Our church recently started a young adult small group. I guess they kind of use the word ‘young’ loosely, because they keep letting Scott and I attend 🙂 Our current ‘study’ that we are going through is called ‘Shockers and Blockers’. We read through a passage of scripture, and then discuss anything that ‘shocks’ us or ‘blocks’ us. By ‘shock’, I mean strikes us as important or as something we may have never seen before. By ‘block’, I mean something that we don’t understand or possibly makes us defensive.
Last week, we read one of my favorite passages of scripture, I Kings 19:9-14.
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The main point of our study was that we sometimes miss out on what God is saying to us in all the ‘noise’ of this life. That we need to take time to be silent – be in solitude – and hear what God has to say. We are looking and listening for God in the big things, like powerful winds, earthquakes, and fires. When He often times is in the gentle whisper.
A friend of mine, Brandi Harbison, had just experienced that ‘gentle whisper’ of God that week. She and her husband Micah are in the midst of adopting a baby girl from China. I have posted an excerpt from her recent blog entry below:
Last Wednesday something unexpected happened. We received a call from our adoption caseworker saying that she had a file she wanted us to review. This file contained medical records and pictures of a precious little 8-month-old china doll. We nervously opened it up together over the phone. A precious round face popped up. Could this be her? We found out that we could place the file on hold for one week to investigate more and make a decision. We emailed the info to some doctor friends who very graciously reviewed it with us and explained all the things that we didn’t understand. There were more unknowns than knowns about this precious little one. Still we prayed and asked others to pray. We went away for the weekend to pray, seek and spend time together. As of yesterday we still didn’t know what to do.
This morning when I woke up I had a text from my best friend and prayer partner Amy. Her text said, “so, I got quiet with The Lord this morning and I suggest you do the same. And I mean quiet. That means keep your thoughts quiet. Ask nothing of Him or from Him. Be still.” Well yes ma’am! That is exactly what I did (after Micah left, lol). I just sat, saying only that I was ready to hear what He had to say. For days I have been telling Him how I feel and what I think but I hadn’t simply listened. This is what He said to me in His powerful, still small voice………”someone else is praying specifically for this child” I felt a peace immediately and knew that I had to call Micah. When I told him a sound of relief came across the phone. He did not have peace about moving forward!
I emailed our caseworker and asked her to take the hold off of the babies file. I don’t know why God allowed us to have his experience. Maybe it was to teach me to sit down, shut up and listen!! We do know that He knows Dannie Rae right now and that He will reveal her to us when the time is right!
To read more about Brandi and Micah’s journey, please follow the link below:
Since I had just read Brandi’s blog before our study, this passage really resounded with me. That we sometimes need to ‘get quiet with the Lord’ even keeping our thoughts quiet. We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to hearing what the Lord has to say to us! I feel like He probably thinks, “I’m giving you the answer you need. If you would just take your earbuds out of your ears, your eyes off of your iPad or iPhone, your mind off of the carousel of worrisome thoughts you are riding, you would know what I’m telling you.” I shared Brandi’s story with the group, and we went around the room discussing ways to purposefully spend time in silence with God.
Well, the more I started thinking about that passage of scripture, the more it just wound itself around my heart and my mind. What was getting to me was what Elijah said to God. God starts by asking Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then Elijah goes on this rant about how he has done so much for the Lord, and that He’s the only prophet left, and now they are trying to kill him too. God then tells Elijah to stand on the mountain, for the ‘Lord is about to pass by’.
God then shows out with His earth, wind, and fire extravaganza! He wraps up with a gentle whisper, and then asks Elijah once more, “What are you doing here?” Elijah’s reply is what really gets me. He says the same exact thing he said before God showed out! My study Bible notes made it sound like Elijah was either too dense or too self-involved to realize the divine revelation of God he had just witnessed. But the longer I pondered his response, I felt like God showed me something entirely different then what those Biblical scholars thought.
I think that Elijah’s first response was driven by the stress of his current situation. He was in survival mode, trying to save himself, and was full of self-pity. So when the Lord asks him why he is there, he lets Him have it! I feel as though his answer was full of fear and anger, worry and doubt. But then after God reveals Himself to Elijah and asks him once again why was he there, Elijah replies with the same exact words. But although the words were the same, I believe God showed me that his tone was different. His attitude was different. Even his posture was different. It says in verse 13 that when Elijah heard the gentle whisper, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. He was humbled in the presence of God. This time, I feel as though his response was more of a cry for help rather than an accusation. He remembered who He was talking to, and the result was a change of heart – a change of attitude.
It made me think of how many times I have gone through things that I didn’t understand – loss of jobs, parents divorce, church politics, sick children, mom’s death – and how at times, I’m sure my prayers were more accusatory rather than a plea for help – an instigation rather than a conversation. But as time goes by, and I stop and listen, God usually reveals to me some reason about ‘why’ something happened. Or even if it’s not the ‘why’, it’s the ‘way’ He can then use it for His glory.
I shared this insight that night near the end of our Bible study. After I shared it, people just started sharing their stories all around the room. It started with a girl who had gone through some difficult childhood experiences who had questioned many times over the years why she had to go through those. But over the weekend, she was able to share her story and minister to someone else going through the same type of situation. And it’s like she finally heard the gentle whisper of God telling her that although the bad happened, He could still use it for His glory. The years of asking ‘why’ was actually filled with God prepping her for this one encounter for her to share her story to help free someone else.
A young man then shared his story of being adopted and how he had often wondered why he had to go through some of the tough times he had gone through related to that. But now God is using him to help another kid going through a similar situation. God had prepped him the entire time getting him ready to be able to minister to someone else. He was able to go from the ‘why’ did this happen to the ‘way’ God can use him.
A young married couple who one is a 4th year medical student and the other is in residency shared their story of doors shutting all along the way regarding schools, universities, and residencies. But that how they always sit back and see that even though some doors were closed, God always opened another door. Instead of focusing on the closed door, they looked ‘around’ the situation to see what other door God was opening.
Scott is currently doing a sermon series on worship. The key verse is Habakkuk 3:17-18. It says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk is only 3 chapters long and it’s basically just him complaining to God. But he ends it with those verses about rejoicing in the Lord, regardless of his physical circumstances. One of our favorite preachers and a mentor of Scott’s is John Nicholson, who is the pastor at Siloam Baptist Church in Marion, AL. Once, I heard him preach on Habakkuk. The main thing that stuck with me was this: it’s okay to question God – God desires communication with His children. But we have to remember whom we are talking to. That’s what Elijah did. Once he remembered whom he was conversing with, he humbled himself, and then told God what was on his heart.
God desires to communicate with His children… with us! And He’ll use whatever it takes to speak to us – earthquakes, winds, fire, whispers… but we will miss it if we are too busy feeling sorry for ourselves or if we are just too busy period. Don’t waste any more words talking ‘at’ God. Just talk ‘to’ God. And you might be surprised at how loud a gentle whisper can be 🙂