I grew up in a home in which the voice of God was expected to be heard. Not in the booming Charlton Heston and the burning bush type voice – though I assume that is possible, but a more subtle, typically through long prayer and reading of the Bible, sort of way. Sometimes, the voice would come through other people – usually someone known/believed to hear the voice of God on a regular basis – aka prophets, pastors, etc. Sometimes through the naivety of children. Sometimes just out of the blue.
The Bible is full of references where people hear the voice of God, usually in the booming Charlton Heston/burning bush way, and I always wondered why God did not speak that way anymore, or at least didn’t seem to. To be honest, it always bothered me, and I remember laying in bed or a bathtub just wanting to hear the voice of God, even a whisper, but as i was taught, faith did not work on evidence or the things seen, but rather on the things left unseen, or in this case, unheard.
I want to note that the Biblical references to God speaking in a booming voice are found in both the Old and New Testaments – in both Protestant and Catholic Bibles. From the prophets of old to Saul/St. Paul, St. Peter and St. John. God spoke in a way, that to them, would be undeniable. One could argue that their faith was supreme, and that may be so, and people whose faith may have been lacking – i.e. David, needed a different medium for God to approach them – either through a prophet or some other means. I don’t know, I certainly do not have all the answers, and trust me when i say I have never heard the booming voice of God. Maybe this means my faith is lacking – surely it is. Then again, I never walked with Christ down a dirty street in Jerusalem, nor did I ever see the empty tomb, or even more, as St. Thomas did, see Christ’s hands and side. Yet, I can not shake the feeling that all of these people who claim to hear God’s will without the booming voice are missing something, or at the very least, if they are truly hearing the will of God, that there is something being added from their own experiences.
When Jesus taught us to pray (The Our Father) he teaches us to lay down our will and put God’s will first in line. In fact, the implication is that our will is being discarded for God’s will. It goes further, asking that God – because our purpose is to follow His will – lead us from temptation – which would be our will, and to forgive us of our sins when we fail to not follow our will. This is what I like to call, and I’m sure others out there as well would call, total abandonment of self with total reliance on God. This means, that no matter what we want, feel or even need, we will put God’s will first, neglecting ourselves. This is one of the main reasons I despise such things as the “prosperity gospel,” which ultimately puts ourselves first – I mean, who doesn’t want to be prosperous and rich. But, I digress from the true intent of this writing
When we pray and read the Bible, we expect God to speak to us – this is good. Yet, I feel that when we allegedly hear God speak to us we have the inclination to add our own caveats to the message. An example of this is: i need a job, but… wait… why is there a but? Because i don’t want to work at McDonalds of course! Why not? Because a) its Mcdonalds, b) the wages are low, and c) ITS MCDONALDS! God in turn says I will give you a job, in turn, an offer shows up from McDonalds , BUT you wont work at McDonalds, and so you keep looking. Now you are upset, because it has been a month and you are still out of a job, and you know God told you He would give you one – I mean you know, 100% positive God told you He would provide a job opportunity for you, BUT, you added that caveat, the but, the no McDonalds. Now you are worried – becoming fearful, maybe even mad at God for not providing what He said He would. Yes you are, don’t deny it, because you are, I know because you are human, and you really need a job because you are three months behind on your mortgage, four months on your car payment and insurance and the electric company is coming tomorrow to shut off you electricity – without electricity, you wont have way to see what the latest prophetic fad is and YOU NEED access. So you pray, and you are reminded of McDonalds. You keep praying, trying to shut McDonalds out of your mind, even though a Big Mac sounds pretty good right now – unfortunately you don’t have a job, so you can’t buy one.
Now you go to your support group – the people I like to call the enablers. I think Jesus made a millstone and ocean reference somewhere. They of course support you, give you words of encouragement – unfortunately, these do not pay the bills, and only serve to enforce your caveats – your buts. You search through your favorite Christian voices on Facebook and Twitter, you come across “God has not given you a spirit of fear” tweet, you come across a “God will give you everything you need in accordance to His word” Facebook post, and His word to you was that He would give you a job! But, you added a caveat, you said but. you inserted your will into His, and that never works. Never, ever, ever. So here you are without a penny to your name, but you still have your faith. Unfortunately, your faith isn’t what you think it is, because you added the caveat.
So, now it has been three months and you finally decide to remove the caveat and humble yourself and go to McDonalds. To bad the job has already been filled. It has been filled by someone who decided not to insert caveats, someone who decided not to say “but” but yes. Someone who probably isn’t a believer like you but who needed the job just as bad. Someone who decided that they were not to good for a job at Mcdonalds, someone who decided they just wanted to make sure they had enough money to pay the bills.
Now, knowing we are all grand believers with lots and lots of faith, we would never blame God for our misfortunes. At the same time, we will fail to look inside ourselves and place the blame there. We will say we simply missed it, or that the timing was not right for God, or something like that. Newsflash, God doesn’t need timing, we do, for if we truly believe He is God, he can do all things necessary for needs, and yes, even desires, to be met. All we have to do is listen and then obey – without caveats, without buts, without our will being put on a pedestal, and ultimately, without our happiness or understanding.
Now, let me tell you what I believe. I believe God opens doors and when he does they should be taken. That McDonalds job could easily lead to a better job within that fast food chain or even a better opportunity from someone you may meet there while taking an order or cooking french fries. That is how I believe God works – mainly because that is how he has worked in my life. It wont make sense, it never does. It doesn’t seem like it will work, it never does – and that is the point. How hard would it be to do something if it actually made sense? How hard would it be to say yes to the opportunity that God is giving us if it was all peaches and cream through the door? How hard would it be if God’s will and our will aligned? Not hard at all. in fact, it would be too easy, and there in lies the problem. God never said it would be easy – in fact, if I recall the Gospels and the Epistles well, God says it will be hard. We will be persecuted and we will suffer, all for His glory. I remember my own dad telling me that when God gives you n opportunity you take it, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t appear that it will work – for that, in a way, is a litmus test for us to know that it really is God and not us with our caveats.
I do believe you can “miss” God. At the same time I also believe that God loves us and knows how we humans think. I think ultimately God brings us to a place, if we let Him, where we will have no other choice but to follow His will, otherwise we will end up totally destitute, or whatever the situation ultimately calls for. I do not believe our will and God’s will ever align like we think they should, but I also believe that in the end the mercy and grace of God will prevail. That being said, we have a responsibility, for our salvation, to lay down our will – to lay down our mantle – and to pick up His.