When the heavens are silent


Stormy Heavens
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While Jesus ascended to Heaven the angels said to the Disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11) This is good advice that we sometimes fail to follow. We stand waiting, looking to Heaven for guidance and sometimes it seems that all that is returned is silence. We pray and wonder if anyone is listening.

Evangelicals often join in with secular news media in ridicule of those who find the image of Jesus in a piece of toast, the Virgin Mary in a salt stain or some other manifestation of divine revelation. Yet, the desire to hear directly from God remains. We can laugh all we want about how gullible these people seem to be but if we are honest, we must admit that it would be so much easier if God contacted us directly to let us know how to proceed.

Why would a loving God seem to allow us to muddle on so when it would be much easier if he just sent a prophet or an angel to spell out how we should go about life?

One thought that strikes me as I consider this question is that the danger in granting our wish for direct intervention is that we might then view God as a glorified vending machine. Our desire is to put in the requisite coins, push the proper button sequence and get what we want. Scripture and experience indicate that God does not work this way.

Perhaps his silence is sometimes intended to teach us that he is in control. What better way to learn obedience than to struggle on doing the right thing even when there is no apparent payback? Like the Karate Kid, we may not see how the discipline of waxing cars will pay off in the upcoming tournament. If we are doing the right thing only to get an immediate reward, disappointment is a very real possibility. Nowhere in Scripture is such a reward promised.

Scripture teaches us that there is a reward for obedience, but that reward may not come in this life. The author of Hebrews 11 tells us that all of those listed in what is sometimes called the “Faith Hall of Fame” operated with the understanding that the payoff was not to be expected immediately. They were desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).

Be encouraged that even when God seems to be far away, even when all the wrong people seem to be reaping rewards, even when we get a bad result from doing the right thing, God remains in control. God may be silent, but he is not unobservant. He may not be seen, but he sees.

If we are discouraged, we should lengthen our view. Near sightedness will cause us to give up hope prematurely. Doing the right thing always pays off in the end. Remain steadfast and unmovable (1 Corinthians 15:58).