Every teenager seems to go through an angst-ridden, rebellious period, and this is Harry’s. He yells at his friends. He yells at his authority figures. He slams doors, storms off, and lashes out at inanimate objects. He broods. He sulks. He whines. Harry Potter is fifteen.
Being fifteen is difficult, because while you may be on the cusp of adulthood, you have one foot in childhood as well. You can see the adult world, but you can’t enter it just yet. That door keeps getting shut in your face, and the more you whine about it, the more childish you seem, and the more often the door is closed.
The main conflict in The Order of the Phoenix is best symbolized by closed doors. Harry feels left out and kept in the dark by Dumbledore and the rest of the adults in his life. Because he has successfully faced Voldemort a few times, he feels owed a spot on the front lines of the action. He is denied this, much to his teenage chagrin.
He’s not the only one on the outs either. His godfather, Sirius Black is kept cooped up in the Order’s safe house lest he be captured by the rampaging dementors, Dumbledore’s authority is usurped at his school by a meddling Ministry of Magic proxy named Dolores Umbridge, Hagrid is nowhere to be seen for the first half of the school year, and even Snape is forced to privately tutor his least favorite pupil, Harry Potter.
We too know what it’s like to feel kept in the dark by our Ultimate Authority. Both in times of trial and in times of peace, God’s silence can be vexing. How many times have we stormed through life angry that God isn’t revealing God’s will to us? “What is going on here?” we bellow, “Why won’t You talk to me? I thought You cared about me? What’s happened?” And like Dumbledore, God has stayed aggravatingly silent.
Recall Job, scripture’s most famous endurer of God’s silence amidst terrible tragedy. Job is tested. He never loses faith, but he does ask for answers. He and his friends spend over 40 chapters wondering about God’s will and where God is in the midst of Job’s suffering. When God finally does show up, God offers repreimands not answers. God says, “How dare you question me, the Lord of the Universe?” Harry Potter at least gets more than that out of Dumbledore.
And then there’s Jesus, God’s own son, who finds himself utterly alone on the cross. God even blacks out the sky, further alienating Christ. “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Christ cries. At least Harry’s parental figures show up when he needs them most.
In the story, Harry has to learn to trust others even when they’re not giving him answers. He has to learn how to live in the dark and trust. Love always trusts, and Harry’s greatest strength we are told again and again and again, the thing that separates him from Lord Voldemort, is Harry’s capacity to love.
God’s silence is our opportunity to trust God. Like Job, we need to learn to say, “You’re God, and I’m not. I’m sorry for questioning You.” Like Christ, we need to learn to say, “Your will be done,” no matter what that will might be. As James reminds us, “the testing of our faith produces endurance.” We ought to “let this endurance complete its work so that we may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.”
Being willing to live faithfully in the dark makes us more mature. It grants us access to an adult faith. It teaches us to trust and to love. Love always trusts. Hopefully, we meet the challenge with greater skill than Harry.
Questions for Discussion
1) When have you felt left out at work, at school, by your friends or family? How did you react in those situations? Were those who left you out right to do so?
2) Read James 1:2-8. Have you experienced God’s silence either by yourself or with others? How did you react? When has God answered our prayers? When hasn’t God answered our prayers? Is your faith more mature because you endured God’s silence? How so?
Job answered the Lord:
I know you can do anything;
no plan of yours can be opposed successfully.
You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?”
I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand,
wonders beyond my comprehension.
You said, “Listen and I will speak;
I will question you and you will inform me.”
My ears had heard about you,
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore, I relent and find comfort
on dust and ashes.
My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.