On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud appeared on the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled with fear. Moses led them out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord had come down on it in fire. The smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and all the people trembled violently. The sound of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder. (Exodus 19:16-19, GNT)
Usually, that’s the God I’m looking for. I’m looking for God to show up in a big way – trumpets blaring, smoke, fire, lightening, and thunder. Typically, though, that’s not the way He shows up in my life. In fact, almost never. And that’s probably not how he shows up in your life, either.
For me, God usually shows up like this:
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the 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 came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”1 Kings:19-11-13, NIV
In my experience, God doesn’t show up in an earthquake; He doesn’t show up in a mighty wind; and He doesn’t show up in a great firestorm. But that’s the way I keep hoping he’ll show up. And those are the places I look first. And when I do that, I can tend to miss God’s presence.
Here are three ways we tend to miss the presence of God:
1. We only look for His power.
We long for God to show up in power because our problems feel bigger than we are and we want to be reassured that God is there and He is bigger than our problems.That’s not a bad thing. But if we only look for God’s power, we might miss His some of His other attributes… His gentleness, His compassion, His mercy, and His love.
2. We want to be amazed.
We love that feeling we get when we step off a thrill ride. It’s exhilarating. We want our experience of God to be just as exhilarating. We wanted to be reminded that God is like CS Lewis’ Aslan: “he’s not a tame lion.” However, when we expect every encounter with God to be the deepest, most life-changing encounter we’ve ever had, we will miss out on the beauty of the discipline of a day-to-day, quiet devotion to God.
3. We assume finding God will be easy.
It’s easier to spot God in the wind and fire and earthquake than it is to be attentive to the gentle whisper. The gentle whisper (or the “still small voice” as some versions of the Bible put it) requires us to work.. to search… to listen. Finding God isn’t always easy. Not because He is hiding – but because we aren’t really searching.
Here’s three ways we can make sure we don’t miss God in the “gentle whisper”:
1. Remember that the gentle whisper requires us to search.
Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” God’s gentle whisper requires us to be actively searching for Him. It takes work.
2. Remember that the gentle whisper requires me to listen.
Don’t miss this simple truth: you are not going to hear God unless you quiet yourself. Certainly, God may show up with thunder and lightning and an earthquake. But most often He arrives with a gentle whisper – one heard only by those who have tuned their ears to hear his voice.
3. Remember that the gentle whisper requires me to see past the “flash.”
In truth, I have never had God show up like He did for Moses. I have never been delivered in the same fashion that God delivered David or Daniel. Elijah knew to wait… to wait past the wind, to wait through the earthquake, to wait through the fire. He waited until he heard the gentle whisper. Then he knew that God was near. We need to learn to wait.
When I’ve been been actively searching for God, listening for Him in the quiet, I’ve been amazed to see Him in the way the sunlight streams down through the branches of a sugar pine. I’ve heard him in the sound of water lapping at the edge of a lake. I’ve heard him in the voices of my sons and seen him through the eyes of my wife. And I’ve heard his call as I’ve read the pages of Scriptures for the sheer joy of reading.
I hope that you will stop today to search… and listen. I pray that you will see and hear the voice of God calling you to Himself.