Editor’s Note: He Speaks in the Silence is the story of Diane Comer’s search for the kind of intimacy with God every woman longs for. Disappointed with all Diane had been told was supposed to fulfill her, she begged God in desperation to give her more. And He did. But first He took her through a trial so debilitating it almost destroyed what little faith she had.
When the day came for what I’d come to think of as My Embarrassing Ordeal, I dressed with meticulous care. After all, if you’re going to expose yourself to close-up scrutiny, risking others seeing a glimpse of the ugly truth going on inside, every woman knows that the least she can do is look her best. I wanted to look like I had it all together. The reality was that I was rapidly coming unglued.
Walking into that meeting with the elders felt a lot like walking into the principal’s office. Not that I knew much about that; after all, professional good girls like me rarely see the inner sanctum of authority. I’d spent my entire life avoiding confrontation and conflict, staying safely under the radar of the heavies. What, I wondered, was I doing here?
The small room threatened to close in on me as I sat surrounded by men whose stature seemed to dominate the space. On one side towered Bill Dauphin, the high school wrestling coach, a man who emanated a quiet sort of stern strength. Next to him stood the ever-dignified Al Linder. Successful and intelligent, he had kids near my age. And Ron McClain, who spent his days counseling with the Scriptures open on his desk, helping broken people put their lives back together according to God’s plan. Hurting people were his specialty.
But I wasn’t one of those. I was a good girl. I hated being the needy one.
What, I wondered, would these men think of me if they knew the rage simmering just beneath my skin? I couldn’t meet their eyes, I didn’t want them to see the ugly truth about me. I knew I needed to be here.
I needed to see if maybe God would hear the prayers of these righteous men and consent to heal my failing ears.
My husband stood nearby, but back a step or two. No reassuring pat on my shoulder. No way to hide the fact that this was about me, and my problem.
I felt alone and scared. Scared of exposing the tumult inside, scared of losing control if I dared to loosen the firm clamp on my raging heart, scared of what might happen if God didn’t do what I so desperately needed Him to do.
Scared of a future of silence.
Before I managed to conjure up a reason to flee, Ron called us to attention, ready to begin the ritual we all hoped would heal me. The men moved to dip their fingers in a small container of olive oil as Ron explained the ancient custom referred to in James, the beauty of the symbolism between oil and the Spirit, of healing of the body and hope for the soul. Each of these spiritual leaders had been here before, reliant on God to do what they could not, watching and waiting with a hurting one.
Faith filled the cinderblock room as the men touched my forehead, my hands, my ears. They prayed with such passion, such conviction. They laughed out loud with the joy of asking, knowing He heard. Confidently, they cried out to Him to make it right, to touch my ears, to give me back all I had lost, to halt the encroaching silence.
Of course, God could heal me! Surely He would. No doubt shadowed their prayers. They’d come at His invitation to ask for a good thing, and they asked with unshakeable faith.
I believed God could heal me.
Belief, as I understood it, was never my problem. I had never not believed. After all, the One who created my ears could surely wave His magic wand over them, fixing all those damaged cilia that short-circuited my brain’s ability to conduct sound. The Bible is filled with evidence of healing. I loved those stories, believed every word. I knew that God hadn’t stopped working in this broken world, and that He still healed today — sometimes.
Several well-meaning people had spoken to me about needing more faith, as if drumming up intense emotional feelings and calling them “faith” would work a spiritual spell that would bequeath me the right to be freed from what ailed me. And I tried, I really did. Every time I asked God to heal me, I waited and wondered. Would He do it this time? Had I said it right? Felt all the right feelings? Was my faith temperature high enough?
Now, my mind moving in and out of the elders’ conversation with God, I could hardly catch my breath from the panic of facing my future without hearing. What if God ignored them too? What if He wasn’t listening?
The other half of me remained so caught up in the rise and fall of these men’s confident prayers that I felt enveloped in the sense that something transforming was happening here, something not of this world.
Something I wanted. Something I feared.
Time stood still as all my worries and dread were laid at the feet of the One, the only One, who could do something about them.
