Last modified: Aug 8, 2016

Move

This is a thought experiment.

I’d like you to put yourself in this story with me. I’m going to set up a scenario right now, and I’ll add a couple of bits and pieces to it as we go along.

I’m hoping that, soon enough, my point will resonate.

So imagine this.

You’re on your lunch break. And it’s a stressful one.

You’ve got so many things to take care of and so many plans to keep track of, and you’re using the hour of free time during work to knock out all your errands for the day.

And you’ve mapped it out meticulously, too, so that you don’t waste a second or a footstep.

Dropped off the clothes at the cleaners. Shipped that important package for overnight delivery with UPS. Went to the AT&T store to take care of your phone’s data issues.

3 down, 1 to go.

The last thing you have to do is go to the bank. But you’re making good time and you’re not concerned at this point. So you whip out your cellphone and check your messages as you turn the corner. You’ve been to the bank a million times before and the number of steps from that corner to the bank’s front doors have become second nature to you. 30 in all. You aren’t even watching where you’re going.

Without thinking about it. 27 steps. 28 steps. 29 steps.

Thud.

You walk right into an old man who is standing at the door. He’s holding one door open and standing still, his back turned to you.

Frustrated, you brush yourself off and say, “Excuse me.” He doesn’t budge. In fact, it doesn’t even seem as if he heard you.

So you lean up closer and shout loud enough that his ear will catch wind of it this time. “Excuse me!,” you bark at him. Still nothing. You crane your neck to see over his shoulder. Maybe he’s looking at something? Maybe he’s distracted? But his thick overcoat and broad shoulders are impossible to see over.

You check your phone. This is wasting your time.

So you’re done with this.

You reach out your arm, aiming for his shoulder to push him aside, and before you make contact, you warn the old man once more. “Sir, you’re in my way. I’m gonna need you to move.”


Raw Emotions

Sometimes, God does a remarkable job of not listening to you.

Hear me out for a second.

Before you get angry with me, did you know that over 1/3 of the Book of Psalms are songs of lamentation? Grief. Sadness. Misery. Distress. Annoyance. Frustration.

We get up at church, head to the stage, flip open our Bibles, and read the hopeful psalms and the uplifting psalms and the I’m-gonna-go-out-there-this-week-and-I’m-gonna-be-so-awesome psalms.

But the writers of the Book of Psalms- David included- felt the raw emotions we’re often too scared to admit on stage. Or in person. Or in our prayers to God.

The gravity of loneliness. The ineptitude of the human condition. The deafening din of silence.

Sometimes, in our darkest moments, don’t our cries to God sound like they’re snatched right from Psalm 88?

“You have made my friends turn in horror from me. I am a prisoner who cannot escape, and I am almost blind because of my sorrow.” (v. 8, 9a)

Or how about this?

“Ever since I was a child, I have been sick and close to death. You have terrified me and made me helpless.” (v. 15)

Sometimes, in our darkest moments, these are our refrains. And the cold chill that surrounds us in the somber solitude makes us believe that God really isn’t listening at all.

But here’s what I’ve learned.

We equate “God is listening” with “God is responding.”

In our haste, we expect a response from God to be a sign that He’s listening to our cries.

In reality, though, what we’re afraid to admit is that not getting a response from God is the sign that He’s still working in our lives.


Not Yet

Let’s go back to that thought experiment. I’ll add to the story.

You’re on your lunch break and you’re in a rush to get back to work. You just need to do one last thing at the bank and you’re all set.

So you stroll to the bank, not watching where you’re going.

Thud.

You walk right into an old man who is standing at the door. He’s holding one door open and standing still, his back turned to you.

Frustrated, you brush yourself off and say, “Excuse me.” He doesn’t budge. In fact, it doesn’t even seem as if he heard you.

So you lean up closer and shout loud enough that his ear will catch wind of it this time. “Excuse me!,” you bark at him. Still nothing. You crane your neck to see over his shoulder. Maybe he’s looking at something? Maybe he’s distracted? But his thick overcoat and broad shoulders are impossible to see over.

