Have you ever wished that God was a little less hidden, a little less silent? I know I have. In the Old Testament, his voice thundered through the clouds. Fire fell down from heaven. Seas and rivers parted. God’s actions were dramatic and awe-inspiring and gave the Israelites a taste of his sovereign power and—I imagine—a healthy fear and respect for Him. In the New Testament, God breaks through again in the form of Jesus, called Emmanuel—God with us. Again, he performs awe-inspiring actions and miracles, the greatest of which is his resurrection from the dead.
And because I believe in God and his power, I don’t doubt that He still does amazing things—miracles, even—but I’ve never personally experienced one. In my day-to-day life, God mostly remains hidden and silent. No thunder or lightning bolts or miraculous water movements for me.
I’m starting to understand that God breaks through the silence far more often than I realise. Once, four years ago to the day, I came the closest to experiencing it in a very tangible way. It was the day after my dad’s death and I was praying and walking through a field of long, golden grass bathed in early morning sunlight. Something stopped me in my tracks. It’s difficult to put into words. I sensed a presence that was both vast and powerful but also deeply personal and gentle. There was still no thundering voice but just a stirring inside me that whispered everything was okay because He held all of us—our births and days and deaths—in his hand.
In this last year, I’ve started to realise that this God-of-the-golden-field is not as elusive as I thought. In fact, when I slow down and silence the loud voices of the world and my mind, I often catch glimpses of him. I’m slowly learning to recognise His presence in moments of peace, or of awe-inspiring beauty, or of surprising jolts of joy. Sometimes, in profound new insights to Scripture verses or a welling up of gratitude or—I love this one so much—a fresh wave of creativity. Occasionally, there are moments of conviction that lead to confession, followed by restored peace.
Last week, Roy fell (long story) and ended up with a head injury and bleeding on the brain that had him in ICU for two nights. And just like on the morning after my dad’s death, God drew nearer. He did it in surprising and practical ways that ministered very uniquely to each one of us. Making a way for Ashlyn—who was very emotional after the event—to debrief with a counsellor who was already away on holiday. A little schnauzer puppy bounding over to bring lightness and joy to Nicole, who had gone for a walk by herself in the park. A replacement booking for our Cape Town Airbnb accommodation, which convinced the owner to refund the full amount (when the cancellation policy was no refund if cancelled within 7 days of arriving). And best of all, Roy not having any skull fractures or pressure on the brain, which allowed him to come home in time to celebrate Christmas. Emmanuel!
The atheist or sceptic might not see God’s hand in any of this but I know better. The apostle Paul once spoke about this very thing to a group of philosophers and sceptics in Athens:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:24-28)
Paul understood God’s sovereignty but also his deep personal care and involvement in our lives. He knew that ‘he is not far from any one of us’ and urged those listening to ‘seek him and reach for him and find him’.
It’s not that easy for us, so grounded in the material world, to seek and reach and find God. Perhaps this is why He resorted to using forces of nature to get his people’s attention. But it is possible! It starts with a kernel of faith that Paul’s words are true—God is indeed very close to each one of us. And then it requires noticing His gifts in each day of our lives, and listening attentively for His gentle whispers in our hearts.
May God break through the silence of your life today, and every day of 2023.