When God Seems Silent

Psalm 22:1-8; 23:1-6

“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

Most of us know that the Psalmist wasn’t the only one to utter those despairing words. Most of us know that as He hung upon the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22 when he too cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a)

To be sure, Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. We refer to it as such because it vividly pictures the passion of the Christ:

Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in! Like lions, they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey. My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced[a] my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice[b] for my clothing. (vs. 11-18).

Psalm 22 not only reminds us of the terrible price Jesus paid upon the cross, but also that in the midst of the crisis God seemed to be silent. “Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1b).

Sound familiar? All of us have experienced those times when we have cried and cried out to God to answer a certain prayer and it seems like our prayer just bounces off the ceiling. 

And we wonder why do I find it so difficult to hear You? Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Or is that You can’t hear . . . or worse don’t even really care? Sometimes the silence is deafening.

Oh, how we would much rather identify with the writer of the 23rd Psalm as he confidently exclaims, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (23:1). What a contrast between the themes of these Psalms! Psalm 23 . . . “He leads me, He guides me, He protects me, He comforts me.” Just what we are looking for, just what we really need!

Contrast that with Psalm 22: “Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.” (Psalm 22:2).

So the question is, Is there anything we can do to move from the bleak experience of Psalm 22 to the blessedness of Psalm 23? I offer you the following observations that help me through the times when God seems silent.

Although it might sometimes seem that God is silent when we pray, the truth is He’s answering . . . the answer is simply, “No.”

Sometimes His answer is, “No” because our request is wrong.

There were many times when the disciples of Jesus came to Him with a wrong request and His answer was unequivocally no. Like the time the people of Samaria were not very hospitable to Jesus and James and John ask, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy the?” The text says that Jesus “rebuked them.” (Luke 9:54-55). In other words, the answer to their request was no. Then there was the time the same two disciples came with their mother (the big sissies) to Jesus and asked if they could have the two best reserved seats in heaven with Him. And Jesus said, “No, you guys don’t know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38).

How can I tell if my request is wrong? What are my motives? For example, if I pray, “Lord, help this church grow?” Surely God would want to say, “Yes” to that request. But if my motive is I want to be the pastor of a large and growing church, then my motive is skewed and God might say, “I’m sorry.”

Or, “Lord, help my business to grow.” Nothing wrong with that at all unless the motive solely involves getting rich quick so I can go on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It seems to me that God is more likely to answer a prayer that includes, “Lord help my business to grow so that I can bless others.”

Before bringing a request to the Lord, we would do well to consider: If God were to answer this request would it (1) bring glory to Him? (2) advance His Kingdom? (3) help other people? And (4) help me to grow spiritually?

Sometimes the answer is, “No,” because like any well-meaning parent, God knows what’s best for us and we just like any child have to learn to trust Him.

Today’s Psalms tell us that this is so for both of them were written by the same person. Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” But God was apparently strangely silent. And yet through it all, David learned to trust in God as he later wrote: “The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need” (Psalm 23:1)

And then it helps me to realize that God remained silent throughout the most excruciating ordeal faced by His Son.

It is most certainly true that no one who has ever lived could more perfectly know what it means to say “The Lord is My Shepherd” than Jesus. And yet, just when He needed to hear a word from God the most, we hear Jesus quote Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me.”

The evening before He threw Himself face down on the ground, which dank up His sweat like great drops of blood as He prayed, “Father if it possible, let this cup pass from me.” And yet heaven reminded silent.

As He hung on the cross, the scoffers cried out, “Let the Lord save Him if He wants Him,” but there was no miracle salvation from death for the Son of God; not on Good Friday anyway.

We will never fully comprehend all that took place between God and His Christ on that fateful day as God hung on a cross. But on that day, Jesus experienced the silence of God.

On that day, it was from Psalm 22, not Psalm 23 that He quoted from the scriptures.

And many people have drawn comfort from the fact that even the Son of God knew what it was to experience those moments when God seemed silent. If Our Lord had to endure that deafening silence . . .

Then it helps me to understand that there will be times when what God offers me is better than anything He could say to me.

For what He offers is Himself. God doesn’t reveal His grand design . . . He reveals Himself. Sometimes we don’t need an answer as much as we need the answerer.

That’s what happened with Job. Job asks God over and over again to speak to him in a face to face encounter; to explain why He chose to allow Job to suffer so. Toward the end of the book, one of Job’s brash young friends ridicules Job’s desire for a face to face with God. “Do you really think that God cares enough for a puny creature like you that the Creator would visit this planet to speak with you in person?” How ironic that as Elihu continues with his sarcasm, a small cloud that appears on the horizon grows larger and larger until it becomes a full-fledged storm from which a voice like no other voice booms forth, silencing both Job and his friend.

