As I’m writing this, I’m very stressed. Spending the night with a malfunctioning fire alarm does that to you. But all this comes off the back of one of my most refreshing and relaxing experiences of God since coming to university.
It’s frustrating. I got back from small group last night on Cloud 9. I was happy, relaxed and a bit sleepy. I got into my room and watched a bit of TV before going to bed. Everything was going swimmingly. Then with an almighty screech my fire alarm (and mine alone) erupted into a cacophonous caterwauling. I was not amused. It then continued to do this periodically (around every 15 minutes) until about 3 in the morning, when it finally allowed me 3 hours of sleep before starting its melodic singing again at 6. It didn’t take long for the good feelings to disappear. And yes, it’s still going off every few minutes, almost 12 hours after it first got going. I really hope the maintenance men come soon.
Enough of my self-indulgence. Frustrating as this might be, my life is not that bad. What this has really made me think about is what hearing from God and experiencing him is like in the everyday, stressful, up-and-down world. We’re not always in a situation where we’re surrounded by a small group of Christians who can encourage you and provide enough space and peace for you to really engage with God. Sometimes, things just go badly. They don’t even have to be really bad, they can just be run-of-the-mill, plain old annoying. Yes, in comparison to some people in the world, we’re blessed to have such minor troubles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t trouble us, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t affect our relationship with God.
I’ve been told that peace and quiet help you listen to God, and they do, I know that from experience. But that doesn’t mean that God can’t talk to you through the chaos. Maybe, even now, God’s speaking to me as I write this with DavidCrowder*Band blaring in my ears to make the fire alarm slightly less excruciating to listen to.
When we’re thrown and we’re tossed, we’ll remember the cost. We’re resting in the shadow of the cross.
That’s the line that just played. You may dismiss this as wishful thinking, but there are moments where, no matter what is going on, no matter how wound up, angry, frustrated or upset I’m feeling, God comes through. He’s not limited by our circumstances or surroundings. He is with us. He doesn’t need everything to be perfect before he talks to us. Read the end of Job. God doesn’t wait for Job to sit down by himself and have a peaceful meditation before he speaks to him, God goes to him in the midst of his confusion and speaks to him out of the storm.
I’ve often wondered what ‘out of the storm’ really meant. In fact, I was wondering that as I read that passage yesterday night. I assumed that it was just an ancient Hebrew author associating the power of God with the most powerful thing he could think of: a storm. That may be the case, but I’m an English student, so I’m supposed to think of multiple meanings. For me, right now, it’s taken on another meaning that I’d never considered. God can speak to us out of the storm of life. Out of the chaos. Out of the mayhem. Out of the frustration and the anger and the unsettlement and the noise.
He speaks. He speaks to challenge us and to bring us back to him.
Those last few chapters of Job are some of my favourite in the whole Bible. At small group last night, I was reading them because of the sense of wonder at creation they evoke. As I sit here now, I realise that their significance goes beyond that: they comfort us that God can speak no matter what’s going on. I’m labouring this point because I believe that it’s important, and that conviction is growing with every word I type. Things go wrong. Things get chaotic. Things get mad. But God is. He remains, unchanging. I don’t think a small set of circumstances taking place in his created world could get in the way of him speaking to his sons and daughters.
I want to end this post, which started in frustration and stress, with an encouragement to anyone who’s ever felt this way, to anyone who’s ever felt that the chaos of life gets in the way of God’s voice. It doesn’t have to. God can speak to you out of the storm. Don’t give up. If God waited for humans to be ready before he did anything, then the Israelites may never have left Egypt, and where would that leave us now?