It was just like God — days into my school year in Jerusalem, when I finally had a little time to feel a twinge of homesickness — to prompt my friend Jan to call. Jan is definitely walking in a tradition as old as Job: “the dark night of the soul.” As long as I’ve known her, she’s hardly known which end is up: where God is, and what He is doing with her.
I can’t tell you how many times I talk with friends and then realize that I would have done much more good by just shutting my mouth, listening, and praying. But this time, it appears, the Holy Spirit decided to choose me from His shelf-full of tools. I do know that as I talked with her, God was talking to me.
“He will come to us,” Hosea promises, “as the rain that waters the earth.”
In the land of Israel, rain is not a given: it only comes when God sends it…and (it’s clear from the Bible) He only sends it when we’re obeying Him. If we’re not obeying Him, He sends us right out of the Land. But if He sends us out of the Land, then “He devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast” from Him. And when we come back, He sends the rain. So yes, we can be sure that He will come to us.
But even if there isn’t any sin involved, He comes (I am learning) only when He comes — and not before. Meanwhile, we wonder where in the world He is, and whether He even remembers us!
The Israelites wandering in the wilderness may have wondered the same thing, but Isaiah assures us that He was right there with them, and “in every affliction, He was afflicted.” Now that He’s in our hearts, how much more fully does He share every moment of our painful wait for His help! He knows, in a way that no human ever can, just how it feels. And since that’s the case (I mused to Jan), how motivated He must be to get you and Himself out of the wilderness.
I don’t know about you, but when I find that God is silent on a subject, I want to harden my heart to Him.
“Fine, then!” I say, “If You won’t talk about it, then I won’t either.”
But a note of hope from Psalm 10 starts nudging that plan away: “O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted,” it says. Okay, He knows. “You will strengthen [or prepare] their heart,” it continues. Okay, my hard heart can be made ready. “You will incline your ear,” it concludes. He really will hear. And there really will be an answer!
I have a feeling that continuing to let God know my desires, and continuing to listen to His Word (which never returns empty to Him) are the rains He’s sending to soften my heart. And make it ready…for Him to come.
“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
(originally published in 2007; edited from the archives)
Photography: JenniMarie Photography