Trusting God's Silence
By Billie Marie Zal
Faith is a word that is frequently used in today’s society, both Christian and non-Christian. I believe that it is a word that is also frequently misused.
Faith in God is difficult to acquire and at times even more difficult to keep. It isn’t hard to have faith when things go along to suit us. Every time something nice happens to us we feel sort of special and give God all the glory, as though we had finally made it with Him.
But let something adverse happen and where does our faith go? Right out the nearest window! God is still there, even in adversity, but no one wants to claim Him.
From my earliest beginnings I knew that things can’t always go right. Storms - violent ones - used to come and destroy people. The refinery fires I have often mentioned would kill my daddy’s friends, and I knew that daddy himself was vulnerable to death. My pets would die, one by one, so I knew I couldn’t keep them forever. But I must have been very fortunate because these fears which I developed as any normal child does never possessed me to the extent that I made up a dream world to live in. I knew that reality was real and no figment of my imagination could be stirred up to prove otherwise.
God must have been training me, even then, for the ministry to come. Because as far back as I can remember (and that goes back to two years old or a bit earlier) I knew that there was a God who loved me. I think I was born knowing it. Oh, I didn’t know Him as “God,” not until I grew older and was able to comprehend language. But I knew that there was Someone somewhere who was the only one who could do anything about this world I lived in.
Once when we were moving from Oklahoma to Arkansas we were driving late at night along the mountainous northwestern section of Arkansas and some men began to follow us. In those days it was not uncommon to be “hi-jacked.” I was only five and I was wearing those old-time coveralls. So Mama put her diamond ring in my pocket and stuffed the money in our shoes. The rest was up to daddy. We had one of those old Studebaker touring cars, and when the men tried to wave us down daddy just barreled right on through and we lost them! I was too frightened to say much of anything, but I definitely remember calling on the Name of our Lord. My thinking was that in such a situation only God could really protect us. And He did.
Another time we were driving from Camden, Arkansas back to our town after visiting friends. It was a twenty mile stretch of hills and curves and the night was so dark you couldn’t see a thing. All of a sudden all our lights went out and daddy had to drive by instinct alone. Again, I was petrified with fear but I remember getting down on the back floorboard, stopping my ears so I couldn’t hear mama and daddy worry, and praying all the way home without letup. I prayed fearfully, but I prayed. And we got home without a mishap. This was nothing short of a miracle because in those days there was no “stock law” in Arkansas and cows, pigs, and horses roamed the highways at will.
I realize now that praying out of a sense of fear wasn’t the best kind of prayer. But I was only a child and at least I prayed. But I didn’t always pray out of fear. I often thanked God for the beauty of His earth. I had a little spot out in the woods near my home and I would often linger there on my way home from school. To me, it was a real sanctuary. The sun would filter down through the trees, making heavenly rays on all the greenery and everything was so peaceful and still except for the sound of songbirds. There was an ancient wooden gate I would stand on, looking into my sanctuary and thanking God for making things so beautiful. I half expected to see an angel there. Sometimes I would wait for a manifestation of some angelic being but none ever came. Still I knew that God was there, and I talked with Him.
I also thanked Him for friends. To me, anyone who liked me was great because I didn’t believe that I was very likeable. I don’t know why I thought this of myself, but I suppose I had some subconscious type of insecurity. And so when God would send me a friend (and who but God can do such a grand thing) I would always thank and praise Him. And I thanked Him especially for my parents and my sister. I felt somehow that to be born was indeed wonderful, for I could have been unborn! God let me have the gift of life and I loved this gift. I have always loved life.
I was especially grateful to God for school. I loved to learn things and I could hardly wait for school to start each year. I loved my books and often wished I could have all “new” ones. But they were terribly expensive and few children got new ones. I was thankful just the same for my used books. They were so full of knowledge, and I longed for knowledge. I felt it would fit me for this wonderful world we live in. And so I thanked God for school, for books, for teachers, and for knowledge.
It is no small wonder, then, that when I began to grow into womanhood and began to recognize all the inconsistencies of others, and especially myself, I began to get shaky in my beliefs. It wasn’t that I no longer believed in God but I think I began to feel angry with Him because He couldn’t keep me from sinning. I honestly didn’t know that there was such a thing
as the new birth and that in order to please God I would have to be born again. Sometimes I wonder why God did not reveal this reality of the new birth to me when I was so young and eager to know Him and to live a righteous life. But I always conclude that if He had wanted me to know Him then, He would have revealed Himself to me.