God shows up. Job doesn’t get the answers he wanted . . . He got God. But in the end that was enough.

In the end, it was enough for John Wayne.

John Wayne was a big fan of Robert Schuller. One day he heard Dr. Schuller say on one of his programs that his teenage daughter, Cindy, had been in a motorcycle accident and had to have her leg amputated. So Mr. Wayne wrote a brief note to her saying:

Dear Cindy,

I wish I knew why God allowed you to be involved in an accident. Hope you will be all right.

John Wayne

The note was delivered to her and she decided she wanted to write John Wayne a note in reply:  Dear Mr. Wayne, I got your note . . . thanks for writing to me. I sometimes wonder why too. But I want to let you know I am going to be all right because Jesus is going to help me. Mr. Wayne, do you know Jesus? I sure hope you know Him, Mr. Wayne, because I cannot imagine Heaven without John Wayne being there. I hope, if you don’t know Jesus, that you will give your heart to Him soon. Hope to see you in heaven. Cindy Schuller

She had just put that letter in an envelope, sealed it, and written across the front of it “John Wayne” when a visitor came into her room to see her. He said to her: What have you been up to? She said: I just wrote a letter to John Wayne, but I don’t know how to get it to him. He said: That’s funny, I am going to have dinner with John Wayne tonight at the Newport Club down at Newport Beach. Give it to me and I will give it to him. She gave him the letter and he put it in his coat pocket.

Later that evening, they were laughing and cutting up and the guy happened to reach in his pocket and felt that letter and remembered. Wayne was seated at the end of the table and the guy took the letter out and said: “Hey, Duke, I was in Robert Schuller’s daughter’s room today and she wrote you a letter and wanted me to give it to you.” He passed it down to John Wayne and he opened it. They kept on laughing and cutting up until someone noticed John Wayne crying. One of them said: Hey, Duke, what’s the matter?

He said, “I want to read you this letter.” He read the letter, folded it, put it in his pocket, and said: “You go tell that little girl that right now, in this restaurant, right here, John Wayne gives his heart to Jesus Christ and I will see her in heaven.”

Three weeks later John Wayne died. He didn’t need an answer . . . He needed the answerer. And that’s exactly who he got.

In the end, sometimes God seems silent because God has something better in mind.

I trust that is why God said, “Sorry” to all of us who were so desperately praying for Marie Kehoe. He was saying in effect, “I had something better in mind for Marie Kehoe. I understand why you folks wanted to keep her with you. She was so dear and wonderful and loved. But please be assured that I love her too. And it was my great pleasure to bring Marie into the fullness of My Kingdom where you cannot even begin to imagine her joy!

This is what it’s all about, this is why I sent My Son to die, so people can experience what it is to really live. This is when I do my best work when I rescue a soul from death for all eternity. This is healing grace par excellent.”

Thursday night at Disciple class we shared some of our precious memories about Marie and closed class by reading from Romans 8:

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Guest Speaker: James Brandenburg – Meet You at the Cross

Col 1:13-22

A troubled and burdened man prayed and prayed that God would lift his burden. Day after day he prayed that his life would be easier and he begged for God’s intervention.

One day, Jesus came to the man and asked, “My child, what troubles you?” The man replied that his life was full of turmoil and that it had become too much to bear. He again asked for help stating that he just couldn’t continue to go on.

Jesus, feeling the man’s anguish, decided help was in order. The man was so happy that his prayers were about to be answered, that his burden already felt lighter.

Jesus took the man to a room and stopped in front of the door. When he opened the door, what the man saw was amazing. The room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. The man, bewildered, looked at Jesus and asked how this would help him. Jesus explained that each cross represented a burden that people carry; small burdens, big burdens, giant burdens — and every burden in between.

At this point, Jesus offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden. The man, so excited that he was finally able to have some control over his life, looked around the room for just the right cross. He saw a tiny little cross way back in the corner. It was the smallest cross in the room. After a bit of thought, he pointed to the cross and said, “That one, Lord. I want that one.” Jesus asked, “Are you sure, my son?” The man quickly replied, “Oh, yes Lord. Most definitely, yes.”

Jesus turned to the man and replied, “My child, you have chosen your own cross. It is the burden you already carry.”

The burden of sin is one we all carry.

God has given each of us talents and life experiences that follow His plan. Each of us has something different and unique to offer the world. Everything we experience in life guides us to the place God has chosen for us. He works through us . . . if we allow Him.

