the spiritual director
“He never even bothered to reply,” said my friend when she had summoned up the courage to write a letter of protest at the injustice meted out by authority. Many people struggle with what seems to be unanswered prayer. It’s not that God says ‘No’ but that he doesn’t even bother to answer, or so it seems.
God’s silence in the face of suffering is a hard thing to comprehend, especially when our faith has already taken a knock through the adversity we have endured. Isn’t the God of the Bible a God who speaks, who communicates, who makes himself known? What then, do we do when he doesn’t answer?
The Easter story has much to say to us about our desire to hear God’s voice and those times when he seems to fall silent and abandon us to our circumstances. It is especially relevant to anyone who secretly fears that his seeming silence is because they have done something wrong and thus offended God.
The Easter story brings us face to face with the fact that God’s own son faced the silence of his heavenly father at his most acute point of need.
When he went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray he took his most trusted disciples with him because he needed their support. Their inability to stay awake is lamentable, but far less agonising than the unanswered prayer Jesus prayed to his father to take this cup away from him. In the garden at that moment he was utterly alone.
In his book God on mute, (Kingsway Books 2007) Pete Grieg writes about the events of Holy Week as being the place where we may go for comfort and try to make some sense out of those times when God has been silent in the face of our cries. He reminds us that Jesus himself experienced the silence of God, that his prayers went unanswered, but that this was the moment when the greatest miracle of all time took place.
Three times Jesus prayed and got no response. The first was on Maundy Thursday when Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers, only to see his followers scatter in panic while his enemies united in their hatred of him. Yet Christians still wait in hope for Christ to return to claim his bride.
Then he prayed for the ‘cup of suffering’ to be taken away from him, but it continued to stare him in the face and the worst of all things took place as he went to his death. That death, however, became the doorway to life for all who accept its invitation.
Finally, Jesus prayed from the cross his desperate cry of anguish: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and received no answer. Yet, Jesus’ abandonment became the means by which we are saved. So much is contained in the events of Holy Week and Easter to encourage and sustain us through the puzzling and frankly painful aspects of learning to walk the walk of faith and in our turn to encourage and
uphold others too.