In the traditions of the church calendar, this week is Holy Week and today, Wednesday, is often known as "Silent Wednesday." It's called silent because in reconstructing the events of Jesus' final week before his crucifixion there doesn't seem to be any activity on Wednesday. The Gospel writers are essentially mute on the activity of Jesus' Wednesday before the cross. This might make you uncomfortable. We like God busy, God active, God at work doing things. For Americans it can be the one way we image God the best. Active, responsible, working, engaged, in charge, in control. We like to be known as responsible, busy, active people. In no way does it fit our paradigms that God would be. . . well, inactive.
There are some suggestions that Jesus continued teaching at the temple (Lk. 21:37-38) and that the religious leadership was gathered to plot against Jesus once and for all. But in the calendar of activity we're left with a gaping whole. What did Jesus say on this day? Who did he heal? Who did he confront? How did he act? What are we missing from this Wednesday?
It would be largely presumptuous of me to suggest I know what was going on that day, or why God intended it to be relatively quite in the pages of Scripture. However, the apparent mystery of this day is helpful to us in considering how to walk with Christ. It's a day of mystery, a day of silence, a day where you and I don't get the insiders look at what was happening as we do on other days. We're left, so to speak, in the dark on Jesus' actions.
The Secret Things Belong To The Lord
Are you really comfortable with that dynamic? Let me suggest it a different way; does the thought of not knowing everything that God is up to make you uncomfortable?
If I'm honest, days of silence are really troubling to me. Deep down in my heart I hate being kept out of the loop. If something is going on, I want to know about it. I want to be aware of what is on the horizon so that I can plan my steps and prepare to handle whatever it is that comes. Leave me in a situation without information and I'm very frustrated.
Times of silence from God about my circumstances are even more troubling, especially when things aren't how I envisioned them to be playing out. I want to quickly ask, "God, where are you? Give me a peek at your grand designs in this situation so that I can trust you better." Sometimes those peeks come. Often, I'm still sitting in God's silence, not privy to the information that he has.
This is profoundly frustrating to me.
If you're honest, I bet it troubles you too. We like to think that as Christians we should be in know on God's wise counsel. We might even think that if he was really wise he'd ask our opinion and get our insight so that his wise counsel is even wiser. We know our lives best, after all. It unsettles us when our favorite question, "Why?" goes unanswered.
Perhaps you are sitting in a silence-of-God situation right now. Things are difficult, they aren't what you dreamed or believed they would be or become. Life as you imagined it has turned out incredibly different and you're asking God to explain himself. Maybe you're not that deep into the conversation, but you'd like a little heads up on the events coming around the bend. The quiet of God is deafening. Sure we don't want to be know-it-alls, but we want a bit of a say on how things play out in our own lives. And God isn't answering. Days go by and we're still stuck in the silence.
It might be completely unorthodox for a pastor to say this to someone who is in the midst of God's silence, but, you need it. So do I.
The Remedy of God's Silence
As frustrating as it is to not know what God's designs or will or counsel are in your particular situations, it's also liberating. Knowledge brings with it responsibility. If I know that my car needs repair (because it won't run properly) I'm bound to get it fixed so that it does work. If I know the reasons why my current life-situation are troubling, I'm just as bound to do something about it. We want to get to work, to find a solution and fix our troubles. So as soon as God points out the reason we're enduring these troubles we're off to take care of it.
Perhaps, this is why Silent Wednesday is necessary on our calendars. Today, this day, we don't need to know the why or the what of all our situations. It's possible for us to miss out on the larger issue at hand if we know all that God knows. Instead of realizing who is really in charge we long to hear what's happening and get to work. All the while we believe that we are the one in charge.
We live in a culture that can't handle not knowing things. Just observe what occurs when you in a room talking about pop-culture facts and the question is raised that no one seems to have the answer for. Almost immediately a smart phone is pulled out, the topic in question is googled and instantaneously we have the information we lacked. We can't handle not knowing what we don't know.
This is where we have to bank on what we do know. The revelation that we do have of God anchors and helps us when we stand in the silence of not knowing what he is doing. Tim Chester is helpful in identifying for us the “4 Gs” of God's nature and character so that when we are stuck in the silence we can hold on to the reality of who God is despite not knowing what he is up to or why things are going the way they are.1
We are reminded that:
1. God is great–so we don’t have to be in control.
2. God is glorious–so we don’t have to fear others.
3. God is good–so we don’t have to look elsewhere.
4. God is gracious–so we don’t have to prove ourselves.
If we don't anchor ourselves to the revealed knowledge of God and his identity, we will struggle along trying to come up with answers and realities that might counter the very thing that God is showing us in his silence. When we are in situations where we do not know what's going on, we need to look to what we do know, namely God's character, so that we can walk well through the trial of his silence.
Trusting a Quiet Father
As a boy my parents would sometimes take my brother and I up into the mountains of Colorado to go off-roading on our four-wheeled ATV's. As small children, we loved the exhilaration of being out on the trail, seeing nature, strolling over difficult terrain, and ending up in places where not too many human beings had ventured before. But there were always a few times when I was completely terrified. We'd roll right up to the edge of a cliff for a look-over or find some wild trail that was absolutely frightening to venture on. I was scared out of my mind on several occasions.
I don't, however, remember my dad always telling me why we were on those trails or in those spots. I do, however, fondly look back on those difficult places that we were in knowing that my dad was never going to put me in a situation that would ultimately injure me. My father is a good father who cared well for his sons.
So how much so does our Heavenly Father care for us, even when he isn't giving us the answers or the information. Even when he walks us into the wilderness without any knowledge of why we are there, we have to remember that he is utterly trustworthy.
I have to wonder if the Wednesday of Holy Week was like that for Jesus. The Scriptures record nothing of that day. It's likely that they are telling us that even when we don't know what is going on God does, and he has ordained all things for our good and for his glory.
Jeremy Writebol(@jwritebol) has been training leaders in the church for over thirteen years. He is the author of everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present (GCD Books, 2014) and writes at jwritebol.net. He lives and works in Plymouth, MI as the Campus Pastor of Woodside Bible Church.
1. Tim Chester, You Can Change, Crossway Books↩