You check your phone. This is wasting your time.

So you’re done with this.

You reach out your arm, aiming for his shoulder to push him aside, and before you make contact, you warn the old man once more. “Sir, you’re in my way. I’m gonna need you to move.”

Before your fist reaches his left shoulder, the old man hooks his right arm across his chest, his hand open.

He catches your fist in his wrinkled palm. The grip is strong, but not indomitable.

He looks over his shoulder and glares into your eyes. As if he wants to tell you something. As if he wants to warn you.

But he doesn’t say a word.

You perk your brow, annoyed. “Please move,” you demand, no longer amused and far from trying to be understanding.

He lets go of your hand and continues to look right in your eyes.

And his eyes silently tell you, “Not yet.”


Baby Boy

Sometimes, you have everything planned out and neatly tied with a fancy bow.

School. Work. Family. Relationships. Responsibilities.

We all have plans. We all have dreams. We all have milestones we’d like to see ourselves reach to indicate it’s time to move on to the next bigger goal.

But, sometimes, God’s silence in our dark seasons is confusing.

And, quite frankly, His standoffishness after He’s promised you something is difficult to deal with.

I can only imagine what Abraham went through for years and years, after God promised him that he’d be the father to many nations.

Being the father of many nations is an amazing promise to hear when you’re 20 and vibrant. When you’re 30 and responsible. When you’re 40 and mature… But doubt must have started creeping in at 50. And 60. And 70. And 80. Right?

When his physical condition deteriorated and his birthday cake got topped with 100 candles?

When his wife was 90 and had a womb that was an inhospitable environment by that point? (For all the “Friends” fans reading this.)

Doubt must have creeped in, right?

Well, here’s what Abraham knew.

In our haste, we expect a response from God to be a sign that He’s listening to our cries.

In reality, though, what we’re afraid to admit is that not getting a response from God is the sign that He’s still working in our lives.

And Isaac was the baby boy born to a faithful man that hung in there and believed that God doesn’t break promises. He just doesn’t.

And so Abraham trusted God despite the odds. Despite the circumstances. Despite the biology textbooks and professors that undoubtedly contradicted his faith at every turn.

He knew that he wasn’t trusting in a promise-making God; he was trusting in a promise-keeping God.

And it made his relationship with God strong. Resilient. Legendary.

Trusting God is evident in the aforementioned Psalm 88, too. For every desperate lament, there’s a persistent prayer.

“You keep me safe, Lord God… when I pray at night” (v. 1)

And more persistence.

“Each day I lift my hands in prayer to you, Lord.” (v. 9b)

And even more persistence.

“Each morning I pray to you, Lord.” (v. 13)

Even in our darkest seasons, even after we’ve heard all the promises, even though our feet slip and we don’t have what it takes to keep going…

Persist.

Trust that God is still working.

Because He just isn’t in the business of leaving us hanging.

We just may not realize it at the time.


Enter the Building

Let’s go back to that thought experiment one last time. I’ll add the last few details to the scenario.

In a rush and frustrated that this vagrant old man is blocking your entrance to the bank, you lean forward and bark at him, “Sir, you’re in my way. I’m gonna need you to move.”

Before your fist reaches his left shoulder to push him out of the way, the old man hooks his right arm across his chest, his hand open.

He catches your fist in his wrinkled palm. The grip is strong, but not indomitable.

He looks over his shoulder and glares into your eyes. As if he wants to tell you something. As if he wants to warn you.

But he doesn’t say a word.

You perk your brow, annoyed. “Please move,” you demand, no longer amused and far from trying to be understanding.

He lets go of your hand and continues to look right in your eyes.

And his eyes silently tell you, “Not yet.”

He turns back around and looks straight ahead. You can’t see inside the bank because he’s blocking your field of vision.

As you gather up your energy to make one last loud demand before you make this physical, the old man casually steps to the side, holding the door open. He looks at you. And you look at him, blankly.

