How Can We Hear?
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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. - I Kings 19:11-13
Elijah is quite an interesting character in Scripture. He seems to have been tracking with God pretty well. I mean, you'd have to be to have the confidence to take on 450 prophets of Ba'al the way he did (I Kings 18). This was a showdown to end all showdowns. They were finally going to decide once and for all whose god was really the One True God. Elijah told King Ahab to get two bulls, one for the 450 prophets and one for him. He let the prophets go on all morning and into the afternoon to try and get their god to consume the sacrifice. Elijah even went so far as to say that perhaps their god was busy in the latrine so he couldn't come out and take care of business. You've got to love that in a man of God, don't you?
Well, the prophets of Ba'al finally gave up. Then it was show time. Elijah had four large jars filled with water poured over his sacrifice and altar - three times. He then prayed, God sent fire from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the altar and all the water than had been poured out. There was no room left for anyone to question whose God reigned supreme. At this point King Ahab's wife, Jezebel, began killing off the 450 prophets. And after waiting around long enough to be able to tell King Ahab that the three year draught was now over, Elijah high-tailed it outta there.
When he ran, Elijah wasn't riding a high from thoroughly humiliating and defeating the prophets of the enemy. He was running for his life. He stopped in the desert utterly and completely exhausted. Have you ever had that happen? You've experienced a spiritual high, you know you've seen God move, and very soon after you find yourself in a valley of despair. I have often had that happen, and because of that I have felt a camaraderie with Elijah. I had no idea that that feeling would become even stronger.
Recently I found that I had completely come to the end of myself. It was a Friday and I was teetering on the edge of a big cliff. But God was there, too, and He caught me before I fell. He sat me down and began caring for me. He began showing me how I had gotten into the state I found myself, and He also began showing me what it was that He wanted from me - not what I assumed that He wanted from me. Talk about an eye-opener.
Over the previous two years my schedule had been rather full. More like bursting at the seams, actually. I was going to school part time, homeschooling our son, playing with the worship team at church, heading up the prayer ministry, and co-leading another ministry with my husband. I was also involved in a small group, and during the final year of my schooling I was teaching once a week at a local homeschool co-op and my first novel was released. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but you get the idea. I was always on the go. Well, when God stopped me in my tracks He showed me that my life had been far too busy for far too long. In fact, there were certain patterns of behavior that I had developed from childhood that were simply not pleasing to Him. Initially God simply showed me that I needed to rest. Any emotional reserves that I may have had had long been drained and I was completely empty. I couldn't think. I couldn't do. I could simply sit or lie down and rest. I felt that God had checked me into His very own sanitarium for the summer, and that was just fine with me.
As my strength grew, God began showing me His desire for me, His will and His ways. He made it very clear that I was to stop following the ways of the world and begin following His ways, His timing. I needed to do what He asked of me and not try to be busy all of the time. He showed me that He was going to teach me how to live a simple, peaceful life. Oh, how that revived my spirit!
I bet you're wondering what all of that has to do with Elijah. Well, I'll tell you! God is faithful beyond measure, and during my very first day of recuperation He led me to the account of Elijah in the desert being cared for by the angel of the Lord. Elijah would sleep a little, get up and eat a little, sleep a little more, eat a little more, and so on. Well, that was the pattern of my days for a couple of weeks - rest a little, eat a little and be tended by the Lord. Little by little I felt my strength returning and little by little I was able to do more than just rest. Each thing that was gradually added back to my day was specifically something that the Lord wanted to add - things that would bless my family. It was during these first few days and weeks that the Lord also began showing me how busy I had been, how that is the way of the world, and how that is not what He wants for His children. Why not? Well, for one thing, if we are so busy all of the time, being bombarded with distractions at every turn, how can we hear the voice of the Lord?
Again, the Lord took me back to Elijah, who, after he had regained his strength in the desert, was about to have an encounter with the living God. Elijah was told to go up a mountain for the Lord was going to pass by. First there was a wind so strong that it tore rocks apart, but God was not in that mighty wind. Next there was an earthquake, then a fire, but God was in neither of these mighty happenings. Next Elijah heard a small whisper and he knew it was the Lord. Elijah pulled his hood over his face and came out of the cave in which he had been sheltered and spoke with God.
This really made me think. If I allow myself to be caught up in the busyness of the world, will I really be able to hear God's voice? If I'm so busy that I don't have time to simply sit before the Lord and wait on Him, how can I possibly strengthen my relationship with Him and really know the voice of my Shepherd? The Lord also had me look at why I was doing the things that I had been doing - even those “good” things that surely the Lord would have wanted me to do. I realized that even though much of what I was doing was “Christian” and “good” they were things that were keeping me busy according to the way of the world and that doing those things were not pleasing God because of what it was doing to me, my relationship with Him, and to my family.
If you are a follower of Yeshua (Jesus), your life should look different than someone's who is not a follower of Yeshua. Yes, we still live in this world, but we are no longer of the world which means that our lives should be substantively different. Unfortunately many Christians have simply traded some of their worldly busyness for Christian busyness - doing, doing, doing - and when we do that we are hurting ourselves, our families and our relationship with the One who bought us for such a precious price.
There is another thing that suffers when we are caught up in the busy lifestyle of the world, and that is our relationships with others. Again, if we are constantly running here and there, busily doing the things that we feel we must do, we can't nurture the relationships that we should be nurturing with our family, friends, and those who have not yet come to the Lord, but are genuinely seeking His touch. If our lives look just like theirs, but we're busy with “church” things rather than non-church things as their lives may be, what is there to entice them to lay down their lives and surrender to the Messiah?
Yeshua willingly allowed Himself to be slaughtered on the cross so that we would be able to experience the peace of God in this life, in every area of our lives. How sad it must make Him to see us continue to scurry about like ants preparing for winter even when we have surrendered ourselves to Him. Then again, have we fully surrendered if we continue on in our old ways of behavior and thinking? Not a question that's popular, but one that should be asked nonetheless.
And how am I doing now? Well, I'm still in my summer of healing and rest. The Lord has been with me every step of the way, patiently and faithfully guiding me into His wholeness. For the first time in my life I am truly relaxed and feel peaceful. I have rediscovered the delight of listening to the birds singing in the summer breezes, listening to the crickets chirping in the evenings, and listening to the wind rustling the leaves. I have also rediscovered the sweetness of the sound of my Beloved Savior's voices has He speaks to me, refocusing my life to His purposes and desires. The freedom in that is indescribable and I'm so very thankful that He didn't let me miss out on it. I'm also very hopeful and excited to discover what the Lord has in store for me. I know that my full healing will take time, longer than just this summer, but I also know that whatever the Lord has in store for me it will be beyond my wildest imagination and I look forward to the journey.