Imagine the feeling of abandonment, loss and dashed hopes the disciples of Jesus felt that first Good Friday night. “We were hoping this was he who would save Israel…” What did they do? How did they respond to the death of their teacher and Messiah? Did they sense God had forsaken them too?
It’s hard times when we feel all is lost.
It’s even harder when we can’t hear the voice of God or when we just don’t sense God’s presence with us.
When God is silent . . .
I’m reading an incredible book by Tony Kriz, to whom I can relate on many levels, called Neighbours and Wise Men where he tells stories from his own experiences of growing up, losing his faith, and finding it again in the most unlikely of places–a British Pub.
It was during that time when he happened upon an older Jewish lady named Katarina and told her his story of losing his faith, losing his friends, losing God and the incredible sense of loneliness he felt at that time.
Recounting his conversation with her, we relates to her his painful situation as a missionary in Albania who could no longer believe:
“I couldn’t pray for my friends. I couldn’t pray for my teammates. I couldn’t pray for our work. I couldn’t even pray for myself. I was worthless.”
At this point one of the pools of moisture overflowed and trickled down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away. “So anyway . . . that was the time when I lost my faith.”
My design of water circles had become quite elaborate. I tried to think of what else I should say. I couldn’t think where to go next, so I just sat there staring at the water-circle pattern.
When I finally looked up from the table surface and at Katarina, I was shocked by what I saw. Everything about her had changed. All her pleasantness was gone. Her eyes were hot. She was almost shaking.
“How dare you!” She thrust her finger at me when she said it. “How dare you!” She was desperately trying to maintain her composure, but her anger was overwhelming her.
“Don’t you ever, ever say that again. How dare you speak that way about your faith. How dare you shame your story like that. Shame on you!”
She tried to calm down. Her hands were now on the table in front of her. Her fingers, shaking slightly, were slowly tracing the ruts in the wood. “My people waited in silence for generations to hear from God, to be able to talk to him. Generations! We waited in silence. We screamed at the sky. We waited for God to speak.”
She looked up from the tabletop and stared intently into my eyes. “Look at me,” she demanded. “Look at me and never forget what I am about to tell you. You did not lose your faith. Do you hear me? You did not. . . lose . . . your . . . faith. Your faith was not gone. Your faith was strong. I know it didn’t feel like it, but your faith was true, not only because you waited for God, but more important, because even in the silence God was waiting with you.”
God. Waiting. With. Me.
I am not alone. Even though I can’t see tomorrow, I can wait in peace because God is waiting with me.
This is the message of what Christendom calls “Holy Saturday.” God is silent, but not silent as in abandoning, nor silent as in refusing to speak because of anger.
God is silent with me in my humanity, my grief, my wandering, my directionlesssness, my loss.
The first disciples did not know that Jesus would come back to life. They could not see what tomorrow would bring. They had hoped . . . But now what?
They did the only thing they knew how to do and, in the silence, gathered together the broken pieces of their dreams, moving on in sorrow.