Friday, April 1, 2016

WHEN HEAVEN DOES NOT PICK UP THE PHONE

This article entitle "When Heaven Does Not Pick Up The Phone" was written by a colleague and friend of mine, Rev. Ronald E. A. Blake, of the Dialogue of Faith Church of Canada,

www.dialogueoffaithchurchg.org,


After reviewing the article I decided that this information was too important to keep to myself and so I requested his permission to pass this vital information on to you.

Her parents would be there  for her in every crisis situation ,from the first time she stuck her tiny finger into a bottle and could not get it out, to the cold, winter’s night when her car broke down on the highway and she had no money to pay a tow truck. Whenever she was in trouble, all she had to do was call her dad. That was why Shelly was terrified when she fell sick on her way to China, called home, but nobody answered. As the phone rang, seemingly forever then cut off, Shelly became increasingly frightened  to the point of desperation .

Where are they when I need them most? she muttered, as tears ran down her cheeks. Are they sick or dead, she wondered.  They are the only ones I have to depend on. Moments later, she would anxiously call again, only to have the same dead ring experience. As she kept trying to call, but received no response ,even at the dead of night, the young woman fell into deep despair. She hoped that they would see her phone number and return her calls, but days ran into weeks, and weeks ran into months to no avail.  Without their help, she would be unable to return home, for as a touring student, Shelly was travelling with little money. Certain that she was marooned, she covered her face and wept bitterly.

As we contemplate the plight of Shelly, we might ask ourselves what does her experience have  in common with ours as children of God.  What happens when heaven fails to pick up our call in the moments of our greatest personal crises. And Why?  Where is God when we need him most? And what are we supposed to do then?
Have you ever been in the situation where you feel convinced that God is either too distant or absent when you call upon him in times of trouble?
                                                       Section 2
Have you ever gotten to a spiritual desert place where every prayer you pray is like dry, blowing dust?or echoes like empty words bouncing back from your ceiling?
Have you ever felt so spiritually empty that songs cannot move you, sermons cannot energize you, scriptures cannot  encourage you, but they feel like empty, lifeless words printed on the pages of a thick, ancient book written to another people?
When these things happen to you, do you find yourself asking, Why, O God are you silent when I am in deep distress?  Are you a god whose words I can trust always, or are your words only trustworthy sometimes? If you said that you will be with me always, where is the evidence ?

I have read in Isaiah 43:2 When thou passeth through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee: when thou walketh through the fire thou shall not be burned: neither shall the flames kindle upon thee.

Where are you now when I need you most?  Are you speaking to me, or were you speaking to somebody else at another time and place?
When you have these experiences, you have entered into a state called: The Dark Night of the soul. It is an experience that every person who believes in God must have. Unless the Holy Spirit helps you out, you  will be sick and marooned in your faith as Shelly was sick and  marooned in China.

The purpose of this discussion is to help you to get a hold of yourself in this crisis, ,explain why you have found yourself in it, and show you how to get out safely. If you have not been living according to the righteous guidelines presented to you by Jesus Christ and confirmed by the further instructions of the Holy Spirit the Comforter and Teacher, you should not be surprised to find yourself in this situation.

Section 3
           
    You would have read Proverbs 1:24-28

24 .Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;
25. But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
26. I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
27. When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
28. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

You therefore know the reasons why God will not answer your prayers. You can either try to fix your situation or decide to settle down in your distress  and continue disobeying at great price.

However, if you have reached the honest self-judgment that you are walking in obedience to Christ, then you are in a different kettle of fish. You will have to be given very good reasons why God has not been answering you in the hour of your greatest crisis.  To help you to understand your situation, we shall have to compare what is happening  to you with what has happened to some of the most righteous people of God as reported in the bible. You shall find from the evidence to follow, that you are not failing to get answers because you are unrighteous. The Holdup is due to something else. Listen to the complaints of the Prophet David and that of the righteous man, Job.