He needs each and every one of us for the work that He needs to be done in the world. There’s so much to do, and we all have our part in it!

Listening to testimony is one of the most powerful experiences that I have witnessed. Each one of us has a story. Where we began, where we are, and where we hope to be. Looking back at my beginning, I can say that the love that I’ve experienced from God and His forgiveness is what puts me here in front of you this morning. + Read More


Luke 22:14-20
Ephesians 1:1-8a

R. R. Donnelley used to be the nations’ largest printer of magazines. Several years ago they mistakenly sent a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado 9,734 notices that his subscription to National Geographic had expired. So he sent back the money and wrote, “Send me the magazine, I give up.’ 1

That’s how God brings many persons to salvation. He hits them with the message so many times they finally give up. Perhaps as we hear about grace again, someone today will give up.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a NLT)

This is one of my favorite verses, but I like it better rendered by the NASB: “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).

When was the last time you were lavished? Merriman’s Online Dictionary defines lavish as: ‘bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.’ 2 As in; “That rancher was lavished with expiration notices.” Or, “They lavished their children with many gifts at Christmas.”

That English definition is pretty close to the Greek: The online Expositor’s Greek Testament defines it as “furnishing richly so that there is not only enough but much more.” 3 Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words has “to be present over abundantly or to excess to make over-rich, to provide superabundantly.” 4

Paul says we have been ‘lavished’ with the riches of His grace. What does he mean? + Read More

God’s Great Grace Gospel

Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21

A boy watched as the pastor took off his watch and set it on the pulpit in front of him.
“What does that mean?” he asked his mother.
“Absolutely nothing,” she answered.

That little ditty serves as a warning that I intend on preaching through the entire Bible from the first verse of the Bible in Genesis through the last verses in the book Revelation. For the two most important verses in the Bible are the first verse and the last verse. Everything sandwiched between those two verses explain the first verse and the last verse. You get the first verse and the last verse and you’ve got it all!

And who can recite for us the first verse of the Bible? “In the beginning God.” And the last? “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); the stars, the planets, this planet, the oceans, the fishes, the animals, women and men and everything that men and women can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch.

But this morning, I’m talking about something else He created that cannot be discerned with the five senses. “In the beginning, God created,” that is, He placed within the man and the woman an instinctive seed of belief in Himself.

Travel to the far reaches of this planet, to any time period that you wish to research and you will discover every society, every culture, every civilization worshipping that which they believe is God.

I’ve heard people say they were atheists, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. I believe people like to proclaim themselves atheists so they can get away with any kind of behavior without feeling guilty.

In my days at Ohio State, I took a philosophy class with a professor who was at that time the editor of and still writes for American Atheist Magazine. I couldn’t understand why he spends so much time and energy thinking about, talking about, and writing about something he doesn’t believe in. One day he came to class and told us that as he sat down to dinner with his wife and 10-year-old son, his boy asks, “Dad, do you think God knows we don’t believe in Him?” + Read More

Wrath and Grace

Psalm 19:1-4
Romans 1:18-25; 3:9-25a

I am holding in my hand (dad’s wooden paddle) the instrument of my father’s wrath! It is as you can see his fraternity pledge paddle.

During that process, he was probably hit with it more than I ever was (ha!) In fact, my father only took his wrath on me with this paddle two times. On one of those occasions, I don’t recall what I did to deserve it. But the other one is very clear in my mind.

Last Sunday, I mentioned that my two brothers and I were known in our neighborhood as the Katzenjammer Kids; the kids that were always at heart of the trouble. One day, my cousin Mark, Tom and I were in the weed field behind my uncle’s house, which was right across Herbert Street from our house. Tom took out a box of matches and said, “Look what I have.”
I said, “I dare you to light the weeds on fire.”
Tom lit a match, dropped it on the ground and some of the dry weeds immediately caught fire, but Tom quickly stomped the little fire out.
“I bet you can’t do that again,” I said, as I winked at my cousin Mark.
Tom lit a second match, dropped the match into the weeds, the weeds caught fire, but just when my brother raised his foot to stomp out the fire, Mark and I grabbed him and held him back. The fire quickly spread.

+ Read More

Fears Relieved

Mark 4:35-41

Speaking of fears, my two younger brothers and I were exceptionally mischievous.

We were always getting into trouble and our parents knew that if any mischief occurred in our neighborhood the Katzenjammer Kids were always involved. When my mother heard that the new pastor at the Christian Church had a gift of putting boys on the right track she took us to see him. The clergyman took my youngest brother, Steve, into his office, while Tom and I waited with mom. Rev. Pugh, a rather rotund fellow with a deep booming voice that we could hear through the closed door, asked Steve sternly, “Where is God?”

