If you’d landed in our kitchen early one morning last week, you might have been forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon a rather unusual remake of ‘Father Ted’. Yelps of ‘Girls! Girls!’ in a vain attempt to get the attention of my offspring, was just one highlight of a manic morning as we got ready to gather all our worldly possessions and head out to work and school for the day. In reality, ‘all our worldly possessions’ may be an exaggeration, but some days, it’s like we’re packing up everything we own just to leave the house for a few hours. We aren’t, of course, but some days it just feels that way!
How things look isn’t always a true reflection of what they actually are. The other night, when reading the story of Noah to the girls, I wondered how the people watching Noah must have felt when they saw him build a boat, with no apparent reason for one. Noah knew what he was doing – he was trusting God – but I’m sure even he wondered at times what he was doing.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations or circumstances that make us wonder what on earth is going on. What are we doing? What purpose could this possibly serve? What is the point? More often than not, we try to make sense of what is going on in the here and now. And, while there are times when we know our circumstances and current situations are linked, there are many more, I believe, when ‘the here and now’ is in fact a preparation for something that will happen, rather than something that is happening.
Noah didn’t listen to God’s instructions to build an ark when it was obvious that an ark was needed. He trusted that what God was asking him to do would be for a time that was to come. Sometimes, God prepares us for the future. He leads, guides and speaks to us about things that don’t seem to make sense and yet, when we look back, after a time, the pieces of the puzzle come together, making sense of what before looked like a series of disjointed, confusing parts that seemed to have no correlation whatsoever.
I often wonder what it would be like to receive a thunderbolt with instructions attached, telling us what we should be doing or thinking and why, and then I remember that even in the Old Testament, God didn’t always speak quite as directly as He did to Noah. We just have to think of 1 Kings 19:11-12, when God spoke to Elijah: ‘… but the Lord was not in the wind… the Lord was not in the earthquake … the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.’
Sometimes it’s in the moments of stillness that God whispers to us. The gentle nudge of a ‘gut feeling’, the words spoken in a sermon, read in a book, sent by a Godly friend. Sometimes it’s the situation you find yourself in and the choice your conscience leads you to make. In each and every situation though, it’s making sure we test what we hear against the benchmark of the Bible. Romans 12:2 reminds us of the need to: ‘test and approve what God’s will is.’ In 1 Timothy 3:16 we are clearly told that ‘All Scripture is God-breathed.’ If what we have heard goes against Scripture, God’s word, then we know it is not His will.
I like the directness of the New Living Translation: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.’ The Bible, the Word of God should be our benchmark and, it is perhaps in those times of confusion or uncertainty that we need to focus our attention on Him and His word the most. When we can’t make sense of things on our own, we need His guidance and wisdom. I know that I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to make sense of things myself, when I should have turned my attention to the One who knows the plan already. On those occasions when my focus has been on Him, I have benefitted greatly from those times spent earnestly listening, genuinely seeking His voice. Those times don’t guarantee that everything will suddenly make sense, but they do help to build faith and trust and with that, to know His peace, helping us to remember that His plan is for our good.
We don’t pack all we own to head out for a day, nor was I involved in a Father Ted re-make, regardless of how it might’ve looked. And this season, right now, when you’re not quite sure what’s happening? Is completely within His control. Learning to trust, to accept His timing and to know His perfect peace are lessons that I believe we learn with time -a lot of time – but we must remember that even when we don’t know, He does. Despite what it looks like to us, or the outside world, He is creating a masterpiece that will one day make complete sense. As Matt Redman reminds us:
‘One day You’ll make sense of it all, Jesus,
One day every question resolved;
Every anxious thought left behind,
No more fear.’
‘One day’ : two words, One faithful God. No matter how it looks right now, it will make sense, one day.