Psalm 30:7 LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
Psalm 10:1 Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?
Psalm 89:46 How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself forever? Shall thy wrath burn like fire?
Section 4

Psalm 88:14 LORD, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?
Psalm 69:17 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.
Psalm 44:24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?
Psalm 27:9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
Psalm 102:2 Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.
Psalm 143:7 Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
Job 13:24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?

David having lost his patience with the Lord’s failure to respond to the prophet’s pleadings for help, appears to have lost his self-control and was emboldened. He sternly protested:
Psalm 55:1-2     Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
2 Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;

Now, we are going to be at a loss to explain the sudden turnaround in the prophet’s attitude as he writes a contradiction of his own earlier complaints:

Psalm 22:24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.


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Why has David’s tone changed so drastically to the point that he is now praising for his care and attentiveness, the same God whom he had so frequently accused of abandoning him when the prophet needed him most? The answer lies in a discovery that David appeared to have made about God’s attitude towards the prayers of his afflicted servants. We have set out to(1) explain why you have found yourself in the situation where heaven will not answer your call, and (2)to show you how to get out of that darkness of the soul safely.                                                              

You recall that in the book of Genesis 6:3, God said that his spirit shall not always strive with man because [man] is flesh. We therefore know that there comes a time when God is not with us in a way of which we might be aware, although he is not unaware of our situation. So how do we account for this problem of broken communication line with heaven? The fact that God is not responding to you does not mean that he is not listening to you. Of course, this realization makes it even more painful to be calling and getting no response, for if he hears but does not respond, is he deliberately ignoring your cry? Again, the answer is, No. There are good reasons not to answer you sometimes. We find a parallel to our predicament by taking a moment to observe birds in the wild.

For a young bird to learn to fly, we observe that the loving mother or father that so diligently toiled to feed the chick until it grew feathers makes the decision to pitch it out of the nest. When the chick is falling to the ground, the parent bird is not sitting in the nest, but quickly flies beneath the falling, frightened chick and catches it on the parent’s back.  This frightful exercise continues until the chick learns from experience that a fall does not result in a crash, but in a lift at the crucial moment. As it learns that lesson, it relaxes, loses its fears , stretches its wings and gradually becomes air bourne. Soon, that little birdie flies to a nearby branch, then to a farther, until it ventures far and high in the air. It has become a flying bird no longer dependent upon nest support. It learned its skill from being put in trouble and reliably  and predictably rescued on each occasion.
God will allow you to fall, but will catch you just before you slam and are broken into pieces. By so doing, he teaches you the art of faith, namely functioning
Section 6

without hearing and sight. He repeats the experience with increasing severity and terror until you learn that when God is absent, you can rely upon him to be instantly present.  At issue is the element of time. Pain and fear increase our perception of length of time. Severe pain, irrespective of how short a time it lasts, feels as though they last forever. Therefore, the exercise is not only intended to teach faith. It is also to teach patience and endurance. Patience is the art of waiting without looking at the clock, but endurance is the art of lasting without falling apart. Faith in a rescuer is learnt from frequent rescue, not from constant  safety. The longer the delay in receiving rescue, the greater the value the rescued will place upon the deliverance. The more often  he is rescued, the more certain he becomes that the rescuer is reliable.

That fact accounts for why people continually venture out on the thinning ice of the northern lakes each January to march. They do so because they know that they will be rescued by the government’s recue services that plead with them not to venture out on dangerous ice conditions. We observe that the more intensive or frequently the warning is issued, the more people are tempted to risk going on the ice.  Why? It is because every time a person disobeying the warning gets in trouble on the ice, the rescue team is able to respond so quickly that the chances of the victim losing his life is always very slim. In other words, the reliability of the rescuers causes the risk taker to feel more secure. Similarly, the more we experience the deliverance by God, the less fearful we become that he will not deliver. For this reason, the people of greatest faith are those who have endured the most frequent and frightening Dark Night of the Soul.
 Wait plus= Faith plus.

