Listening for God

“…but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”   (1 Kg. 19:11-13)

When I used to visit my vet friends at the jail, they often began our time together by talking about all that’s unfair, unjust, and terrible in their current circumstances.

During one visit, one of the inmates interrupted all the complaining by saying, “I disagree with y’all.  This jail is the holiest place I’ve ever been.”

One of the other guys asked him how the “heck” could that be the case, and he said, “First, because it got me off the streets and kept me alive.  Second, because I crashed here and had to face myself.  Third, because in this dark and lonely place, I began to hear the voice of God.”

Not unlike the inmates in the jail, we find the prophet Elijah in a very lonely and awful place in today’s scripture.  He’s running away from Queen Jezebel, who has sworn to kill him.  He’s all alone in a cave.  He feels misunderstood and unappreciated.  He’s afraid God has stopped speaking to him.  He’s worried that he’s finished being a prophet.  But in that dark and lonely place, he came to hear God’s voice once more, speaking to him out of the “sheer silence.”

Sometimes—like the prisoner said and like Elijah experienced—our holiest places can come in the most unlikely places.  These are the places where we’ve suffered mightily and lost our way.  Instead of thinking about those places as God-forsaken ones, I encourage us to believe that these can be God-soaked, God-infused, and God-infiltrated places.

Sometimes we need to crash, like the prisoner, so that God can put us back together in new ways.  Sometimes we need to be driven to dark places to see a new glimmer of God’s light. And sometimes, as Elijah discovered, it is in the “sheer silence” that we can hear God’s voice again.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever deliberately turned off all the noise in your life so that you could listen more deeply to God? If not, is it time to do so?
  1. Many of us don’t like silence or quiet. Is that true for you? If so, what are you afraid to see, hear, think, or face?
  1. If you truly listened for God to speak to you, what do you think He could be saying? When Elijah heard God speaking to him in sheer silence, he left that cave and went back to work. If and when you heard God speaking to you, what would you do?

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