” A voice of one crying in the wilderness…” v.3
They say one sign of a good friendship is when you can be comfortable spending time with someone without ever having to say a word. Sometimes I believe that. But on the other hand, sometimes silence can mess with my head. For example, say my wife and I are in the car for several hours. We can ride for an hour without ever speaking. Most of the time it’s fine. We are great friends and don’t always feel the need to fill the time with noise. It’s good just being together on the journey. But sometimes it bugs me. I find myself thinking the craziest things. I interpret her silence as some sign that there’s trouble. I start thinking of all the ways I have messed up or fallen short in the past. Then a small sinister voice from the darkness whispers into my consciousness, ” She’s unhappy with you.” If I let it go on it spreads to my kids sitting in the back seat. “Yeah, they’re plugged into their music because they don’t want to talk to you. You have failed them. You loser.” Eventually, light breaks into the darkness dispelling the lies. I’m brought back to reality by a voice calling out, “Hey dad, are we there yet?” Even the most mundane breaks in the silence reassure me in those moments.
I find the same happening in my relationship with God. Sometimes His silence is okay. We ride along through life like two friends on a long journey. No one feels particularly compelled to speak. We’re just enjoying being together. Whether riding in a car, working in the yard, or sitting on the deck watching the clouds play tag with the sunset, I enjoy being with my heavenly father. But in other times the silence messes with my head. That same dark voice sows fear and doubt into my heart. I imagine that God is silent because I have failed him. Frantically, I search my memory files for ways that I may have offended Him. I comb over every relationship to make sure I am at peace with everyone. On a really bad day I begin to question, my ministry, my calling, my salvation, and yes, even the existence of God. It can get really bad. Any of this sound familiar?
I wonder what it was like for the people of Israel. At the time of John the Baptists appearing there had been about four hundred years of silence between God and Israel. There had been no prophet, no deliverer, no miraculous epiphany. Nothing. All they had was the law, the prophetic writings, and a promise that one day a messiah would come. Can you imagine four hundred years of silence? I wonder what they thought. Has God forgotten us? Have we gone too far? Is there something we’re doing wrong? Or was this God real in the first place?
Then suddenly the silence is shattered by a voice in the wilderness. John appears announcing the coming of one who would baptize them with the very presence of God. He wasn’t angry. He hadn’t forgotten them. He hadn’t given up on them. He was just using the silence to prepare them for the greatest revelation the world has ever seen. He was preparing history for the coming of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.
Are things quiet between you and God right now? Has it been awhile since you heard from him? Is the silence beginning to mess with your head? Are you hearing that dark voice whisper lies into your consciousness? Maybe things aren’t as bad as you’ve imagined. Maybe this silence is the prelude to the next powerful chapter in your life. So what do you do? Take John’s advice. Prepare the way by clearing out anything that may be keeping you from what God has for you. Repent of your sins, be specific, and return to the basics of simply following what you know of God right now. Finally, enjoy the fact that you have a friend in heaven who sometimes just wants to enjoy the ride with you without having to say a word.