We knew Steve didn’t have a clue about where God was because the Rev. in an even sterner tone, repeated, “I said, where is God!!?” Steve bolted from the room in fear and as he ran past us, said, “We’re in really big trouble this time; God is missing and he thinks we did it!”

Of course, it was our parents’ fault.

One of the decisions they made that probably wasn’t too well thought out was to allow us to watch the 1951 movie, “The Thing from Another World,” on television. That was the movie that gave James Arness, alias Matt Dillion of GunSmoke fame, his big break. “The Thing” was about a group of scientists stationed in the Arctic Circle who discover a 100-foot wide flying saucer buried under the ice. Of course, they dig it up and discover the frozen body of The Thing, who accidentally thaws allowing him to wreak terror on their little compound. At the climax of the movie, they first try to burn him. That doesn’t work, so then they decide to electrocute him as he enters a hallway, and that does The Thing from Another World in.

To add insult to injury, after the movie, we were tiptoeing down the hallway toward our bedroom when dad suddenly jumped out from behind his door making the same alien noises and gestures that had just scared us to death. We were so utterly afraid we begged to sleep with mom and dad that night. + Read More

Avoiding Future Regret; Take II

Psalm 32:1-5
John 13:1-11
I John 1:1-2:2

Two weeks ago, we noted that the definition of regret is “being sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed about past decisions or missed opportunities.” We acknowledged therefore that ‘regret’ interferes with our being happier than we might otherwise be because we can’t be happy and at the same time sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed.

We noted that the Apostle Paul had regrets but in Philippians, he wrote: “but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (3:14).

We considered some action steps we could take in order to do just that: If you missed that day or would be interested in reviewing, read it here.

Last week, we considered four things we could do in the present to avoid future regret:

Turn mistakes into stepping stones.
Let go of perfectionistic tendencies.
Don’t bring your work home with you.
Strive to live out the fruit of the Spirit.

Review that message here.

Today, I want to continue last week’s theme by giving you steps 5, 6 and 7 to take today
in order to avoid regret in the future. + Read More

Avoiding Future Regret

Galatians 5:22-23

Speaking about regret. . .

A woman awoke during the night to find that her husband was not in bed. She put on her robe and found him sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. He appeared to be in deep thought, just staring at the wall. She saw him wipe a tear from his eye and take a sip of his coffee. “What’s the matter dear?” she asked.

“Do you remember twenty years ago when we were dating at the age 16?”

“Yes, honey, I do,” she replied.

“Do you remember when your father caught us kissing in your basement?”

“Yes, I remember that like it was yesterday,” she blushes.

“Do you remember when he shoved that shotgun in my face and said, ‘Either you marry my daughter or spend twenty years in jail?’”

“Yea, I remember that too, what are you getting at?” she said.

He wiped another tear from his cheek and said, “You know, I would have gotten out today.”

Last week, we reminded ourselves that regrets cause us to be unhappy. I talked about some action steps we could take in order to deal with past regrets. I also told you that today I would spend some time talking about what we can do in the present to avoid piling up regret in the future.

If you google this subject, you will see that there are many articles that have been written on this subject from different perspectives offering advice that is beyond the scope of our time today and covering things that are beyond the realm of my expertise. Many of them come from the Self-Help/Psychology ilk and offer such advice as Follow Your Dream, Trust Your Gut, Take Risks, Take Life Less Seriously, Be Yourself in order to avoid future regret. And while all of these have merit, and a Christian connection, I need to stick to the kind of advice that comes from a Biblical perspective. I offer four Biblical prescriptions that will help us avoid regret down the road. + Read More

Let it Go

Philippians 3:1-14
Have you ever found yourself wishing you had done things differently in the past? Ever been tempted to think if only I had done this or that my life would have turned out better?

My guess is all of us can sing right along with Frank Sinatra the first line of the second verse of his classic I Did It My Way: ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few.’ And all of us I am sure are envious of the next line: ‘But then again, too few to mention.’

Because the truth is that most of us have more than a few things we regret.

Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, and author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, describes the following regrets as being in common among her patients:

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
“I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

A regret is defined as when we feel sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed because of something that we have done, or something we haven’t done or a loss or missed opportunity.

Regret interferes with our happiness because we can’t be happy and sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed at the same time.

John Greenleaf Whittier expressed the concept of regret poetically:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’” 1

Do you think we are the only people of God who have regrets? + Read More

1 2 3 9