the sound of silence

Sometimes there is silence, stillness. We live in such a noisy world that when the silence comes it’s deafening. And what about all the noise I’ve made? Always doing. Always going. Always distracting. I seriously don’t know how to be still. But being still is exactly what God told me to be.

Now that I have no plans for the future, God is silent. It seems like all my whining and complaining and demanding aren’t going to make him speak. What now God? What next? No response other than what he’s been saying since the day they told me to go home.

And I wonder if I can handle this? Why do I sit here wondering if my life has any value to anyone if it’s ordinary? How do I get over a year of spectacular and let go of the expectation that nothing will ever be spectacular again? How do I get the voice of the enemy out of my head?

Will I keep trusting God with my life? Will I keep going even though I have no idea where he’s leading? Will I believe he’s listening even though he isn’t saying much?

I received the following devotion in my email today. I found it very encouraging.

Salvation Through Silence
Before coming to the narrative of Christ’s birth, there is a dramatic conversation which takes place between a priest called Zechariah and the angel Gabriel. One day Zechariah was serving in the temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him.(1) Zechariah was very afraid but Gabriel spoke to him saying, ‘Do not be afraid. Your prayer has been heard.’ Gabriel continued to tell Zechariah that he and his wife would have a son and they were to name him John. Ultimately, John would be the one to prepare people for the Lord Jesus.

Instead of rejoicing over the news brought to him from Gabriel, Zechariah objects, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Gabriel responds by explaining to Zechariah precisely to whom he is speaking and also cites the authority on which he bears this news:

“I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

One only needs to read the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel to find out that this promise from the Lord was fulfilled. Elizabeth and Zechariah have a baby boy and they name him John. It is only after the naming of John that Zechariah is able to speak again.

There are many aspects of this story that are remarkable. First is the context in which the story takes place: the people of Israel, of whom Zechariah and Elizabeth were a part, have not heard from God for a period of roughly 400 years! When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, it is highly likely that this is the first time Zechariah has heard from God in such a way.

To make theological matters even more complicated for Zechariah, Gabriel’s second statement, after telling him to not be afraid, is ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ There is deep irony in this statement primarily because of the theological background leading up to this conversation. For all of Zechariah’s life, he had never heard God’s voice like this. The very act of God speaking to him would seem preposterous. Therefore, it is understandable why Zechariah questions Gabriel. Zechariah and his people have prayed to God, many for their entire lives, and they have never heard anything. How could Zechariah be sure this was truly a message from the Lord? This encounter undoubtedly marked a watershed moment, not only for Zechariah, but for God’s people and the entire world. God would speak now and man would be silent.

God’s silence is often a challenge to belief. One point I glean from the early part of this story is that God’s silence does not necessarily imply that God is inactive. In Israel’s case, God had been silent for years, yet in this angelic encounter, nearly the first words of instruction from the Lord are, ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ For those of us who are immersed in the urgency of the digital world, we would do well to heed the implicit lesson of patience found in this story. God had been silent for a long time, but God was listening. There are times in our lives in which we do not hear God’s voice. Gabriel’s words tell us that although we might not hear God speaking, God is still listening.

After Zechariah objects to the seemingly audacious promise given from the Lord, Gabriel points out that it is not on his own authority that he speaks, but God’s. Implicit in Gabriel’s statement is the reality that God is bringing help to Israel, not because of what Zechariah or Elizabeth have done, but rather because of who God is. Historically speaking, God was the one who helped, rescued, and saved Israel countless times. The people of Israel knew this history well and they also knew why God had reached down and helped them. This much was clear in the mind of Israel: God’s salvation came only because of God’s character. God’s saving power came, not because of humanity’s effort, but because of God’s nature to save.

Gabriel then tells Zechariah that he will be silent. This is what strikes me most about the story: Gabriel appears to Zechariah in a time during which the people of Israel had not heard from God in years. The Lord speaks to Zechariah and tells him that God will act and fulfill his promise, but while He does so, Zechariah will be silent.

