The title of this post sounds heretical, if not blasphemous. I admit that. I admit this flies in the face of everything we have been taught, of the way we have been taught, even of the songs we have sung. I just want you to consider a few things with me before you write me off.
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Genesis 2:18
When God spoke this, He had already made man. Man’s creation was very intimate: God formed him, then moved very close to man so He could breathe into his nose the breath of life. When man awoke, the first thing, person, he saw was God. God gave man a home, a job, boundaries, wealth, and Himself. Despite all of this, God still considered His presence in man’s life by itself to be insufficient...not good. To be more specific: man at his birth was greeted by YHWH Elohiym, The great and powerful majesty of the Plural Godhead wrapped in covenant relational Oneness. The entire Trinity was present to greet man on his first day of life! Yet when They considered man, they considered him alone, even with Them being present!
God designed us for community, and God is part of this community, but God is not all of the community. We were designed for contact with others like us, who are like God, so that there is a 3-part community: God, me (the image of God), and others (the image of God). Angels themselves live within this 3-part community: God, the individual angels, and each’s relationship to the greater angelic community. God never intended for humanity to be in community solely with Him alone. God’s own words indicate that in God’s mind, He is not enough for humanity.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest” Psalm 22:1-2
David was the premier poet of the Bible, and during one painful time of his life, he states that he has called God, and God does not answer. Why? Is God silent because David sinned? This was the argument of Job’s friends to him when he lost it all. Is God silent because He is absent? This would contradict the foundational belief in God’s omnipresence.
Why is God silent? If He is not absent, why doesn't He rise up, speak a word to resolve our struggle, and restore His children?
Why does God simply have nothing to say? We already know God is ever present. We know God is love. We know God is good. We know God is gracious. What could He say during the death of a loved one that would ease the pain of the loss we are suffering? Nothing. What words could He give that would sooth our hearts? None
There is no magic bullet, even from God, which will ease the pain of suffering. Many times God does not say anything. He is simply present in the suffering:
“In all their affliction He was afflicted...” Isaiah 68:9
Our penchant for simply speaking a word to someone without entering into their situation informs our understanding of God. We expect Him to simple speak a Bible verse, a prophetic word, like we do. We then expect things to magically be altered because the Word of God was spoken. We treat the Word as if it is a thing, and not a person. Thus the word is simply the manifestation of God’s power, and not the revelation of God in person.
But for God, the Word is Person who has power! When God acted in creation, He stood apart from the chaotic darkness, spoke light, and the Word went for into creation to create from inside the chaotic darkness. When God wanted to give us His final Word on Sin and Salvation, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. The Word came to be God WITH us, not to be God’s Word spoken AT/TO us. He came to suffer with us, and in so doing He earned the right to speak into our hearts God’s recreation love story.
I say He earned the right, not because God is not God, but because in relationships, things are given, not demanded and taken. Relationship is not about position and power; it is about relating and trust. Trust must be earned before power is given and exerted. God does not rule by power, but by relationship. In sorrow God sometimes doesn’t have anything to say. He must incarnate and come along side and suffer with you
Thus, when someone is suffering, while it is true they need Jesus, it is also true that the Spirit needs flesh. Jesus himself is needed, as is Jesus in Jason. I am to be the presence of God to those who are suffering. By my entering into their pain, I with the Holy Spirit residing in me bring into their chaotic darkness “God with them”.
Where is God in all human suffering? He is in part in human beings who show compassion to those suffering, who intercede for those in pain, and who comfort those in need. God incarnates His Word in creation and in salvation so that His Word might be effectively meaningful to the human situation. It is not that His Word means nothing; it is rather that God wants His Word to carry meaning, significance, and weight with sinful humans. He chose to enter into our dark chaos, and sin-filled situation to suffer with us:
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death...For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and” that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”. Hebrews 2: 14-15, 17-18
Jesus, fully God and fully man, not only spent time with God. His relationship with God demanded that he have a human community. His cousin, John the Baptist, despite his ascetic ways, was compelled by the call of God on his life to return frequently back to the human community. There is not a prophet or holy man in the Bible which God ever called to sole community with Him. Each great man in the Bible was part of the 3-pronged relationship of God, one’s self, and community.
And so God sends us, as He sent Jesus. God sends us as His emissaries, to be His presence, as an extension of His authority, and to relay His love to the suffering. We, who know what it means to suffer, are now called to join with God in the work of intercession and reconciliation. And like God, we may have nothing to say to another’s suffering; we can only be present, and grieve with the bereaved. There is no theology which will bring peace and joy to the mother who has lost a child. There is no adequate theology to diffuse the anger of those who have experienced prejudice and violence. God’s sovereign power does not comfort the dying, but God’s loving presence, through the mediating work of a Spirit-filled human, can do more that words of exhortation could. We, through the Holy Spirit, can be the other third of our 3-part community bringing God in a tangible way to the lives of those who are tangled in suffering and grief, thus demonstrating that God, even though silent, is very present and all-sufficient.
I hope this song speaks to someone’s silent insufficiency: