On social media these days, not a day passes that someone doesn’t post how they have received insight from God either through prayer or through reading the Bible. These revelations by others can sometimes send us reeling with feelings of unworthiness, inferiority, and even frustration. We feel unworthy because God hasn’t chosen to reveal something extra special only to us. We feel inferior because others appear to have received something we must not be important enough to have. And perhaps secretly, we feel frustration because we can’t or won’t admit even to ourselves that God hasn’t really communicated with us in a really long time. We become discouraged and depressed because EVERYONE ELSE appears to have their life pulled together and God is in the house rocking their spiritual lives. Can I get a hallelujah, amen?!
So what are we to do?
If you are like me, you decide to immerse yourself in acts of service or you pray harder or you begin to read copious amounts of scripture because you know that is what a spiritual person should do. After all, the more I do for God, the more He definitely will listen. This concept is unscriptural. We aren’t saved by works, people. We are saved by grace, through Jesus Christ alone.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 New International Version
I’ve found, when our heavenly conduit falls silent, several reasons contribute to why we don’t hear from God. Although said many times, the truth is sin keeps us from hearing or feeling God’s direction in our lives. In the movie Serenity, when responding to the question of what his sin was, Captain Malcolm Reynolds responds “Ah Hell… I’m a fan of all seven.” I personally rather like pride, sloth, and hey – gluttony is not bad either. In fact by my actions at times, I shamefully show that I’m a fan of all seven of the deadly sins. But I know that repentance and confession are like Drano in the conduit pipe to God. We’ve got to remove all of the junk in order to obtain the guidance, direction, or insight we seek.
“So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to – the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. No more lying, then! Each of you must tell the truth to the other believer, because we are all members together in the body of Christ. If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Don’t give the Devil a chance. If you used to rob, you must stop robbing and start working, in order to earn an honest living for yourself and to be able to help the poor. Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” Ephesians 4:22-32 Good News Translation
Another barrier to being receptive to God’s urging is not listening. This barrier is the quickest to correct. Two words. Slow. Down. During prayer and scripture reading time, pause and take time to listen, just a minute won’t do. To approach God in that way is like a kid rushing home from school, throwing his backpack on the counter with a “Hi Mom!,” and then headed out the door to play. Mom is left dazed and wondering about the day. God wants some time with us. An occasional order at God’s fast food counter is okay, but He really wants you to have a home cooked meal of time with Him.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 New International Version
The last and maybe my favorite of why we don’t hear from God is because He Already Told Us And We Aren’t Doing It. Always the perfect parent who gives a direction once and expects it to be carried out, God tells us what to do. Period. And He expects us to do it. We can’t still continue wondering about what to do or whining for Him to answer. The proverbial neon sign rarely appears blinking with the instructions previously given. God, in His grace and mercy, might tenderly remind us once or twice but after that silence often comes. He already told you. So, after you have double checked the first two barriers, consider the third. Did God already give you a direction? Are you stalling? Wallowing? Do the thing He last told you to do until you have direction for the next.
Some mornings its just hard to get moving, isn’t it? I was trying to get ready for church yesterday and I put on an outfit which I quickly nixed because the dress revealed too many of my curves for me to be comfortable. So, I put on a second outfit only to discover that the top was too short to remain modest even with leggings on. Finally, a third outfit but this one had issues too. My top kept sticking to my pants, not because of static cling but, because the two fabrics liked each other too much. However, by this time, I had to go with the third outfit because I had run out of time to make it to church.
“You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” Psalm 90:8
Sometimes, I try to hide my sins. I pretty myself up by putting on a fancy outside but the curves of my life show through the facade. Sins can’t remain hidden. They have a way of revealing themselves in the light. I’ve also tried to make sin easier to manage by adding justifiers to my behavior when really, like the leggings added to my outfit, my justifications were still allowing
my fanny, my sins, to show.
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” Psalm 19:12
I hate to say it but at times, I like my sinful ways. I don’t want to change. Like those two fabrics in the outfit I finally wore to church, I allow sins to cling to me. I mean, after all, they’re so comfortable there. Have mercy, Lord! I need His help! These particular sins are probably the hardest to remove. I can set them aside for a time but they keep coming back and sticking to me. What I’m really doing is trying to remove them in my own strength and in my own way to continue to protect my pride. I don’t want others to know how awful I am.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” John 3:20
I need assistance to bring those sins into the light and put them away for good. To combat the cling and find victory, I might need a barrier like prayer, a friend to keep me accountable, or a change of routine. I would like to clothe myself with the light of Christ and avoid wardrobe malfunctions.
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Ephesians 5:13
During Lent and into Easter, I kept passing this dogwood tree while driving to and from town and something about the contrast of the dogwood blossoms and the moss made me think about sin.
A dogwood blossom has a story attached to it. As the story goes, the four corners of a dogwood flower represent the four points of a cross, the rusty tips of the blossom represent the nails and the red berries represent the blood of Jesus.
When I look at this tree, I see the dogwood representing a Christian on their journey with Christ and the moss as the sin that can so easily entangle. I see myself represented. A person forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ but a person who still struggles all the same. The “moss” still hangs on in some areas. In fact, I can hide it as this moss will be hidden when the leaves turn out but its still there. Isn’t that like us? We want to present a beautiful picture to the world even though we’re hiding the things about us that are ugly, creepy, sinful.
Sometimes, my choice to sin affects others and like the moss carried by the birds or the wind can take up residence in another tree so my sin also has an impact on others. I can infect them with my attitudes and behavior.
And like the moss that can rob a tree from its vital sunshine, if I’m not careful in my walk with Jesus, I can find sin carrying me away from His vital light.
“…God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7
Spanish moss and sin might seem a strange pairing but the visual imagery resonates. Today, I hope to make more mindful choices and remove some of the “moss” from my life.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23