I'd like to begin this blog post by sharing with my friends a counterintuitive principle: whenever God is speaking to us the most, people generally have the tendency to hear Him the least.
Let's use a technological example to help us understand what's spiritually at work here. Most people since the late 90s have become entirely dependent on their cell phones as their means for interacting with the world. People today send SMS text messages, e-mail, social media updates, phone calls and more all through the tiny device that fits in their pocket. For many people, the cell phone is as important as the air they breathe and separation from their mobile device can often bring intense anger and frustration.
Every so often, cell phones or the networks hosting them suffer glitches. On one occasion I had seven voicemail messages on my phone, many of which were extremely urgent but I didn't know I received them because the LED indicator on my phone wasn't blinking and the voicemail alert icon wasn't in the system status tray. My visual voicemail application said "No Messages." As far as I was concerned, no one was communicating with me. However when I actually took the time to call my voicemail service, it was then that I discovered I was backlogged for several days in missed messages.
|"Jesus Praying in the Garden" by Gustav Dore.|
In Exodus 5:1-20, the Bible shows us how God dispatched Moses and Aaron as messengers to Pharaoh to release His people from bondage and bring them into fellowship together. Pharaoh, however, believed that the people simply had too much free time on their hands and wanted to overload them with so much daily work that they would have no time to think about notions of God or freedom. Verse 19 says "and the officers of the children of Israel saw they were in trouble" (NKJV). Instead of perceiving the awesome answer that God had sent in response to four centuries of affliction (Genesis 15:13, Exodus 3:16-18) the officers "saw they were in trouble". Pharaoh of the Old Testament represents allegorically a kind of "god" of the world due to his authority and scope of power over the ancient world. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that "the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (KJV).
Whenever God sends an answer or a messenger, even as Pharaoh increased the workload to distract the slaves from their pending release so the "god of this world" often turns up the heat on people's lives to prevent them from knowing God is talking to them and working on their behalf. The modern church has often assumed that whenever one is doing "the will of God" everything falls into place and works perfectly because God clears the way for things to happen. In fact, the reverse is often true: when one actually tries to serve God or live an upright life, waves of unreasonable people often interfere with their plans, unusual incidents and unfair circumstances seem to swarm out of nowhere and the first thing people say is ... you guessed it ... "I'm in trouble!"
Just because it seems that God hasn't answered you doesn't mean He's ignoring you. The "alert" may not be perceptible to you that your health has changed, that your finances have improved, that crises are being solved, that the direction you've been asking for has arrived but that doesn't mean it isn't there. You have to press in and keep checking for the answer. It's nice to see miracles and overt demonstrations that God is actively doing something, but when you have a spiritual enemy that is likewise actively attempting to prevent you from knowing God, you have to do more than just superficial checks to get God's answer.
In my experience working as a minister, I've observed people who report being lonely and feeling dejected by society in fact are often surrounded by sincere, loyal friends or family members trying to help them who they completely ignore them because of the distractions in their life. The message is there, but they're not aware of it. I've also seen other people who have prayed for healing and divine intervention over a certain infirmity, but they have been sick so long that they use it as a mechanism for manipulating other people and refuse to do what's needed to get up and spring into health. The answer is there, but they won't hear it. Still other people ask me to pray for them that they might know what God wants of them, yet when I advise them to take a time out and first read the Bible so they can understand the prior precedents and history of God's commands, they say they don't have time. The answer, again, is already there.
The devil blinds minds as the Apostle Paul wrote through persecution, chaos and outright ignorance. Some of the trouble seasons we face isn't even our fault (or God's fault for that matter). King David wrote in Psalm 59:3-4 "The mighty gather against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine" (NKJV). That passage is ultimately a prophetic reference to Christ who during His earthly ministry was found to be completely sinless (Isaiah 50:6, 53:5, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:19) but it also speaks to the fact that even as Christ did nothing wrong (ever!) but still incurred massive persecution, so we who seek to serve God will likewise face often mighty problems, even though we did nothing wrong.
The key here is to understand at all times there are two separate kingdoms at work in this world, the kingdom of darkness which is governed by the "god" of this (fallen) world, Satan, and the kingdom of God which refers to all that has submitted itself willingly to the domain of God's authority. That's why Jesus advised the disciples to pray "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" because the fallen world opposes the message and the plan God wants done. Even as Pharaoh feared losing control of his slaves, so the "god" of this world Satan fears people who are operating outside of his realm of authority and turning to the kingdom of God's light.
Persistence and patience is the key to getting through to God's answers. Just because it doesn't look like God is answering you doesn't mean He's ignoring you. This being said, I totally sympathize with how it feels to be praying for an answer amid difficult circumstances and nothing seems to be happening or changing. I totally know how it's easier said than done to endure against all odds, however difficult they may be. But remember above all else that when you make it a point to seek God for help, that help has to come, whether short term or long. Never make the mistake of assuming God will leave someone who sincerely is seeking Him for help to perish or be ruined without help. The Scripture that saved my life is Jesus' promise in John 6:37 that "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (KJV).
Jesus never turns us away. And what is the most amazing truth to be found in this promise of John 6:37? The sheer fact that you're seeking God for answers is proof God plans to answer them. The Bible says in Luke 18:1 in the Amplified translation "[Jesus] told them a parable that they ought always to pray and not turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up)." Check your life for unheard voicemails. Chances are, the answer you're seeking God for has already arrived or its soon on the way.