All's Quiet on the God Front

As a child, I was terrified of Good Friday and Holy Sat­urday. I dreaded those hours of “time out of time” that stretched between 3 p.m. on Friday when Jesus officially died on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection, with a clap of alleluias, on Easter morning. It was in those in-between hours that God was dead—and we were alone in the world.

Suddenly, there was no spiritual safety net. Chaos ruled the world and we were defenseless against it. The isolation was nearly unbearable. As an adult, I learned theological mind-tricks to protect me from this fear of God’s ultimate abandonment. But I confess, sometimes when I wake at 3 a.m., all I hear in the universe is emptiness.

Recently, a priest friend said that in all his 70-plus years of prayerful discernment, he’s rarely had a heavenly answer. “God’s mostly silent,” he said. I don’t think he meant absent per se; just not prone to conversation or helpful hints on the best next step. God is just very, very quiet.

This is a man who’s given his whole life—every moment—to God for more than 50 years. He’s done tremendous work among the poor. He’s made genuine sacrifices in his personal life. He prays every morning and every night (unless there’s a baseball game on). How come God doesn’t talk to him? Why is God silent?

Mother Teresa, in her diaries released last year, also writes about God’s silence—more particularly God’s absence. In a letter to her archbishop, Teresa begs, “Please pray especially for me that I may not spoil [Jesus’] work and that Our Lord may show Himself—for there is such a terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead.” This great emptiness started when she began her ministry with the destitute and dying in Calcutta.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2008
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