Yesterday was another day of marital bliss–the usual habits, miscommunications, standard unhelpful reactions, etc.., snowballing to a loud, unfortunate, and unhappy Saturday at home, stuck eating your Jiffy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with, and cleaning up after the last person in the world you want to spend time with at the moment. After many such unpleasant Saturdays, I have learned that no matter how justifiably enraged I am, the best thing to do is to calm down before I speak or act–it is never going to be the right thing if I do it while I am so upset. While I know this, I still don’t do this, unfortunately (I am still God’s work in progress). Reminders from yesterday: this rage will pass, and when it does, that is when you should try to address the problem, not before. Interestingly, today’s Old Testament reading is the well-known story of Elijah hearing God speak to him on Mount Horeb, which has many things to teach people like me who struggle and need to hear from God:
1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a
At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing 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 there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Elijah was running for his life and despairing. Even still, Elijah was communicating with God. God told him to go to the mountain of the Lord as he would be passing by. He went to the mountain and listened for God. He did not hear God in the big booming flashing obvious things. Elijah had to be patient; so calm, still, and quiet that he could hear God speak in the “still, small voice”, or as translated here, “a tiny whispering sound.” It was then that God gave Elijah direction and comfort.
There are many lessons to be learned from this story in 1 Kings 19 which include:
1. When all hope is lost, stay in communication with God–tell him the truth of how you feel. Obey what he tells you to do, even if doesn’t tell you the whole plan, just take the next step he tells you to take and wait for the next one.
2. Even the greatest and holiest of God’s people have a hard time. But when they do, they trust in God to deliver them–and he does.
3. If you want to hear from God, he is more likely to be found in the stillness and calm, not fiery fits of rage or thrilling moments. More than likely, if you need some direction and comfort from God, you will find it when you do like Elijah did and go up the mountain (if you can’t get away to a mountain, perhaps some other lonely place in nature–back yard, maybe?) and wait for God. As you wait, your heart will settle to a more peaceful state, and then you will be able to receive the Lord’s message.
There are many practical ways to try to enter that cave of the heart and find stillness when everything feels out of control or too anxious:
take a walk to nowhere in particular
sit on a park bench and watch people
journal about whatever your hand puts on the paper
create a poem or painting based on a feeling you are having
sit in a quiet chapel and read the Bible, praying about what comes up for you
return to something that helped you before
The next time you are stuggling with something, imitate Elijah and talk to God honestly about your feelings and fears, obey his instructions, expecting that he will instruct and comfort you when the time is right and you are calm and ready to hear him.
What other ways help you to hear from God?