As it was I had to wait many, many years before I was granted the gift of eternal life. I believe that God uses this waiting period to develop in us a hardness - a strength to endure. And it is through this waiting period that He is silent.
I fear today that ministers are failing in their duty to express to their congregations the ministry of waiting on God. The Bible is so full of examples. Abraham waited 13 years for the promised heir. Israel waited through 400 years of bondage in Egypt for her deliverer. Noah waited for 120 years for the predicted flood to come. The disciples waited for 3 years before Jesus’ true Sonship was revealed through His death and resurrection. Moses waited 80 years to begin his ministry. Mary Magdalene waited a lifetime to become a virtuous woman.
And yet today, if a person doesn’t get saved, sanctified, and filled with the Spirit within the scope of a few short months then Christian brethren throw up their hands and decide that it isn’t worth the trouble to continue with them. I am afraid that many of God’s children are often discouraged by such attitudes and turn back to the world from which they were saved.
You see, it takes time for anything that is beautiful to grow into maturity. The flowers that shoot up and bloom quickly also fade and die quickly. The trees that have shallow roots go down first in a storm. When I was first saved a lovely Christian lady came to me and said (because I was troubled that I wasn’t “growing” fast enough), “Strong oaks have deep roots. If you want to be strong in God, then let Him take His time with your development.” I have always thanked God for her; I took her advice and let God decide how “fast” I should grow into the likeness of His Son. And it helped because I began to realize that God is often silent.
Take a parent, for example, whose son has gone astray - against every teaching that has been presented to him. Parents are nearly always blamed for a youngster’s downfall. We hear ministers dogmatically proclaiming that if a son or daughter goes wrong then the parent has failed to honor God. This is not true. There are godly parents whose children do not follow through on their training. I knew a mother once whose son went astray. She had always loved the boy and done everything possible to train him in the way of the Lord. Not only did she teach him, but she lived these truths before him. When he was very young she sensed that he had an unusual core of hardness in his nature that God, in time, would have to break. And so she presented him to the Lord then. Because she honored God she always received His Word
when the youngster would go through a difficult time, and this wisdom brought the boy through to young adulthood. And then he went away and turned against all God’s rules. This mother is still waiting on God to bring the boy through to eternal life. And through this long waiting period she has not wavered in her belief that in time the boy will - like the Prodigal Son- return to his Father’s house. In the meantime the mother’s life is not shattered by any guilt complex that she has failed. As a result she is able to be a joy and comfort to others.
Or take those who have the discipline of sickness. Often people are shaken in their belief in God’s healing power by misguided individuals who tell them that only “sin and unbelief” keep them from being healed. Perhaps this is true. But does not God use such circumstances to heal first the soul and then He can set about healing the body? I was afflicted for nine long, tortuous months once with a skin affliction. I felt eaten alive, and medication only worsened my condition. But I will declare for the rest of my life that those nine months were the most rewarding months I have ever experienced in getting to know God in a personal way. It was a time of chastening and of purifying and of getting me ready to love in word, and in deed, and in truth. God used the affliction to burn the dross from my life and to set me free from carnality. And I praise Him for those nine months. It was a time of waiting on God, and it was worth the pain and suffering to be able to know Him as I do now.
God often waits to supply our financial means, too. I used to take pride (and I do mean pride) in not “owing.” When my Father saw this pride He decided to remove it from me because it was not good for me. And so He took away all financial help and I was broke. My family here was broke, too, and we had to go to the finance companies in order to borrow enough money to survive on. At such a time it was good to remember the Scripture, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Sometimes God just doesn’t do things the way we think that He should. He just doesn’t give us the gifts we want, the kind of ministry we’d like, or the family we would covet. This does not in any sense make Him cruel. He always gives us the best, no matter what the circumstances are, because He alone knows what is best for us. And He delights in those who in their utter loneliness and bewilderment still say, “I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
I never did much agree with the preachers who say that if you’ll just get saved you’ll get all kinds of blessings. It is true that we get blessings. But they aren’t the kind we are looking for! When I got saved everything went wrong (or so I thought). I was sick, my son was
chronically ill, there was no money for food, no car. It was a whopper of a trial for my faith. But I still believed that God meant it unto good and He often sent a messenger along to set me straight if I got to complaining. Once when my son was very ill with asthma a Baptist minister in Mississippi came by and I just threw up my hands and said to him, “Why is my son sick all the time?” Athens (the minister) looked me straight in the eye and without a moment’s hesitation replied, “For the glory of God.” It shook me up but I knew he was right. So I took that word, accepted it, and lived by it. In time God healed my son of asthma after He had established ownership of the child. God’s love was strong enough to let us hurt until our hearts were healed.
