All Articles

The Silence is Uncertain

It was an uncanny moment that November morning. When the machine guns finally fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It's hard to imagine. For those in the middle of the fray to shake the feelings of horror that the Great War brought. The effect on their psyche is profound.

“The Armistice began at 11:00 o'clock this morning. We knew the time of the day by the sudden silence. Suddenly all the guns behind us stopped barking and rolling. The last ‘freight car’ rattled over our heads. And all the machine guns suddenly stopped, though they'd been rioting away up to the very last minute. There was a cold dense mist in which I suddenly noticed that I could hear water dripping off a bush next to me. Our guns stopped – and no shells were coming on us. It seemed mysterious, queer, unbelievable. All the men knew what the silence meant, but nobody shouted or threw his hat in the air. We asked ourselves a few questions, wondered if it were really all over.”

So reads a letter from Stanhope Bayne-Jones to his sister. World War I is officially over, but to many soldiers on the frontlines the silence feels uncertain. Like the shells might begin again any minute. These men have endured weeks or months or years of horrific fighting and carnage. Soldiers have seen things that they can't unsee.

The silence at times can be deafening. Noteworthy even. Complete and utter quietness. Does it signify disapproval? Disinterest? Silence used to be quiet. Laying on the grassy hills under a starry night. But this silence is one that affects us quite differently, doesn’t it? “Be not silent, O God of my praise!” (Psm 109.1) It encompasses us completely. Unsettling as it rips through the heart.

"I was sure by now God, you would have reached down and wiped our tears away. Stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say 'Amen,' and it's still raining."

Wandering, prodigal children making horrid decisions. Serious health issues. Marriages ripped to shreds. Moments in our lives where all we can do is bend the knee. And still we hear... silence. Is God there? Is He even listening? Does He care? Yes, the silence is uncertain. What's in store for us just around the bend?

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.

Psalm 44.23-25

Theirs is a passionate plea of believers. Not some pagan’s importune. They recount His provisions for them in the past (Psm 44.17-18). And yet there's stumbling in the wind. Our strength is almost gone. How can we possibly carry on?

Too often we do not allow for the fact that disaster can strike our lives though we have not committed sin. Ask yourself. If your pleas were immediately answered and relief came instantly, would we still run to the Lord? Would complacency set in? Our struggles and yes, even our pains keep us rushing back to Him. To the only source of help. In times of deepest need we cling to the cross. And although we at times and in those moments hear silence, we patiently wait. For we know, by faith, the One who promised is faithful. He will not leave us nor let us down. He and He alone has brought us up out of the mire and muck of despair and lifted us up with eagles' wings.

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40.31

We realize that knowing all of this to be true doesn't negate the impact of the deafening silence as we experience it. The silence can be uncertain. We need to be reminded though. Just like the martyred saints were told to rest and wait quietly just a little longer (Rev 6.10), so may we. There is more to be experienced before the end can be known. Jesus taught us to be persistent in declaring our needs and desires to the Father. Remember the parable of the unrighteous judge? (Lk 18.1-8) "Be steadfast" is the takeaway for us even today. Do not faint.

“It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.”

Thomas Fuller

The amount of pain, sorrow and silence we may be experiencing is not an indicator of our God's satisfaction with us. Truth be told, our sorrows tug on His heart. Convictions, Biblical truth and faith have always sustained God’s people as they plow through the mountains of sorrow and grief.

And yet still we cry to Him. Praising Him through the storm. Longing for the day when we are at rest with Him.

Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

Psalm 44.26

Our God is good, even when things haven’t been good to us. He loves us even when we cry ourselves to sleep at night. Don’t let the silence bring uncertainty. Don’t let it speak to you untruths and falsehoods. Yes, His love is truly unfailing. Remember that.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day.

Through the momentary silence.