I Cry, But Thou Hearest Not, by Abraham Kuyper

9. I Cry, But Thou Hearest Not

To get no answer! when we stand at a closed door and it is not opened, makes us feel anxious.

We then knock harder and harder, and when this brings no response, we call louder and louder; and when still no sound is heard, and there comes no answering voice, fear strikes the heart that something has gone wrong with the child, or perhaps brother, whom we know must be inside the room.

To get no answer! when in need and distress we have called for help and have waited, and still wait for an answer that does not come, how often has it turned hope into despair.

To get no answer! It makes us so restless, when there are fears about the welfare of child or brother far distant, and we write, and write again for information, and the information does not come; and then we telegraph with answer prepaid; and still no answer comes.

To get no answer! It sends a chill to the heart, when one of the family is dangerously ill, and we approach his bedside, and call him by name, first in a whisper, then louder and find that he does not hear us.

To get no answer! It is overwhelming in the case of an accident in a mine, or a landslide in the digging of trenches when victims are entombed, and people from without call, and call again, and listen with bated breath for some sound or answering sign of life, and the silence continues unbroken.

To get no answer! It caused such anxious fears when not long ago Martinique was overturned by an earthquake, and telegrams were sent to inquire about the condition of things there, and no sign of any kind was returned.

On Carmel the Prophets of Baal knew what this meant, when from morning until noon they cried: “O Baal, hear us! and they leaped upon the altar and cut themselves with knives, but lo! there was no voice, nor any that answered” (1 Kings 18:26). And their hearts were more troubled still, when Elijah from his side cried out. “Hear me, O Lord, hear me!” and obtained the answer, and fire from above consumed the sacrifice.

And yet he who loves God has not always obtained an answer.

Read the complaint of Asaph in Psalm 83:1, “O God, keep not thou silence; hold not Thy peace as one deaf and be not still, O God!” Consider David’s distress in Psalm 28:1: “Unto thee do I cry, O Lord, my Rock, hold not thyself deaf to me; lest, if thou hold thyself silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.”

Or, what is stronger still, remember the Lama Sabach- thani of Golgotha, echo of the prophetic complaint of Psalm 22:2: “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season I will take no rest. “

Here is the difference between the nominally religious man of the world and the devout believer in God. We have nothing to say of one who is an out-and-out man of the world. Such a one does not pray at all. Still less does he “cry to God,” or expect an answer. But the people of the world are not all like this. A great many are not wholly irreligious. That is to say, they are still attached to some form of religion. They have not wholly abandoned prayer. True, it is mostly a matter of habit. They may say grace at meals, which consists mainly in a whispered utterance, and upon retiring at night a prayer by rote, of thanksgiving and petition.

In days of trouble, however, and in moments of anxiety (when a loved one at home is sick unto death, or reverses in business bring one low) this sort of prayer revives itself. Then such a one does really come to pray and to cry unto God. And when that cry proves of no avail, and the danger is not averted, the prayer that has proved futile falls back heavily upon the heart embittered by disappointment.

With the devout believer in God, it is altogether different. He seeks his Father. He knows by experience that it is possible, even here on earth, to hold fellowship with that Father Who is in heaven. He has knowledge of “the secret walk with God.” From blessed experience he knows that in this secret walk, fellowship is mutual, so that not only he seeks his Father, but the Father also lets Himself he found of His child.

Then although he can not say “God is here, or there” he feels and senses that God is close by. He can not prove that God addresses him, and yet he knows that he hears the voice of the Lord. Here is no semblance, but reality; no self-deception but rich actuality. And in the lead of the Good Shepherd he follows on, comforted by the rod and staff which he hears ahead of him.

With the nominally religious man of the world this is pure materialism; with the devout believer in God this is sacred and most blessed mysticism.

But in this holy mysticism there is a tale of suffering. Not once, but constantly it happens that the fellowship with God is broken off.

In times gone by there was no way of illustrating such invisible communion. Now there is, since we are in touch with people thousands and thousands of miles away from us, and can speak from a great distance with those whom we do not see, and hear the voice in return. Now we have advanced so far that wireless telegraphy permits communication apart from any visible, tangible guidance, and now we can understand how such communication can be disturbed, interrupted and broken off.

God’s saints on earth have such a mystical communication with their Father Who is in heaven; a mystical telegraph, a mystical telephone, a mystical communication without wire or any guidance. And as little as primitive man can understand our telegraphic communication, so little can the man of the world understand the mysterious communion of the believer with his Father, Who is far off and yet close by.

But for this very reason it is true, that this communion can be interrupted, and sometimes entirely broken off. There are moments when the soul cries after God, seeks Him; the heart goes out to Him, and nothing comes back; no sign from above is vouchsafed, it seems that God is away; nothing but silence remains, and no voice comes. There is no answer.

Why at such times God withdraws Himself from His child, can be surmised but never can be fathomed. The cry of Jesus: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” remains an impenetrable mystery.

Yet even here surmise may prove of value.

You awake in the morning, and ordinarily your first thought directs itself to God. This gives you a blessed sense of His nearness, as at His hand you begin the day. But see, one morning it is different. You are not aware of God’s nearness. There is no connection between your heart and the Eternal. And pray as you may, there is no fellowship. “O God! hold not thyself as one deaf, why dost thou not bear me!”

Yet even in this feeling of desertion you are aware that grace operates, for the loss of communion with God makes you unhappy.

This break may be accounted for by sinful inclinations of the heart, secret sins which disturb communion; or, your heart may be troubled about many things, so that the Lord has been removed from the center of your inner life. Then this loss is for your good; it makes you turn in upon yourself and bring your heart again to fear His Name.

Physical conditions also can interrupt this feeling of fellowship, as when a headache depresses you, and hinders the free utterance of your spirit, or lessens your susceptibility. This provides a motive for not neglecting bodily rest and calm.

At other times, again, the failure to get an answer can not be explained from any cause whatever; there is nothing in your inner life that enters a complaint or an.accusation against you, and yet God withdraws Himself from you.

Even then we may make a conjecture as to the cause.

All too readily the believer overestimates his piety, becomes accustomed to the love of God, and begins to take it as a matter of course that he is granted this secret walk with Him; sometimes he may even count it as a special holiness that he seeks this fellowship.

This can not be tolerated, for this would make of grace a common thing, whereas it is, and must always be, holy grace. And it is the lesson of experience that the full appreciation of this fellowship with God is strengthened by nothing so much as by the temporary want of it.

When for a long time the soul has had no hearing, and at length an answer comes again from God, then there flows into this hidden tryst a still more intimately tender blessedness, and the soul bathes itself in the fullness of the love of God.

From To Be Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper. Reproduced from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/kuyper/near.iii.ix.html (accessed July 22, 2014).

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

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