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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The silence of God | Darkness across the land

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).

MATTHEW 27:45–46

 


 

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The cry of the Son to the Father echoes throughout eternity. It is a cry both of faith and of pain. Faith because my God. Even after toiling through Jerusalem’s streets, broken in his body, and walking to sure death. Even then, still, my God.

But it’s also a cry of pain. For his God, it seemed, had forsaken him. The one who knew no sin had himself become sin, bearing in his body the curse of sin that we might be healed (2 Corinthians 5:21). He had taken on the fullness of our separation from God. And his God was not saving him from drinking the complete measure of this cup of suffering.

In fact, the Father said to him not a word. In a darkness both physical and spiritual, Jesus faced the silence of God.

In a faith that proclaims that we can relate with God like a child with their father, silence is a problem. Relationship thrives upon communication, and often our Christian lives begin this way: full of conversation with God, we hear his word of love in Scripture and speak prayers of love in response.

But though we begin this way, we may find that seasons of darkness and silence come. At such times, everything in us strains to see and hear God again. We pray with the psalmist, ‘How long, O Lord?’ (Psalm 13:1), as we await the breaking of the dawn and, with the dawn, the coming word of hope. In their length and their purpose, these seasons are mystery: God alone knows them.

And yet the church also has spoken of them. John of the Cross, a Carmelite saint, called these times a dark night of the soul. He recognised their pain, the overwhelm of the darkness and seeming absence of God, framing them as a season in which God works deep transformation in our hearts. Over Lent, we will explore the breadth of this transformation that God works in our darkness and silence. We will see how baptism into Jesus’ death, with all its darkness and silence, works in us the newness of resurrection life that is also ours in him.

As you ponder the mystery of God’s ways this Lent, consider how far you allow those on your frontline to see the reality of your faith – not just its joys, but also its unexplained pains.

Dr Chloe Lynch
Lecturer in Practical Theology, London School of Theology

When you came to faith, did anyone tell you that suffering and seeming silence were – even for Jesus – part of relationship with God? If you were sharing the gospel today, would you tell of the suffering or move quickly to resurrection hope? Join the conversation below.

Comments

  1. At present we are in a season of change with no real time frame to follow and dicotomous ideas of what is next. We have both been poorly treated by a missionary organization, (lied to our faces, slandered, treated as worthless, etc).
    It gives us Peace, an island of calm in a tossing sea.
    Also Hope, that whatever is the final outcome, it will be by His will.
    So we just rattle on each day trying to get as much as possible done, binding the wounds and looking to the light of the future.

    By Christian Atkins  -  26 Mar 2024

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