“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after a fire came a gentle whisper.”
1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV UK)
In 1988 Rosemary Johnson was a violinist for the Welsh National Opera. Her future looked bright, until—a car accident changed everything. After waking up from a coma, doctors informed her that she would never be able to move again. And for the next thirty years, Rosemary’s violin remained silent. But now, almost thirty years later, thanks to some cutting-edge technology, Rosemary is beginning to make music again. Working with specially designed software, she can alter notes and musical phrases by simply focusing her eyes on different coloured lights on a computer. When I read about this, I was reminded of a principle that we sometimes forget—the stillness of God.
Sometimes it can feel like we’re stuck, that no matter how many prayers we offer to change our circumstances, God remains unmoved—silenced. But does that mean he’s stopped working? Does that mean he is absent? No, far from it! At the end of his earthly ministry, Christ reminds the Church: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
The last words were a reminder that while Christ’s visible presence was about to depart, his spiritual presence by the Holy Spirit would remain close. Jesus gives us both a promise and a descriptor of his character: God’s presence and activity in our lives is constant and it will never be withdrawn from us. And yet, throughout history he has used stillness to shape the character and stories of those through whom he’s worked powerfully. People like Job, Abraham, Joseph and John the Baptist experienced it. Even Christ experienced it in the garden of Gethsemane. In that moment, I’m sure Jesus experienced the doubt and confusion we so often feel when confronted with the stillness of God. But did that mean God had stopped working? Of course not! In fact, God was about to accomplish our salvation—his most important work in all of history!
So while at times we too might feel anxious as we enter into the stillness with God, we should remember that like Rosemary, outward stillness doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. His silence can be a sign of his closeness and love! The beautiful music of God’s work in our lives is always playing. We may not be hearing it yet. But one day we will hear it in all its glory—forever.
Heavenly Father, we are busy people living in a hectic age. Help us to stop now and then and quietly listen, take heed, and understand that you are in our silences, more powerful than a hurricane, an earthquake or a devouring fire. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach
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