I’m incredibly amazed by many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis. People I don’t know write me to ask my advice on all kinds of things, like what to say to a friend of theirs who is in sin, what kind of decision to make for their future, what they should do about fellowship, or even what might be the key to free them from some element of bondage.
Now, I don’t take those lightly. I know the people on the other side of those emails are incredibly desperate. Some are angry or lonely or at the end of their rope and feel they have no one else to turn to. But what they don’t realize is the incredible limitations of email, either for me to truly know what is going on in their hearts or in my ability to communicate with them what they would most need to hear in a limited email.
But beyond those concerns there is something more fundamental that disturbs me. I am a total stranger to them and they to me. I can’t really get to know the situation they are in by their own assessment of it. I’m only getting one side of a story. I don’t know the people they are interacting with or the nature of the relationship they have with them. Why would anyone trust the words of a stranger a thousand of miles away, to the God who already lives in them?
Is this part of the residue of our religious systems that always sets up an expert between us and God? We think the “man of God” has a more direct pipeline to God than what he wants to share with each of his followers. This is one of the sad fruits of our practicing Christianity as if it is a religion. We’re just certain that there are techniques others know that I don’t, rather than embrace the reality that God wants to have a personal connection with all of his children to help them learn to live freely in his life.
A couple of days ago, I got one of these emails from a woman caught in some very desperate circumstances and feeling like God was no where to be found. Her email was titled, “Where is God?” My heart went out to her as I read it, but I again felt as if she needed something more than a ‘word from Wayne’. She needed him!
Imagine my joy when less than 12 hours later, and before I had a chance to respond, I got another email from the same woman titled, “Never mind.” I thought at first she might be upset that I hadn’t responded in the twelve hours since she’d sent it to me. But that wasn’t the case at all. What she wrote thrilled my heart:
Don’t feel like you need to respond to my last e-mail. I sat for a few hours and watched the moon inch slowly across the sky. Sitting under the night sky all night helped clear my mind. God answered a bunch of my questions. So I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK. Our conversation started like this, “Why do you keep asking (other) people these questions? I’m waiting for you to ask Me.”
I think God is waiting for all of us to ask him. And I mean exactly like this woman did, in a quiet place. Too often we think we’re praying when we rush around throwing up desperate requests to God and yet we never draw to a quiet place long enough to listen to his response.
This reminded me of an experience I had with my daughter when she was twelve. She was afraid we were going to make her go to something she didn’t want to go to. We assured her we wouldn’t make her go. Now that she was twelve she had the freedom to go or not go, depending on what God wanted for her. She asked how she would know that, and we told her just to ask. Get in a quiet place and ask him if he wants you to go or not, sit in silence for a bit and see what she felt God was saying to her. She did. Fifteen minutes later she told us that she felt God wanted her to go. And she did, with a much-improved attitude because God had asked her to, not her parents had demanded it of her.
Hearing God and knowing his presence is not rocket science. It only takes a simple heart willing to be honest with him, to pause long enough to see what impressions he puts on our hearts, and to follow him as he leads us. It will help if you discard all your expectations about what he should say or should do. Let him be God and don’t so much see him as the fairy-godmother who will fix everything to make you happy, but the Abba who can walk you through anything with his grace and glory.
Will we make mistakes learning to follow him? Sure. But he can overcome those, too, and in doing so we all get to learn better the difference between his voice and yours.
And, please none of this is not meant to discount the value of a helping friend when we’re so buried in our own pain that we can’t see our way out. Just make sure that helping hand comes from someone who knows you well enough to really be of help, and that they are helping you connect with God instead of listening to God for you. Those who try to build a ministry out of other people’s dependence really don’t get what the Gospel is all about.
Anyone who truly knows the glory of living in the Father’s reality wouldn’t dream of robbing that same opportunity from someone else.