering. But, I know that I don’t suffer alone. As you said, God is always with us to help us through life’s difficulties, always making sure that, in the end, all will work out for the good for those that believe in Him. This does not mean that God intentionally gave me a difficult physical condition so that He could work something good out of it. What it does mean is that, even in our most trying difficulties, even when we are experiencing great pain or sorrow, God is there, carrying our crosses with us.
Reading your comment and the Scripture verses used in your blog post, I could not help but think of Jesus’s own words in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” The word “blessed” also means “happy”. Is Jesus saying that we should be happy with our sorrowing? No. Not exactly. But, we are often too attached to the pleasant things of the world, and we think that true happiness, joy, can only come through these things. Of course, as Christians, we know that that’s not true. Sometimes, when we lose a pleasant thing about which we are happy (losing it neither through any fault of our own nor because God took it away from us, since God doesn’t do that) we then discover that we didn’t actually need that pleasant thing in order to be happy.
To use a personal example again, when I was a teenager, I thought that when the day came when I would lose the strength and ability to hold my head upright, I would no longer be the happy person that I was. I thought that I would be embarrassed to be seen by others with my head flopped over all of the time and that I would not find life worth living. Well, the day came, I couldn’t hold my head up anymore – and I still knew joy. I got over the “embarrassment” and was still willing to be seen by other people. I learned that my happiness was not dependent upon a physical condition. It was my vanity that had caused me to fear. When the thing over which I had been vain fell away, as all “things” fall away, I came to understand a deeper goodness. I had been mourning – but my sorrow was transformed into blessedness, by the grace of God.
God doesn’t take good things away from us – and I maintain that it is a good thing to have one’s head on straight, both symbolically and literally. 🙂 But, sometimes, when we are in the midst of loss, when we are in the midst of difficulties, of physical suffering, of sorrow, we may feel abandoned. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” Jesus said on the Cross, quoting Psalm 22, so that he may more perfectly suffer with us. It is in those moments, however, when we feel abandoned by God that we, in truth, have nothing but God. Unlike Jesus, we may be too blinded by sin and self-centeredness to see this – but it’s true. God is our eternal rock. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
I am glad that God physically healed you, Anne, His power is unfathomable! Not every good and faithful person will experience physical healing, of course. Jesus forgave the paralytic of his sins and the man still remained on his bed, paralyzed. He cured the man of paralysis to prove his power to the Pharisees – not to make the paralyzed man’s life more joyful. Because true joy is not dependent upon the condition of physical things. This truth God has shown to me in the Scriptures and in the terribly beautiful life that He has given me.
Again, thank you very much for reflecting with me – your comment has obviously inspired me to share even more.
In the love and peace and joy of Christ,
Thank you for sharing about your disability Christina, I’m also still disabled physically which causes pain and limits me too although not to the extent that your disability does you but I’m also Dyslectic so I do understand the frustration of not being able to do what others can do but God has used my disability for good and still does and yes I have deep inner Joy even with tears in my eyes.
I would like to respond to a few of your comments Christina that express what you believe but I would appreciate first that you understand a bit about my own background which will help you to also know why I stand firm on what I share about God. I will leave another Link for you, the message is about my own Childhood.
Childhood – http://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/the-early-years-a-little-lost-girl/
I don’t leave Links Christina just so people will comment on my Posts, although it does show their interest and kindness and also gives me an opportunity to respond to their good fruit but I do so because the messages express what is in my heart and how it got there, which is by God’s Love, Mercy, Grace and Compassion.
Blessings – Anne.
Thanks for a great reaad