As a child I wanted to believe God existed. I would often lay in my bed at night and beg God to do something that would show me he was really there. I can remember promising that if he would make the curtains move, I would never tell anyone, but I would always know in my heart that it was him. Well, he never moved the curtains, but at nineteen years old I sat down to read my bible at a picnic table in Greenlake, Wisconsin and I truly felt like God broke the silence. I had felt God’s love and presence before during sermons or certain times of prayer, but I still feel like this was my “Damascus Road” experience.
I share this story, in part, because I know that many people have never had an experience like this, and I hope that in some small way my story can be a witness to the truth that God does on occasion pierce the veil of this present darkness. But we should not be surprised or discouraged that these experiences are rare, because they are uncommon even in the long story of the scriptures. The bible is filled with long periods of silence, in which men and women maintain a faithful commitment to God despite not hearing his voice. We also know that the words of scripture are still true, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
While the number of times that God “breaks the silence” are rare, I think they’re also of great significance. One story that has meant a lot to me recently is that of Hagar weeping in the wilderness. Hagar and her son have been rejected by their community and left to die in the desert. Hagar could not bear to watch her son perish, so she walked a distance from him and collapsed in grief. In that moment a messenger spoke to her saying, “Do not be afraid, God has heard the boy crying, where he lays. Lift the boy up, and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” We also hear these words from the prophet Isaiah who says, “I am the Lord your God who takes you by the hand, fear not; I will help you.”
Our Lord also experienced the grief of an overwhelming silence. While on the cross Jesus cries out to the Father asking why he has been forsaken, and none of the scriptures say that the Father replied. Jesus, in his humanity, had to rely on a word spoken to him earlier in his life. At his Baptism and Transfiguration the Father himself, broke through the silence, declaring, “this is my son.” It is my hope today, that in your darkest hour you will remember that God is speaking those same words over you, even if you cannot hear them. You are his child and he is not far from you, do not be afraid for he will take your hand and will help you when you need it most.