God Is Talking to Us. Are We Listening?
One of the hardest things to accept as a Christian is that God allows suffering to occur. We have all suffered in one way or another over the course of this pandemic, and sometimes it makes me angry, other times confused. If you believe God created heaven and earth, made man in his image, became man himself, died on a cross, and then ascended to heaven, then you have to believe that preventing COVID would have been a cinch. I’m not qualified to opine on why God allows these things to happen, but I can look to the Scriptures for reassurance. The Bible tells us that the beginning and end of God’s plan are glorious, but man spends all the time in between messing things up. I’m thankful we know the end of the story. Throughout the last 14 months, I’ve accepted that God has allowed this to occur, but I’ve often wondered what he wanted us to learn from this tribulation. What is he telling us, and more importantly, are we listening?
Growing up, I always hoped I’d audibly hear God’s voice. My notion of hearing God was based on Bible stories such as when John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan, and “just as Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:10-11). Nothing like this has ever happened to me, and in my younger years I was kind of disappointed it didn’t. I thought it meant God wasn’t talking to me.
Fortunately, I’ve come to realize that God speaks to us in different ways, and we don’t have to hear a big booming voice from the sky to hear God. In fact, I think God is always talking to us, but we are often too busy and too distracted to listen. We probably talk too much and listen too little in many our relationships, not just the most important one, which is with God. We are so busy thinking we can control life ourselves that we aren’t listening for God’s direction. While I don’t believe he caused COVID so we’d suffer, I do think he wanted us to slow down, acknowledge that we aren’t in control, and perhaps listen out for him more than we’re prone to do.
First and foremost, God speaks to us through Scripture. The more time we spend studying the Bible, the more likely we are to hear him. Have you ever noticed that the Scripture you need to hear often surfaces at just the right time? I experienced this on a Sunday not long ago, rushing to town from an acrimonious meeting that included name calling and hard feelings. I hurried into the church, grabbed a bulletin, and read the Gospel reading for that day: “But to you who are listening, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6: 27-28). I’m certain God was talking to me in that situation.
God also speaks to us through people and situations. A few weeks ago, one of the men in my Bible study shared that he had gone through an emotionally draining situation that resulted in a sleepless night, anxiety, and a lot of prayers. The next morning, while headed to work in a sleepy fog, a familiar song came on the radio, but it had new meaning and inspired him to minister to a friend. He said, “I know God speaks through us, and I don’t know if he was speaking through me, but I felt I had to share.”
I spent many months over the last year considering a career change. I confided in another Bible study friend on the various opportunities and my hopes, fears, etc. After nine years at my employer, any change, no matter how promising the new opportunity, would still come with uncertainty. After an interview with the CEO of a public company, I felt really good about it but still wanted to be sure it would be the right fit for me if I were to make a change. While reviewing the company’s annual report later that evening, I was shocked (but thrilled) to read that one of their values is to “honor God with our efforts.” I texted a picture of it to my friend and said, “Wonder if God is talking to me.” My friend’s response: “Well, seems like one of those knock-you-in-the-head signs to me.” I took the job.
It is humbling to write an article like this for the inSPIRE, as I’m not a biblical scholar and I’m definitely a sinner like everyone else. However, I hope these examples will cause you to think about times when God was talking to you. More importantly, as things get closer and closer to normal, let’s not get so busy that we forget to listen to what God is trying to tell us.