Have you ever felt like God wasn’t listening to you? We encounter the exhortation many times that we need to give God time to respond. We need to make sure we don’t just talk at Him, but that we have a conversation and that we try to listen twice as much as we talk (James 1:19), but what about when we slow down to listen and don’t hear anything? Then what?
Our faithfulness is not just measured in our obedience. It isn’t about saying the right things, acting the right way towards those who curse us, or even going to all the church meetings that are available. It’s about staying the course and trusting God. Faith is trust. Faith is knowing that God is listening without hearing back from Him. Faith is trusting that He hears your cries in the middle of the night and even though you don’t hear back from Him, He is still there.
In The Sensitivity of the Spirit, R.T. Kendall describes the experience of when God is silent in our lives. The Jews experienced God’s silence for centuries. It’s easy to trust God when things are going well. When God’s abundant blessings are filling your life and there is little conflict or you experience peace amidst conflict, it is easy to believe and trust. But what about when you seem surrounded by enemies and you can’t feel God’s presence? What about when you ask for help and you can’t see any evidence of it around you? What about when you feel hopeless and alone and you cry out to God and His response is silence? Some say that God’s silence itself is an answer. Unfortunately, we take God’s silence to mean, “you’re on your own.”
The truth is that God is omniscient He is everywhere all the time. He is right here yesterday, today, and tomorrow all at the same time. He is here now, will be then, and was before. He is the great I AM. This means that He is Always. This psalm reflects David’s recognition of God’s overabundant and all-encompassing presence in all things.
The other day I was journaling and asking God to help me understand the most difficult things about life. It’s not easy for us to think positively about things like rape, murder, torture, and the most heinous of sins that are committed against other people. Regardless if we think they deserve it or not, it is extremely difficult for us to understand why a loving God would allow such treacherous things to happen to people He claims to love. I’ll even be as bold to share the picture that made me stop and think about all this.
In John 18, we encounter Jesus’ conversation with Pilate during His trial. He explains a very important yet foreign concept to us:
33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
We encounter an extremely difficult concept here. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. It is not of rape, murder, torture, abuse, or any other atrocity that we ask God, “why do you let this happen?” Our battle with a God that allows such things to happen is being fought on the wrong plane of existence. God operates in the spiritual realm. He warns us of the wretchedness that surrounds us in John 16:33 but with that He also gives us a promise that there will no longer be this pain and treachery around us. We hope that we don’t have to experience it and that we can protect our loved ones from it. But we cannot. We are not God. We are not sovereign. We cannot see the bigger picture.
Yes, the physical pain we experience is sometimes unbearable and unexplainable, but the Glory of God is so much more than we can ever imagine. The pain and suffering we endure in this world is purely of this world, not of God’s realm nor of His Kingdom. If only we would trust God enough to rise above the physical and live in the spiritual. Jesus says He has overcome this world. Do we believe it? Do we trust it? We see things only in the physical realm and neglect to recognize the spiritual. This is our great pain and suffering. We spend so much time being distracted and consumed by what we are experiencing physically that we don’t focus on the spiritual blessing that He has given us.
Some of you see this as hogwash. So did the Pharisees: the great teachers and upholders of God’s Holy Law. They missed the point completely and so are we. This life isn’t about experiencing the physical, but about recognizing the spiritual. We are spiritual beings in a physical existence. Until we recognize and embrace that, we will always question God’s love for us because we are looking in all the wrong places. We cannot experience a spiritual awakening if we allow the physical to dominate our minds. This is our great adventure and our ultimate purpose in this life: to see beyond that which is in front of us and realize the ultimate truth that there is more than we can see and it is more important than what we are experiencing right now.