Generally I have viewed the silence of Zechariah as a punishment for not believing in God, and I think that this is true. But I also see this act of silence pointing to something deeper than one man receiving a punishment from God for not believing in Him, and here’s why: The people of Israel knew that God had helped them, they knew why God had helped them and they also had learnt how God had worked in history. Over time they had realized that God’s grace and salvation would be worked out through quietness and trust. Israel’s strength lay not in activity and being busy, but in silence. This was how God worked.

Zechariah’s silence is a symbol of God’s salvation. John’s life was spent concentrated on preparing people for Christ, the means by which people could be saved. But before John came, the Lord visited his father through Gabriel, telling Zechariah that He had heard his prayer, and was going to rescue his people not in a flurry of human activity, but in a way in which people could only watch him work and hear him speak. Perhaps one of the vital lessons we can learn from the Christmas story is to prioritize silence before God. At the very least, being quiet will remind us of a greater time, one of the greatest in history, when God spoke and humankind was there only to watch and listen.

Nathan Betts is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

(1) See Luke 1

So, I will embrace the next year no matter what. I will trust my unknown future to a known God. He is good. He has always been good. He will always be good. He has always been there. Listening. I know it’s true.

It’s what I’ve been thinking about.

His… Michelle
Philippians1:20

To read about what others are thinking about, head over to Lyli’s blog. Don’t forget to leave an encouraging comment for the person before you.

20140102-110142.jpg

weekly photo challenge: horizon

I’ve been home for 3 days now. At the moment, my life feels surreal, uncomfortable, foreign. I have no idea what to do now? I feel like a ship without a rudder, drifting, at the mercy of the wind and waves. I pray. I have to move toward the horizon in faith.

I feel lost. Adrift in the sea, no land to be found.
Please don’t become silent now. I need you.
You are my rock, my strong tower, my hiding place, my shelter in the storm.
Jesus.

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.
And when I’m all alone, give me Jesus.
And when I come to die, give me Jesus.
Only Jesus.

20131027-104643.jpg

20131027-104712.jpg

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

confident?

Who do you trust? Who do you have faith in? Who are you confident in?

confidence

|kαˈnfəˈdəˈns|

Noun

1. freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities
2. a feeling of trust (in someone or something)
3. a state of confident hopefulness that events will be favorable
4. a trustful relationship
5. a secret that is confided or entrusted to someone

Do you remember being little, trusting that your mom and dad were always just a step away, around the corner in the next room? You couldn’t see them, but you knew they were there?
I remember leaving my house on the first day of kindergarten. I walked down the stairs of the apartment building and out the door. As I walked forward toward my destination, I turned around to look back. There in the window of our second floor apartment stood my mom, waving. I had spent 5 years with my parents. I had faith they were there when I couldn’t see them. I don’t remember having any separation anxiety when I went to school that first day. When i left for school that morning, I was confident my mom would be at home where I left her. Sure enough, when I got home from school that first day, she was there, waiting to hear all about it.

Now, in contrast, do you remember the first time your confidence was shaken? While I was still very little, I don’t recall my age but know I was still living in that apartment, my mom and dad had a fight. My mom ran out the front door. She left us. I ran out the door soon after to look for her. I searched high and low for her all over the block. The block seemed so big. I cried and cried because I couldn’t find her anywhere. Defeated, I went home. I can’t remember if she was there when I got back or if she came home later. I just remember I felt lost.

But the worst experience of losing confidence came when my dad died. That was permanent. There was no need to search high and low. He was gone forever. He was never going to be around the corner in the next room again. I lost confidence in everything that day, including God because I didn’t really know him. After this, the only thing I was confident in was bad stuff would happen. I spent 26 years being confident in bad things happening.

The other morning while I was sitting with the Lord in the dark, watching and listening to the waves, I had such an overwhelming feeling of confidence in God. These last 6 years, God has been restoring my confidence in good things happening. I have this amazing sense of peace, like that day I ran off to school for the very first time. When I go out in the morning and turn around, I see him waving. When I return in the evening, I see him holding out his arms to welcome me home. But it’s even better than that because he’s with me all day, always within earshot. I just call his name and he’s there. What a gift! I pray you know this kind of confidence as well.

Jeremiah17:7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20