There is a joke about two brothers named Johnny and Billy.
Johnny and Billy were quite a handful for their mom. Most everyday the two found a way to cause trouble. Out of exasperation the mom arranged for the local Pastor to have a talk with the boys. She dropped the two off in front of the church and drove away without saying a word. Standing outside, the boys discussed who would go in first. Johnny reasoned that Billy should because he was the youngest and adults were nicer to younger kids. Billy walks in the church and is greeted by the Pastor who asks him the question “Billy, do you know where God is?” Billy gets all wide-eyed and runs out of the building. Outside he cries to Johnny, “come on, we have to hide! God’s missing and they think we had something to do with it!”
There are times when I have questioned where God is. Life experiences have at points caused me to wonder if I somehow pushed God away. Other times I struggle to hear God’s voice in the midst of personal crisis. It is easy to get tired, feel rejected, and lose courage when life is hard. There are times a person can feel empowered and accomplish a great victory only to be discouraged shortly after by hateful words. Some of us have been obedient for years to a calling and have not seen the desired result. It is in the desert of life I want to ask the question “do you know where God is?”
The Bible records stories of people who had times of doubt. One of them was a man, a great prophet by the name of Elijah, that spoke with and walked with God. In the book of 1 kings you can read the story of how God directed him to face off with 400 prophets of Baal and ultimately he put them all to the sword. Right after he out ran a horse and chariot a distance of about 17 miles. But when he confronted an evil queen that threatened him he lost courage and hid in a cave. Even great prophets are subject to human weakness.
In 1 Kings 19:9-13 we pick up the story of Elijah hiding in a cave …And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 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 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. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Like Elijah there are times I want to run and hide from perceived trouble. In those times as I read the Bible (the word of the Lord) the question comes to me “what are you doing here?” Life is not fulfilled by hiding from the outside world. I can look for God in the calamities going on around us, but that is not where He is speaking from. God talks to us mostly through a still small voice. It requires us to actively listen in order to hear the voice of God. One thing that is for certain is His voice will always align with His word.
Elijah received new marching orders in his conversation with God. When we listen to the still small voice of God we are given direction and encouragement, not permission to sit in self-pity. It is not a sin to feel discouraged or have doubt until you allow that doubt to prevent you from following God.
Rev. Burt Schwab