I believe that many of you who read this message do have doubts about God. You have secret gripes and complaints about His will for your lives. You are looking for all sunshine and roses but this can’t come to pass in this world. However, there is a world ahead that will suit you. It’s a world where God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes. All the sorrow will be over, all the pain gone. Knowing this, we can wait. We have such a short while here anyhow, and life is good, even with its many complexities, that is, if we learn to trust God when He is silent.
In closing I would like to share with you a little poem that has carried me through many a difficult time. I don’t even know who wrote it, but it makes sense to me. I hope that you will read it, and let it guide you through your hard times, too.
He answered prayer, not in the way I sought,
Not in the way I thought he ought,
But in His own good way, and I could see
He answered in the fashion best for me;
In His parental love and care,
That thus, He answered prayer.
From the March, 1994 Wingsrpead
A Little Tribute to Eddie
As most of you know, Eddie is retiring November 1st. He has worked for the postal service for 40 years. It’s a special time for him and Shirley, and since Ed is such a huge part of this ministry I thought I’d share an adventure from his past, and a little about his life.
Ed served in the Navy during World War II and saw several battles on various ships. He was on the Yorktown at the battle of Midway when it was sunk by the Japanese in June 1942. What happened that day shows how God has perfect timing.
During the battle of Midway Ed’s station aboard the Yorktown was in the magazine. He worked at the bottom of the ship sending ammunition up to the guns on deck. When the ship was hit by three torpedoes it started to list and had to be abandoned. When Ed got to the deck of the ship an officer put a .45 on him and told him to throw powder cans over to the guys who were in the water with no life jackets. When he was done throwing cans into the ocean he looked down and a big wave brought a raft up right underneath him, and he fell down in it. Ed believes (and I do, too) that God used the officer to hold him up just long enough for that raft to float up underneath him.
Ed went on to survive battles at Coral Sea, Okinawa, Guadalcanal, the battle of the Philippines, Marshall and Greek Islands, Carlines, and Tulagi, and received two silver and two bronze stars.
Ed met Billie in 1958. While he has believed in God all his life, he told me that he was saved thru Billie and her ministry. From the time he was saved Ed knew that God had a special calling for him to support the ministry. He continued to work thru various illnesses (open heart surgery and bladder cancer, to name a couple) when most men would have retired twenty years ago. But he continued to work because of the ministry. He and Shirley have been with Wingspread since the beginning.
Prayer Requests for November, 2007
For Lance Mundell’s cousin, Terisa Posey, in Tom, Oklahoma, who has liver cancer.
For Willie Scott, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, who is recovering from prostate surgery, that his radiation treatments work to kill the cancer that is left.
For Johnnie Dunnum, Lexington, Oklahoma, for pain due to a muscle injury to his shoulder.
For Anthony Grayson, Fallsburg, New York, for success with his appeal.
For Jerry Herring, Huntsville, Texas, for a place to parole to in January of next year.
For Robert Heffernan, Brickeys, Arkansas, that he’ll be able to walk on his own soon.
For our neighbor’s (Colleen Brock’s) friend, Daryl, who has cancer.
For Johnny Hoffman at McAlester, Oklahoma, who has been recommended for parole, that they Governor will sign his papers soon.
For Willie Clark, Abilene, Texas, who wants to be transferred to the Houston area to be near his family.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, “that he will come back to God and the Church.” Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Henry Buckaloo’s son-in-law & daughter, John & Kathy Crutcher. John is going to Iraq soon.
For Ted Ricks, McAlester, Oklahoma, to be transferred to Joseph Harp at Lexington soon.
For Willie Harper at Menard, Illinois, who is being tested for stomach problems.
For Pastor Melissa Scott & her ministry in Los Angeles. She is taking a huge step in faith by expanding to 24 hours a day programming on Dish Network. Pray that God will supply all needs for this new endeavor.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For all of us at Wingspread.
A note of thanks from Brian for all the birthday cards and letters he received last month. There were many of you who remembered and he appreciated hearing from you all.
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