“Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints.” (Psalm 85:8a)
We’ve heard it said a thousand times. Anyone who has grown up in the church knows it and dispenses it as advice to any troubled friend. It goes something like this: “It is during the bad times that we grow stronger.” Or, the more clichéd variation: “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”
It doesn’t seem to make sense. Your mother has sat on the brink of death for months, losing a battle with cancer. Then, finally, with agonizing brutality and swiftness, she is gone. And they tell you it makes you stronger.
It seems typical of modern Christianity, where there is a subtle and subliminal denigration of logic. Under the guise of, “Just believe,” we are encouraged to stop thinking.
I read a book by John Ortberg titled Love Beyond Reason. In the chapter “The God of the Wilderness,” Ortberg makes the following observation: in the wilderness (i.e. “the bad times”), it’s only you and God. Everything else is stripped. There are no accomplishments, no victories, no blessings. It is just you and God.
It is true in my own experience. Learning has always been easier for me in a one-on-one environment. I’ll never remember what I learned in my 400-member psychology class in college. But the things my high school journalism teacher taught me when it was just the five of us in the class, I’ll never forget. You always remember the whispers before the shouts.
It is in the bad times, when you are stripped of everything, that you are quiet enough to hear God’s voice. Because God knows how we are—He made us that way. He knows we are more receptive to tenderness than ferocity. He designed us to be more inclined to remember whispers than shouts. So He whispers. And I’m not sure if He orders the bad times, but He at least uses them, for He knows we’ll remember it when He whispers and we actually have the silence enough to hear it.
The bad times suck. They’re supposed to. If things are going good, we’re content enough to ignore Him. So He waits for the bad times. Here He teaches us. It is the ultimate “quiet time.”
And just when we are at our lowest, when we hate Him most, He squats down next to us, cups His hand around our ears, and whispers—“I have a secret for you. You ready? It’s a good one.”
Dear Father, thank you for speaking directly to me. I love our close connection. Help me deepen our relationship further.