The Elijah was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12
I recently attended Sunday worship with my granddaughter in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Honestly, I don’t remember what the pastor spoke about that morning except that he asked us one question that stuck – “Is your life so busy that if God actually answered your prayer and spoke to you, you would not hear Him?” Wow, I felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach. I knew when he asked this question that God was telling me that although I do regularly spend quiet time with Him, the busyness of my life can still get in the way of me hearing and sensing direction from Him.
When Elijah was running from Jezebel and fearful for his life, God told him to stand still. Sometimes when I slow down I realize how much chaos is going on not only in the life around me, but also in my spirit. I often share with people that I have a hard time sleeping because it’s like there’s a movie playing in my head that I can’t turn off. The same happens when I begin to slow down and when I try to sit quietly with God. Eventually this inner chaos calms down and I am actually able to sit peacefully with God.
Ruth Haley Barton, in her book titled Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence uses the analogy of a cloudy, muddy jar of river water to characterize the worldly state of our spirits. The water is full of dirt and nothing can be seen in it. However, once the jar sits for a while, the dirt settles to the bottom and the water becomes clear. She says, like the jar, our spirits are “all stirred up”.
God speaks clearly to us. He is the creator of the universe and He is communicating with us all the time. We know that when we ask that He speak to us on a specific issue, He loves this and responds. However, when we’re “all stirred up” we often miss his subtle messages. Haley Barton suggests that the wind, the earthquake, and the fire Elijah experienced while waiting for God all represent aspects of his internal chaos. Elijah was “all stirred up”. It wasn’t until these had passed, and his spirit had settled down, that He was able to hear the whisper of God.
Often, in our world, we are running from the inner chaos of our lives by staying so busy that we don’t experience the wind, the earthquake or the fire inside. We don’t like confusion, we don’t like to accept pain, and we don’t like to be disrupted by having to look at our lives from God’s perspective. It’s easier just to go along with the culture and stay in a constant state of being busy, and “all stirred up.”
We all, including me, have to challenge the things in our lives that keep us “all stirred up” if we are to truly live the Christian life (as opposed to just talking and reading about it). It’s hard. The world tells us that so much is expected of us. The world also offers so many cool things that can occupy our time – we don’t want to miss out. God’s way is different. God’s way is simpler, quieter, healthier. Let’s stop running ourselves ragged and listen to the whisper.