Silence. I used to interpret silence as punitive. It was my passive-aggressive human nature. Maybe you know about the game The Silent Treatment. It’s a game played with moody attempts at trying to control others. I remember traveling with someone years ago who was a master at manipulating an entire group with her silent behavior. We were traveling in the Middle East. It was her first time there. I keep a rigorous schedule while we are there and I keep people moving because there is so much to experience. But, she would show up late and purposely use her ‘slow’ mode. There were thirty-six other people on this trip who kept up amazingly. But, Miss Slow Mode controlled the entire group with her game playing.
I grew up with this game playing, so I was onto her right away and knew I needed to nip this little master mind in the bud as soon as possible! Many of the other travelers asked her if she was all right, she would respond, “Oh yes. I’m fine.” And then she would sigh, look away as if no one really cared. She wouldn’t speak to me. She would just glare at me when I smiled and kept people moving. Fellow travelers would talk with me privately, letting me know she was really angry. But, all I got was the Silent Treatment. She was ruining her own trip. I could see it only because I played that game myself and knew the rules of the game so well. God had worked on me and now it was time for me to work on her.
“You don’t care about me.” She said.
“You care more about everyone else.” She said.
“It’s like I don’t even exist. You’re ignoring me and what I want.” She said.
I had to decide how to respond. If Jesus had really done any work on me at all, I knew I had to respond the way he would. I couldn’t simply defend myself—that’s just playing the game. I didn’t want to be sarcastic, belittle her or embarrass her in order to win this game. Ignoring her was amplifying the game. Logic doesn’t work with emotional or spiritual needs. I knew she hated me at that moment. But, there was more at stake than playing a game.
I honestly sat down next to her and didn’t say a word. She pulled away and looked out the window of the bus. Ah, the Cold Shoulder. I waited, patiently. I knew it would be a long drive. Thirty minutes went by. Miss Slow Mode also had an iron will. Still the Cold Shoulder. I loved her. I sat beside her and said absolutely nothing. Sixty minutes went by, then ninety minutes. It’s a good thing the scenery was spectacular.
She softened. We started talking about what we saw. We shared. Hearts were opened. Not to past but in the present. We moved on from there. So often silence is misinterpreted friends. I’ve learned to accept that God is often quiet with us. I no longer accuse God of giving me the Silent Treatment. That’s not him. His response to our needs are far more complex than we can comprehend. Sometimes all we need is his grace and presence.
The Apostle Paul asked God to remove something painful from his life. Now, I consider the Apostle Paul to be a major player in the New Testament—like someone who could get God to do something for him. Three times he asked God to remove it. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
Jesus asked his Father for something while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39) Three times the Son of God asked for something knowing that all things were possible. Quiet. That’s what the Son of God received. But, instead of wanting something that would serve his immediate need, the Son of God pressed onward knowing fully his Father was with him.
Consider this...in your relationship with God there will be times of quiet. How long will it take for you to soften your heart? Pain may never leave you but His grace will get you through. Yes, all things are possible with God. But, who’s will is at work…yours or His?
Sunday we will learn about silence. Or what I like to call God’s quiet.