Have you ever given up on hope? Has God ever been silent for so long that you exceeded your ability to trust any longer?
Maybe you have been seeking a silent God for so long that even if the answer came, you wouldn’t accept it. That happened to Zechariah the priest. He and his wife Elizabeth faithfully followed the ways of God for decades, but God still not answer their prayer for a child (Luke 1:7). They spent decades asking God, likely begging God, for a child and hoping with all their hearts that God would hear and respond, but nothing happened. They experienced years and years of waiting and hoping with nothing to show for it. When an angel finally does comes with an answer to their prayers, it was too late. Zechariah did not believe the angel. In the end, this faithful priest had lost his ability to continue to hope. His waiting had continued too long for him to bear up under it.
I can understand how Zechariah could cease to believe that God would answer his prayer after so many years of silence. His faith had faltered to the point that he did not believe the words of an angelic being! However, the story does not end with his doubt. Instead, we witness the profound and inspiring truth that God’s steadfast love for us does not depend upon our faith, but on His faithfulness, and is never limited by the passing of time. Zechariah’s doubt did not and could not thwart God’s purposes.
There is always hope in God because God is always working. Even twenty, thirty or forty years later, God answered a prayer for this couple. We always have hope because God always loves and never gives up on us even when we may give up on Him. We can hope because our doubts, shortcomings, sins, failures and foolishness do not thwart God’s purposes. Let us hold on to a hope not dependent on our ability to wait or upon the strength of our faith or the power of our will, but that which rests in the absolute and steadfast love of our Father.
Through the season of Advent, we seek to develop the ability to be more present to God, to His promises and to the people around us. In this way, we can grow in trusting God in periods of silence. For the next two days, practice the following exercises:
1. Attention: Throughout our day, we regularly use our 5 senses without paying much attention to them. To become more aware of what we are experiencing, slow down your eating today. With everything you eat, spend a moment to experience how it smells, looks, tastes and depending upon the food item, how it feels. What matters is slowing down and really being aware of what you are eating.
2. Present To God’s Work: Sit quietly and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how God has been at a work in the life of a a family member or friend. Spend time listening and then go share with that family member or friend about how you see God working in their lives. It might involve the way they use their gifts, they way they interact with others, prayers that have been answered, or something else. Focus on them as you share.
Each exercise seeks to place us firmly in the moment. Our lives are often filled with so many thoughts, sounds and stimuli, it can be very difficult to simply be present in the moment. Use these exercises as ways to begin developing a greater ability to be in the moment and to hear from the Lord.