Not quite sure how my love of music hasn’t propelled me to do this prior, but I plan on making this a regular feature on the blog. Probably not every week, but my intention is to frequently focus on one song and why I like it or why it’s significant to me. The only guarantee is that the genres will likely be broad.
This week’s post is the song The Silence of God by singer/songwriter/author Andrew Peterson. Peterson is one of the greatest Christian songwriters of our generation though he is not necessarily well know in mainstream Christian music. He has a rare depth and poetry in his lyrics that convey a bare-bone honest look at the intersecting struggles of life and faith. The Silence of God is from his album Love and Thunder.
In the beginning of the first verse Peterson paints the soul of one who is in deep sorrow and pain. The soul of one who is in such heartache that they question their own beliefs and what is real. In doing so he pulls me to Scriptures like Psalm 22:1 and Psalm 42:5. Or to the passage of Psalm 45 where the psalmist’s anguished cry for God is likened to a “deer that pants for water” and tears that are his sustenance in day or night. Peterson continues to pull from the Psalms as he brilliantly uses the word “bleating” to draw us to Psalm 23 and the reminder that we are God’s sheep and he is our shepherd. Yet the verse ends without resolution of the pain as God remains silent.
It’s enough to drive a man crazy. It’ll break a man’s faith,
It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s been sane.
When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod,
And the heavens’ only answer is the silence of God.
The second verse continues the theme of God’s silence and again we feel the pain of one who is in incredible sorrow. Peterson then draws from one of the great passages and promises of the Bible by referencing Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” There seems to be a contradiction in what Peterson is saying and what the Bible says when Scripture says, “my burden is light” and Peterson says, “but this burden is not“. Yet I think that Peterson is conveying that the burden is not necessarily the trial, but rather that the burden is that God seems to be silent and distant. That his tears may as well be falling in vain.
And it’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart,
When he has to remember what broke him apart.
And this yoke may be easy, but this burden is not,
And the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God.
As powerful and deep as the first verses are, the bridge goes even further. It can be hard to hear others talk of how their life is relatively pain free when your own life is crushed and the soul has been trampled. I think there is warning here as well that we extend grace and compassion to those who are hurting. That we season our words with love to those who are in despair and not answer them glibly.
If a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob,
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got,
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that Cross,
What about the times when even followers get lost?
‘Cause we all get lost sometimes.
Verses three and four close out the song beautifully by showing us the truth of Hebrews 4:15-16 that Jesus suffered as we do yet without sin. That at times it may seem that the heavens are silent and in those moments we can find comfort knowing that Christ himself faced God’s silence in Gethsemane prior to his death. Yet ultimately the perfect salve for the wounded soul of a Christian is that the heart that is hurting is the same heart that has been purchased by the blood of Christ. When faced with the unbearable and not hearing heavens comfort, would that we cast ourselves on the promise of Salvation that we have in Christ alone. And so the truths of Romans 8:31-39 — specifically verses 38-39 — ring loud and clear! “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll,
In the hills of Kentucky all quiet and cold.
And He’s kneeling in the garden silent as a stone,
And all His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone,
And the man of all sorrows, He never forgot,
What sorrow is carried, by the hearts that He bought.
So when the questions dissolve, into the silence of God,
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not,
In the holy, lonesome echo, of the silence of God.
This song often crushes me to tears. I connect with it because in many ways I have felt as if the heavens have been silent for me over the last few years. The struggle with worry and fears about Kim’s and my dad’s health, genuine heartache over saying goodbyes to dear friends, and the every moment battles with my own sinful nature cause me to cry within, “How long God?” Yet heaven remains silent. And so I fall once again on the only thing I know for sure, the promises I have in Christ alone.