You mumble something like “Finally” at him as you take 3 quick steps into the bank, ready to finish this task before heading to work.

The moment you get to the doorway, 2 men exit the building in haste, knocking you back and onto the sidewalk. The men are wearing beanie hats and bandanas around the bottom halves of their faces. They’re carrying padded duffel bags and are sprinting down the crowded sidewalk. You watch them as they run away.

Your heart races as you realize you just avoided a major crisis inside that bank.

A wrinkled hand reaches down to offer you some help to your feet. The old man is smiling at you.

You don’t take his hand right away. You’re still in shock. And maybe some pain from falling so hard.

As you silently collect your thoughts, he looks at you and assures you , “I wanted to make sure you’d be okay before I let you enter the building.”


All the Water

Recently, I’ve had a lot of things in my head. Concerns and plans. Worries and regrets.

I needed to just clear my head.

And so one day, early in the evening, I went out to this park. Parked my car far and headed out to a bench overlooking the water. And I just sat there. Overcast thick dark clouds above me. This was probably a bad idea. It was gonna pour soon and I had no quick escape to my car or an umbrella. It’s no wonder why the park was empty tonight.

And I sat there quietly, reflecting, watching the calm water under the intimidating skies. Ducks wading. And I audibly heard God ask me, “When it starts to POUR, will you still enjoy the water?”

I thought about that and stared at the water some more. And I responded with a nod, “It’ll be difficult, but I’ll try to enjoy it.”

Not even kidding.

Raindrops started falling slowly. I heard God reiterate “When it starts to pour, will you STILL enjoy the water?”

And I squinted and stared at the water and said, “Yeah, I will.”

Not even kidding.

Out of nowhere. Torrential rain. And I’m shivering. Squinting because I can’t see. I figured I should probably race to my car, but at that moment, I realized God was trying to tell me something important. I wasn’t gonna go run 5 minutes to my car. I was gonna wait this out.

POURING rain.

And I heard God ask me “Which water will you enjoy?” …

I remember taking my eyes off of the river and looking up at the dark clouds. Which water will I enjoy? This whole time I was thinking God was telling me to enjoy the river despite the rain, but…

I smirked and did one of those “A-ha!” laughs, realizing God was telling me to enjoy ALL the water. Both the river water amidst the rain AND the cold, brutal water coming from His skies.

And I said, “Yeah. I’m gonna enjoy all the water.”

Not even kidding.

A small patch of clouds opened up. Bright blue sky behind it. Stopped raining around me in like a 30 foot radius. Saw some birds flying around. When I stopped to enjoy the rain, God showed me that He had been taking care of these nameless birds since they first hatched. And they were okay despite the rain.

Why wouldn’t He take care of me? Of us?

I’m not in Abraham’s boat. I don’t have the promises from God that will make me as legendary as he’s become.

But, really, I don’t need epic promises.

I don’t need answers right away.

I don’t need assurances along the journey.

If God’s told me He’s got this under control, if He’s told me He’s got my life in the palm of His hand, I am okay with that.

Okay with just trusting Him to carry out His work in me.

Okay with learning where trusting blindly will take me.

Where it won’t.

I’ve realized that, sometimes God stands at the door for me to block my entrance.

And, sometimes, He stands at the door to prolong my entrance.

School. Work. Life. Whatever.

But all along, He can see inside the bank and understands whether I’m ready for this next goal or not. He understands better than I do. And when the time is right, He’ll let me inside that bank. Even if it takes minutes and hours and days to make sure the conditions are going to work for me.

And that’s okay.


Still Working

Our lives are no different than those of the poets and writers that litter the Book of Psalms with songs of praise and lamentation.

But when you feel like the world is caving in around you and that God is not listening to your every beck and call, understand that He’s still working.

It might take a day for that door to open up. It might take a hundred.

But God just isn’t in the business of leaving us hanging.

Even when the clouds break above us and drench us in our dark seasons, God is still God. And God is still good.

And God is still working.

Because He’s got promises to keep. ■