The Art Of Listening

May 11, 1999
by Connie Dunwoody

Psalm 46:1-3,6,10 – God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (NIV)

I long to have a baby. For now, I am unable to conceive. I have a friend who longs for a congregation. For now, she is unable to preach full time. I say "for now" because I know God has a plan. But I confess I don't always trust it to unfold. I get frustrated with God because God is not working to my timetable. I shout my puny disapproval to the Creator of the Universe. (My neighbour's 10-year-old would respond, "As if!")

As human beings, we long. We suffer an unbearable yearning for something that seems unattainable. We experience feelings of sadness, inadequacy, despair, and discouragement, in connection with our inability to satisfy our longings, or to understand the mystery of why we are unable to have our heart's desire.

I don't mean to diminish the feelings. They're real. Sometimes, despite our trust in God, we ache. We weep. We rage. We call out to a God who doesn't seem to hear us. We don't want to wait for the "fullness of His time." What's that? Who made that up, anyway? The erstwhile "Man/Woman Who Has Everything?"

Or maybe we don't hear Him. Who said listening was one-sided? We think God doesn't hear us? When do we listen to Him?

Read today's verses from Psalm 46. They're a noisy, crashing, busy story of nations in uproar, kingdoms toppling, mountains falling into the heart of the sea, waters roaring and foaming, and mountains quaking with their surging. There is destruction and desolation, fire that burns, weapons that are shattered.

And yet — yet, we are not to fear because in verse 10, the Psalmist writes, "Be still, and know that I am God." Not, "Hey, you down there, look at all this devastation. Yo! Listen to me! Just what do I have to do to get your attention?"

Sometimes, in our desperate grasping for something that is not ours — at least, not now — we lose sight of what we are good at, lose sight of how we have influenced others in positive ways. We don't remember the times God has used us to further His plan. We lose our ability to listen to messages of comfort and joy that abound even in our anguish. I try to leave it to God: He has a reason for everything and if I don't understand it, that doesn't mean it's not right. It seems to me that to keep flailing for something about which God has, in His infinite wisdom, said, "Not right now", is to question the Almighty's ability to care for us and to give us what we need, when we need it, how we need it. It seems like a huge waste of energy.

That doesn't diminish the struggle, however, and the struggle does have value. Sometimes we pray so hard for something that we forget to "be still" — to listen — "and know that I am God." God speaks to us in the quietness of our minds, not with a great trumpet fanfare announcing His arrival with news for us. We get so busy crashing around in the external world that we forget to be quiet and listen for the sound of Jesus' sandals when He visits our internal world.

"Shhh. Be still. Be still, and know that I am God. Listen. I'm speaking to you. Hear me in the quiet of your heart, and know that you are my child, and I love you. Do not fear. I will take care of you, do what is best for you, and cuddle you in my arms while you struggle. Your pain hurts me, too. Please trust me to do what is best. Shhh, shhh, it's OK; I'm here. I will heal this, too. Shhh."

Prayer: Wonderful God, hold me safely in your arms, comfort me, quiet my struggles. Let me be still enough to hear you when you whisper in my heart. Help me trust you to do what is best for me, even when I don't understand why you withhold things. Help me to be still. Amen.

About the author:

Connie Dunwoody
Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, Canada

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