December is a hectic month. Our normal routine is disrupted by the special events of the season, and the accompanying overload. Most of the year, I easily include some focused time with God in my day. Yet, at Christmas time, when it would seem to matter the most, I get distracted. By the time January arrives, I’m almost afraid to go to Him. I assume He’s angry with me, and He has every right. He’s been shoved aside while I shop, bake, and decorate, all supposedly in His honor. I’ve procrastinated, invented excuses, and declared my independence.
We find ourselves giving God the “silent treatment” for many reasons, but they boil down to three main categories. Either we think He failed us, or we have failed Him… or we’re just too apathetic to care. Perhaps God isn’t top priority right now. Oh, we call Him our Lord, and overall desire to follow Him, but our schedule is so busy, He’ll just have to wait until we have a spare moment.
Then comes the wake-up call. God doesn’t like getting the silent treatment any more than we do. The actual call takes many forms, but inevitably, something happens that forces me back into His presence. This year, it was being shunned by a good friend.
Let me state plainly that this friend is someone I treasure. I truly love her. I see so much good in her, and so much potential. She’s usually fun to be around, and is incredibly generous. I feel so privileged to be her friend.
But due to a difficult childhood and some other issues, she can be very temperamental. At times she becomes clinically depressed. Sometimes she takes something I’ve said in the wrong way, and disappears for a while. Or she’s too embarrassed over something she said to me to risk an apology. Perhaps she thinks I no longer want to be friends. Sometimes the issue doesn’t involve me at all—she’s been hurt in some other way and is sulking, licking her wounds. Sometimes she just gets busy. Whatever the reason, weeks or months go by and I don’t hear a word. My emails are ignored, my calls don’t get answered.
At times like these, I long for her company. It hurts. It’s hard. It makes me sad. Whatever caused the rift is not nearly as important as restoring our relationship. If it’s something she’s done, I’ve already forgiven her. If it’s something I’ve done, I long to say I’m sorry, and ask for forgiveness. If she’s hurting about another situation, I want to help in whatever way I can. But if she won’t allow me inside her emotional walls, there’s little I can do.
God used the pain in this relationship to remind me that He was feeling the same way about me. I was ignoring Him, and He was wounded.
He wasn’t waiting up in heaven with a big stick, ready to clobber me the moment I looked up. He was right beside me, with open arms, ready to envelop me in His love. He wanted my company, my attention. He wanted my friendship!
Of course, with God, if there’s a broken relationship, He’s not the one who needs to apologize. But He has already forgiven us for whatever stupid mistakes we’ve made. If we’re hurting, He is anxious to help us. If we’re sulking, He wants to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto Him.
I’ve been reading Isaiah lately. The other morning I came across this verse: “I am not angry.” (Isa. 24:7). It stopped me in my tracks. God is not angry? It reminded me of 1 John 4:18—“ There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” No, God isn’t angry. He isn’t waiting for us to come out of hiding so He can punish us. Rather, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. (Rom. 8:1)”
I’m grateful that God is a God of second (and third, and fourth, infinitum) chances. I need that many. We all do.