Driving down back-country roads today, I noticed a bright orange sign:
It made sense. The roads that I drive to work have little to no shoulder, with only a thin expanse of grass separating them from endless acres of farmland. The big mowers that the state uses to maintain them – behemoth things whose wheels and sides jut out into traffic at times – can startle unsuspecting drivers and, in the worst case, cause a collision.
I skimmed the road ahead of me and saw nothing, but lowered my speed instinctively. Still nothing. They must have just left the sign out or forgotten about it. Regaining my speed, I followed the road for a bit longer into a looping curve – and then there he was right in front of me, a state employee on one of those massive mowers jutting halfway out into the road.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding,” I muttered. I hit the brakes and slowed almost to a stop; I had to wait for cars in the other lane to pass before I could creep around him. “You’d think they’d give some kind of a warning or–”
And then I stopped myself, embarrassed. They had given me a warning. I’d just decided that it didn’t apply and then driven on.
So it is with us believers. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard Christians complain that God is just not speaking to them right now. And it’s true that sometimes He is quiet in the moment, or sometimes there are periods where we’re uncertain of His will, or that it feels difficult to connect with Him. But sometimes we make it so much more difficult than it needs to be.
Because God does speak, and is speaking, all of the time. His Word is exactly that: a message spoken to us and for us. And in almost any situation you can find some part of His word that applies. He put out the signs and the warnings and the advice and the guides long ago. We pass them constantly in our Bible studies and meditations on the Word…and then somehow, like me with the mowing sign, we forget them or assume they don’t apply, only to become indignant later that they don’t seem to be there or that He isn’t speaking in the way we want Him to speak.
When I was in my early twenties, I used to gloss over all the Bible passages related to failure and old age and grief and sorrow. I was happy and fine; my family was happy and fine; I had never not succeeded. Nothing in those verses seem to apply to me, and so I read them with a blind eye: they passed through the sieve of my mind without making much of an impact. A decade later, in my thirties – when people I loved were struggling, or suffering, and when some of my endeavors didn’t work out as I hoped – I found myself indignant. Why hadn’t God prepared me for this? Why wasn’t He offering comfort or advice or guidance?
But He did. All those years ago, and still now.
Those of us who clamor for “a word from God” often mean that we want God to say something to us that He has not already said: something special, something tailored to our circumstance, something we haven’t already seen. And we often do this neglecting all of the things that God already has said or addressed. It doesn’t often occur to us that the revelation we received is really the only one that we need; God has said to us in His word everything fundamental that must be said.
Sometimes it’s true that God is quiet. But ask yourself: is it possible that God is quiet because He already said to you what He needed to say? We’re masters of not-hearing and dismissal; we tend to release everything that we feel doesn’t apply to our lives in the moment we encounter it, never believing it might make sense for us later. Rather than storing up the Word in our hearts, we test it against our current circumstances – hm, not dealing with anything like this right now – and then discard it, only to come back later complaining that we’ve never received guidance at all.
When you read the Word, keep it with you. What is said therein will matter to you: if not right now, somewhere down the road. He does speak. We’re just not always great at listening.