the spir­i­tual di­rec­tor

The Church of England - - COMMENT - By the Rev Dr Liz Hoare

“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.

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