If you are going to develop into a person of great faith, you will be one who will at some   time call upon heaven in the midnight of your distress and get no answer. You will pray until you get to the point that personal disaster is the next step. But like the parent bird teaching its chick to fly, God will catch you before you hit ground. A great and sudden let down will be followed by a swift and sudden lift up. Those experiences will become more frequent, the more your faith is growing.

To be fair to you, you ought to ask whether the silent God will always answer before disaster strikes you, or might he never answer at all. You have probably seen churches of fervent Christians praying for the healing of a sick person, but after they plead endlessly on that person’s behalf, the victim eventually dies. This writer was one of hundreds praying and fasting for a long time for the healing of  a young, Christian woman stricken with multiple scleroses. But after suffering for years, the young woman died.

How shall we answer this failure of heaven to pick up our collective calls? Are we not told that” the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much(James 5:16),  and that “if two of you shall agree as touching any  thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 18:19). Nobody has yet provided a satisfactory explanation to that heavenly blackout, for we know of no explanation that God has given to any of us who prayed and failed to move the divine hand. It would seem that the lesson to be learned is that no amount of praying or waiting will move the hand of a God who has made the decision not to deliver.

We have already demonstrated, based upon scripture that that God’s attitude to prayers may fall into any of four response categories, depending upon what is asked, who is asking, namely Yes, No, Wait, or Mockery. Because the young woman died, we know that God’s answer was, No. Prayers of the Dark Night of the Soul languish in the zone called: Wait. Not in the zone called: No. How to wait and survive in the waiting zone is where patience comes in.

Jesus experienced that situation when he prayed: father, if it is possible, let this cup be passed from me. There is no report that God answered him . We know the answer was not :Yes, neither was it wait. Since Jesus did not merit mockery from God for disobedience as expressed in Proverbs 1:24-28, we must conclude that the failure of God to grant the request was because he said , No. We can therefore say that  some prayers to heal the sick may not receive the answer, Yes, if that soul is scheduled to leave the earth. When, No is the answer, we cannot say that heaven had failed to pick up the call in the Dark Night of the Soul. Jesus’ prayer for release was not because he experienced a dark night of the soul, but because he had been put on a divine assignment of suffering to achieve the redemptive purpose. So, his case is unlike the one for which we are seeking explanation here.   We now realize that the painful waiting in the Dark Night of the Soul is caused by  God’s intention to advance the your rank in spiritual maturity ,patience, endurance and faith. And that though delayed, the answer is bound to come to the one waiting in the dark night of the soul. You are waiting to be promoted, not to be demoted.

We have now come to the issue of how to survive the waiting and get out safely: Here are the rules:
1.     Do not look at the prosperity of the wicked; it will deceive you that God is unjust.
2.     Do not try to save God’s face by making up explanations that make you put  guilt trips upon yourself in order to preserve God’s honour.
3.     Do not read Proverbs 12:21 that says; No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.  It will be found contrary to the evidence that you see. Consequently, you might begin to doubt God’s written words. That verse applies to a different set of circumstances related to judgment.
4.     Never forget that both the wicked and the righteous have troubles in the world. The difference is found in how and where they find their respective help. The wicked trades his soul for it. The righteous gains his soul by it.
5.     In the Dark Night of the Soul, God is not punishing you, so do not quote to yourself Proverbs 3:12 For whom the lord loves he chastises even as a father doe the son he loves.
Stop trying to understand your situation and instead exercise faith in the unresponsive God
6.     Quote Jer 29:11  I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Finally, remember that your plight in this situation is a growth event, not a death march. In the dark night of the soul through which all of God’s children must pass, God is present there. He worked in the darkness when he created the world. He tells us that darkness was upon the face of the deep, and that he did not create the sun until day four of creation. So know that darkness is not the spirit of evil. It is a place where spiritual growth takes place  before it is displayed in the light. It is not only where you wait and cry; it is where you wait to fly.
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