‘Where are you, Lord?’. Indeed, it’s a complaint we’ve made to the Lord and one we will most certainly make in the future. It is particularly difficult when God feels distant in times of pain and suffering. Why would a loving and good God seem silent and aloof when we are most in need to hear his voice and feel His presence?
We can all readily identify with King David’s lamentation in Psalm 13. “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?…Look on me and answer, LORD my God..” (verses 1-3). We were reminded from last week’s sermon that after speaking through Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, God did not speak again for another 400 years! Not a peep from Him.
But when God did open his mouth once more, He announced to the world the impending arrival of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Immanuel, ‘God with us’, to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of His Son he loves, through whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14). In other words, we are gravely mistaken to equate God’s silence with abandonment. During the period of what feels like 400 years of inactivity, it turns out God had been busy working out His good purpose for the world. We need to grab hold of the words the Psalmist in Psalm 121 that God, our helper, ‘will neither slumber nor sleep’ (verse 4); that God is every bit as faithful in times when we don’t feel him as when we do. God maybe silent but He is never absent!
In the 1930’s, Stalin ordered a purge of all Bibles and all Christians in the former Soviet Union. Millions of Bibles were confiscated and multitudes of believers were sent to the gulags. In Stavropol, this order was carried out with a vengeance. Many years later, a team of Christians went to Stavropol to preach the gospel. When they had difficulties getting Bibles shipped from Moscow, a local mentioned the existence of a warehouse outside of Stavropol where the Bibles Stalin had confiscated were kept. After much prayer, a team member plucked up the courage to ask the officials if the Bibles were still there, and if so, could they distribute them to the people of Stavropol. The answer was a ‘Yes’!.
The next day, the team returned and enlisted several locals to help load the Bibles into a truck. One helper was a hostile, sceptical, young man who had come for the wages. As the Bibles were being loaded, someone noticed this young man had gone AWOL. They found him in the corner of the warehouse, weeping, with a Bible in hand, that he had taken earlier to look at later. It turned out when he opened the Bible, what he saw shook him to the core.
Inside the first page was the handwritten signature of his own grandmother! Out of the thousands of Bibles left in the warehouse, he picked up the one belonging to his grandmother. No doubt, she would’ve prayed for her family, including his unborn grandson!
God will neither slumber nor sleep!
God, grow our faith in you!