KICK START QUESTION: HOW DO WE KNOW GOD HEARS?
Kick Start Question: How do you Know God Listen’s When You Need Help?
I’m going to start this response with a story from Jesus’ life that is both encouraging and discouraging. Read the whole story for yourself: John 9:1-34.
Jesus and his mission team come to the pool of Siloam and they come across a man who desperately needs his help as he has been blind since he was born and now spends his days begging to survive. This particular man’s story is that he was indeed healed. Jesus heard his cries and helped him in his need. This is the encouraging part. Seems like a happy ending, so what could possibly be discouraging?
Well that can be pulled from the cultural context. The Pool of Siloam was a famous destination and people would travel from great distances to soak in the waters they believed may bring healing. So while our main character in this story was healed, there would have been hundreds of people, with sincere faith, seeking after God, approaching the same pool at the same time as our guy, and most if not all others would have left with the exact opposite experience: unhealed, and therefore feeling unheard.
This idea of some being heard and others not reaches a reflective theological crisis when we hear Jesus’ own words on the Cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus, God Incarnate, The Son of the Triune God, perfect and holy in every way, has himself personally experienced being unhealed and unheard. What does this mean?!
An important truth we pull from these two events is one that can be tough to receive—God’s ultimate purpose is to reveal His glory through reconciling all of creation to Himself…not our personal happiness and physical health. Most people understand this from a logical argument side, but it gets tough to swallow when it becomes personal, when it is someone you love or you yourself in desperate need of help and you feel unheard.
Which leads to the second truth that is equally as difficult to receive—God’s transcendent detachment allows for ultimate correct guidance of all of Creation towards His purposes. Whereas we may hit the eject button to alleviate a painful process, that does not mean that the process could not have served a crucial importance. Only a being who is wholly other could see or choose correctly in such horrible circumstantial situations.
But the question remains, because a transcendent, detached Deity does not provide much comfort in the midst of need. And here is where we turn to the third truth where we can find comfort, Jesus the Christ on the Cross–because while it is shocking to see Jesus hanging there unheard and unhealed, it is also where we experience a Savior who experienced everything we do and brought ultimate healing to all of Creation: See Hebrews 2:14-18.
God did not stay far off. While He retains the objective guiding to salvation transcendent reality—He sent His Son Jesus, took on flesh and entered the mess, partly in order to minister to us in our need and identify with us. What a Savior indeed!
This means that God not only hears us, but sympathizes and empathizes with every lived situation we encounter. This is the Creator and Sustainer of all things whom also belongs to the community of humanity. In the Cross Jesus identifies, but in the Resurrection he redeems, bringing the historical proof of healing to the world. It points us beyond our current personal need—although that is included too in part—to the needs of all reality which will one day be perfectly fulfilled. The beauty of the Easter message is that while it is a future hope, it is also a current truth as Jesus is establishing his Kingdom through his people now.
These three truths we covered are how we know God listens when we need Him, but also help us to understand why we sometimes do not feel as though that is the case. And this is merely the beginning of the discussion. We haven’t discussed very important topics like prayer, sin, faith, etc. But we did land on the most important part: Jesus. We must look to Jesus, he is the way, the truth and life—where our faith lies.
In light of all that, here are a few actions we can take in our faith to help our “knowing”:
- Prayer and Reflection on Scripture: If we want to know God hears and helps, we have to build our relationship with Him by spending time in proximity and conversation. This includes listening. The best and easiest way to grow in this relationship is daily engagement with His Word. I have started a simple practice in my morning time with God our Father, starting my Bible reading with a quick (sometimes not so quick) prayer, “Father, reveal yourself to me through your Word right now.”
- Connect to Others in Christian Community: In a cosmic mystery, God allows us in on His plan of restoration. The Holy Spirit fills us up so we can be the bearers of the image of God. As the Church, together we are the body of Christ. If you want to be ministered to by God, connect to His people that are living our His mission.
- Serve Others: The quickest way out of our own need, is stepping directly into the need of others. This is counter intuitive. When need is felt we want to retreat into our circumstances. However, the way of Jesus is the exact opposite. We need to follow him in service and self-sacrifice—especially when we feel unhealed and unheard—and trust in the process.
What in these truths do you find challenging? Disagree with? Comforting?