A couple of years ago I decided to give journaling another shot. Before that I was the person who loved the idea of journaling, but hated the actual practice. I would buy a really nice notebook and a pen with a good weight and feel to it, make two entries several days apart, and then never crack it open again. This time I did something different; instead of using a notebook, I installed an app on my iPad. Now I could have reminders pop up when I hadn’t written in a while, and soon found that I was writing one to two times a week on average, and sometimes even more when there were events happening in life that needed some extra processing time.
One thing this app does now that I’ve used it for a couple years, is it gives me notifications about previous entries. Several times a week I get a notification on my phone and my iPad to go back and look at an entry that was written on that day in a previous year. It’s been fascinating to look back at what I was dealing with earlier, and often it leads me to think about how that situation was responded and what it led to.
A few days ago there was a certain entry from one year earlier that came up in my notifications. I had written this entry following the district worker’s retreat of my denomination that happens every year at the beginning of February. Usually the district retreat is a highlight of the year, it’s a time where I get to connect with old friends and come back to my church feeling refreshed and ready for the next season. But last year was different. I left the retreat feeling like I had been there searching for God, but God hadn’t met with me. Even though I had talked to people and heard them say how encouraging and exciting that year’s retreat was, I didn’t feel the same way. I drove home feeling discouraged and confused about what to do next.
Then on the Monday morning following the retreat, I was having a meeting with our Board of Elders. During our 5-minute stretch break in the middle a parcel arrived in the mail at the church addressed to me. I opened the parcel and dug through the packing material to find out what had been sent to me. Near the bottom of the box there was the unmistakable packaging of an Apple product, and inside was an Apple Watch. Taped to the box of the Apple Watch was a card, and when I opened it I started to cry as I read this message:
God kept telling me you needed an encouragement boost. Then he told me exactly what I was to do. So may this gift be an encouragement to you from God. Every time you wear it let it be a reminder that God is with you.
When our meeting resumed only a couple minutes later I had planned on talking to my Elders about the discouragement I had been feeling after the retreat. Instead I shared with them what had just happened.
Even as I am writing this post, it’s hard not to get emotional about this gift. I’ve worn this watch for a year now, and there’s still times when I look at it and feel overwhelmed by the generosity of the person who sent it to me, and the encouragement it was to me at the precise moment.
Later that day I wrote in my journal about how I had been wondering where my encouragement was all through the district retreat, and how I had been praying and begging God that I would find some small bit of encouragement and strength from him that would help me to keep going. In the last line of my journal entry, I wrote this: “So maybe God didn't want to encourage me through the district retreat... Or perhaps I was asking the question so loudly I couldn't hear his answer.”
Perhaps I was asking the question so loudly I couldn’t hear his answer.
Let that thought sink in for a moment. I had been screaming a question at God. I was asking him where was the encouragement meant for me, but had never paused to actually wait for an answer. Maybe it was like an old walkie-talkie set and I was holding down my talk button so I could never hear the reply from the other end. Or maybe God had answered and was right there to meet with me, only I wasn’t able to let go of the question long enough to hear an answer.
Have you ever been yearning for an answer to something? Maybe there’s been a nagging question in your soul that just won’t go away. I know that the common advice is to keep pushing forward and to let that question drive you toward an answer. But maybe the common advice isn’t always true. What if the answer is that we’re seeking is already there, but we’ve been shouting the question from the rooftops for so long, we’ve lost the ability to hear the quiet answer.
When we are driven by a question, do we hear and listen when someone provides what could be the answer? Or do we drown out the response for fear of losing the question that gives us meaning by constantly searching for the answer?
Last week I preached through Habakkuk at my church. He’s one of the minor prophets that we tend to skip over, but there’s something unique about Habakkuk that we don’t see in the other minor prophets. The first two chapters are a dialogue between Habakkuk and God, twice he voices his complaints and challenges to God, and both times God responds. But Habakkuk did something I didn’t, he ends his second complaint to God with this:
I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complaint. (Hab 2:1 NLT)
Habakkuk was willing to wait and see how God would respond. His prayers of complaint weren’t just a rant or venting, he was willing to wait and see how God will answer. That was something I needed to learn how to do.
When you ask a question, either a question for God or someone else, will you make it a practice to wait for an answer for at least twice as long as it took to ask the question? You might be surprised that there is an answer or at least a step towards what you’re looking for.
We would love to hear from you and your experiences. Have you ever had a time where asking the question too loudly was getting in the way of finding the answer? Or maybe you’ve had a time when God spoke to you in an unexpected way while you were waiting for a response?
We would love to hear your story, please share your experience in the comments below.
Brian's whole understanding of faith and Christianity changed when he started to encounter what it means to live life with God instead of for God. One thing that Brian is passionate about is walking with people as they explore their faith in Christ and learning how to honestly seek God in the midst of our doubts and fears. Brian is the Pastor of Grand Valley Community Church in Brandon Manitoba. He is married to Nikki and they have one daughter named Olivia. When Brian isn't working on a sermon at a Starbucks or at home with his family, you can usually find him fly fishing or building model air planes. To read more of Brian's articles, click here.
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