With these friends who cared so deeply pouring out their heart-felt petitions for my healing, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I didn’t politely cry — I sobbed. For me, for my future, for my fears and failures and the foulness that was threatening to undo me. I wept as I had never wept before, soaking my blouse with my tears, pleading with God to hear these men, to do for them what He hadn’t done for me.
With one last desperate effort, my soul begged God to hear me, to heal me.
Oh, God, help me!
When I couldn’t help myself, when I couldn’t be strong or good or right, when I couldn’t find a foolproof set of rules to follow, a plea of naked dependence was all I could manage.
And in that moment, something shifted. Not in me; I sat in a pathetic heap, huddled over myself, knees drawn in, face in my lap. But I sensed the darkness dissipating, as if clouds were being rolled back. Like on a stormy day when suddenly streams of light break through black clouds. Now light peeked through, gaining brilliance until it streamed over me — a light so radiant it caused that dingy room and those fervent men to fade away.
I felt God’s presence envelop me, compelling me to sit up. To forget, in an instant, all my fears. All I saw was light — brilliant, soul-lifting light.1 For just that moment, everything else disappeared. No people, no sound, no sensation except that all-encompassing Presence.
I was terrified. At the same time, I was filled with the strangest sense of safety. Afraid, yet not threatened. The essence of His presence surrounded me with such unearthly power that it frightened me out of all my fears.
Then, as the murmured prayers of the elders reverberated in the background, I heard a distinct voice. A real voice. A voice so clear it made every nerve on my skin stand at attention. Loud and commanding. The voice that felled the walls of Jericho, caused the shepherds on the hillsides of Bethlehem to tremble, the voice that will someday roll back the sky and cause every single knee to bow low.
I knew who it was, and I heard what He was saying. Just two words. Two words and my name.
It’s okay! It’s okay, Diane, it’s okay…
Over and over, His words washed over me.
It’s okay… it’s okay.
I knew without the slightest tinge of doubt what He was telling me: He would not heal my hearing.
He would not intervene and do what I wanted. He would not give me what I’d begged for. He would not say yes to all our prayers.
His answer was no.
And in that no, a strange flood of hope filled me. Somehow, in some way I could not begin to understand, He made it okay.
How could the word I dreaded most sound so loving and gentle? How was it that all my horror of deafness was swallowed up in that irrevocable NO? 1
The only answer that makes any sense to me is that I felt loved as I never had before. I was experiencing the love of God in a whole new way. I hadn’t earned it, hadn’t followed the rules, had, in fact, done so much wrong. I had knowingly and purposefully rejected Him. He had seen that, had seen me — the real, hidden me I’d kept cloaked from everyone else, and yet,
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. — Psalm 40:2 NLT
All I wanted in that moment was to linger in that hallowed place. Reveling in His presence, my soul sang with the joy of it. Joy I had never known, intimacy with the One who made me for Himself.
It was okay!
I wanted to shout it out loud, to dance, to raise my hands in the stunned glee of knowing. I felt it, I meant it — it was okay! I was caught up in His beauty, warmed clear through by a love that melted my hardened heart.
I don’t know how long I sat in the light emanating from His presence. Probably no more than a moment. But that moment seared itself so deeply on my soul that the memory brings me back to that place in an instant. A moment of holiest joy.
The light receded, but not the joy. I was still there, sitting in the same plastic chair, surrounded by the same men who had brought me to this sacred place. But nothing would ever be the same.
I would never be the same.
- The Scriptures speak of God dwelling in “unapproachable light,” I Timothy 6:16.
- Thank you to my daughter, Rebekah, who on a long weekend listening to my story, brought the incongruence of God’s beautiful NO to my attention. I’ve been relishing it ever since.
Excerpted with permission from He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy With God By Learning To Listen by Diane Comer, copyright Diane Comer.
* * *
Has God ever answered you with a Beautiful No? Maybe it was “No, that’s not the job I have for you.” Or, “No, healing will not be immediate.” Or, “No, that is not the best choice for a husband.” Or, “No, your dream school to get your Masters degree is not where I want you to go.” How did the Lord show His love for you in saying no? What was your response? Come share your story with us! We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full