“Lord, Lord, don’t You care that we’re perishing?” In my sense of helplessness, panicking at the waves swamping my little boat, I barge into Grace’s throneroom, spewing forth my fears like an incoherent child with a scraped knee. How thankful I am that the King of grace is my loving Father, well-pleased to take me in His lap and whisper, “Peace, be still,” as much to my anxious heart as to the waves about me.
There, in the silence, He administers the balm of His Spirit of comfort to my aches and pains. As a Father asks His child to “show Daddy where it hurts,” as a Shepherd examines His sheep on their entrance to the fold at night, so He gently responds to our, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts, And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps 139:23-24).
It is in the silence after the tears that we relax into the knowledge that He is God, the Mighty One, Ruler of the wind and the waves, and He never says, “Oops!” (Ps 46:10). The torrent of words slows to a trickle, then ceases. “My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation” (Ps 62:1). Weary of striving, we can make Amy Carmichael’s prayer our own:
O Lord, my heart is all a prayer,
But it is silent unto Thee;
I am too tired to look for words,
I rest upon Thy sympathy
To understand when I am dumb;
And well I know Thou hearest me.
I know Thou hearest me because
A quiet peace comes down to me,
And fills the places where before
Weak thoughts were wandering wearily;
And deep within me it is calm,
Though waves are tossing outwardly (Gold Cord, 54).
What a comfort it is at those moments to know, in the deepest part of my soul, that “in the same way the Spirit helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for all the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-7).
Sometimes, though, the silence frightens me. I want to hide from God’s searchlight, afraid of what He may show me, what He may command me, how He may change me. Like a child fleeing from the needle that removes the splinter or stitches up a wound, fleeing from the hands which wish to set the broken bone, what if the cure gives added pain? Like my dog fleeing his bath, it’s not that I like being dirty, but that I dislike the cleansing process.
And so the torrent of words resumes. Or I seek to quench the silence with noise, or busy myself as a distraction. Even the prayer of words can be an attempt to distract myself when God seeks to deal with me in silence. “After all,” I think, “if I am still, who will bail all this water out of the boat?” Then, when silence seems least affordable or desirable, I need it most. Turning off the radio, the TV, the computer monitor, even physically leaving all the things crying to be done and getting away for as little as fifteen minutes, I face God in the silence and receive His peace.
“My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold, I shall not be shaken” (Ps 62:5-6).