Silence can be beautiful at Christmas. Picture the quiet of a night with new-fallen snow, or the hush in which only the breathing of an infant can be heard. But silence, when unwanted, can also be painful. Silence can mean emptiness, loneliness, abandonment.
One of the hardest things to bear is the silence of God. Where is He in our troubles? When my then-two-year-old nephew was diagnosed with leukemia one Christmas season, I didn’t need to be told why God allows suffering. I had answers to that question that satisfied my intellect. But they didn’t satisfy my heart. One part of me understood. The other part was confused and distraught. What I really wanted was to be assured of the goodness of God, that He truly loved my nephew, my sister, and all of us who were hurting; that He hadn’t abandoned us.
Even Jesus suffered
Every one of us will face suffering in this life. Even Jesus on the Cross cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me” (Matthew 27:46)? Of course, God the Father never truly abandoned His Son. That would be impossible. They share the same substance. In His divinity, Jesus was always in communion with His Father. But in His humanity, He experienced the Dark Night of the Soul. He called out to God, and, unlike at earlier times in His life, God was silent.
Where is God when we suffer? The Cross shows us the truth. Jesus suffers with us. He suffers in us. He cries out to God for us, when we are too weakened to even lift our voices in prayer.
God spoke the Word, “Jesus”
If God the Father is silent, it is only because He has already spoken. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Babe in the manger is also the Man on the Cross. His name is Emmanuel.
Silence is necessary in order to hear God. As St. John of the Cross wrote, “The Father uttered one Word; that Word is His Son, and He utters Him forever in everlasting silence: and in silence the soul has to hear it.” Whatever the source of our sorrow, it presents an opportunity to trust God more than we ever have before. It can move us to seek Him until our hearts are satisfied. Ultimately, they cannot be satisfied with anything but Jesus–not words about Him, but Himself as a Person. He who posed the question to God the Father is also the answer.
Whether you spend this Christmas with unmitigated rejoicing, or you are tempted to despair, Jesus is at your side. Look for Him. Listen for Him. Open your heart to Him. He has not and will not abandon you. Ever.
Where is God when we suffer? The answer was spoken by the prophet long ago.”God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14).
Have a blessed Christmas!