There is a picture sitting beside my bed that I have held dear for nearly my entire life. When you look at it, it doesn’t mean much. It’s my grandfather and great-grandfather standing next to me as a stand on a tree stump in the middle of Iowa. What most people don’t know is that as a 5-year-old boy, I affectionately called it my preaching stump.
So little Grant would go out and stand on the stump and preach whatever message he felt like God was speaking to him. Whether there were kids in the park next to it or I was just preaching to the trees, I preached. I was a weirdo. I spoke to God. There was a purity in my pursuit of God even at a young age. I remember the first time I heard God speak to me. The innocence of my child’s heart was tangible.
I can say, though, sitting here today that I do not know that child. I would say that’s a lot of us. We lose the purity and innocence, whether in physical age or spiritual age, where we once looked back and said, “I knew God. I saw God.”
I saw Him heal my family.
I saw Him change my world.
I saw Him deliver me.
I heard Him speak to me.
I felt His presence in that one service.
We see this place where God was working and moving where we felt connected, but somewhere along the line, we got disconnected from Him. So, we find ourselves lost, trying to reconnect with God over radio silence. We try to hear God amid the noise. We try to see God during the chaos and, more often than not, miss Him.
Good part? You aren’t alone.
If you look at your Bible right now, there is only one, little sheet of paper between Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. That one sheet of paper represents 400 years of silence.
The last time we hear God speak is in the book of Malachi. All I have to do is flip one page from Malachi to Matthew, and there is Jesus. Yet, for these people, it was a 400 year gap between the last time God spoke to the people of Israel, and Jesus enters the scene.
400 years of silence.
400 years of questions.
400 years of darkness.
400 years of being alone.
You may feel like you are in the 400 years of disconnect from God. 400 years since the promise from God and the fulfillment. 400 years from the prayer and the answer. 400 years from the brokenness and the healing. 400 years from the loss to hope. 400 years wandering around, waiting to hear from God.
So, what do we do when we can’t hear God? When we feel disconnected
Do the Last Thing He Told You to Do
A lot of times we get sidetracked looking for all of the things we are supposed to do. You may not be hearing anything new from God because He wants you to do the last thing He told you to do.
One time, when I was a young boy, my dad gave me some simple instructions, “Wait here for me.” After about 5 minutes, I determined, in my 8-year old brain, my father was never coming back. So, I started looking around for him. I started searching for him and left the place he told me to stay at. I became frantic, and as a result, I was lost. I couldn’t find my father. After what felt like an eternity, I remember him tapping me on my shoulder and asked, “Why did you leave?”
“Because I couldn’t find you.”
“I asked you to stay right there and wait for me. I understand you were scared, but sometimes you have to trust the last thing I tell you to do. If you had done that, you never would have been lost.”
Sometimes, we are supposed to sit still and wait until we hear something further. You may not be as disconnected as you think. You just might not have gotten the next step for you to take yet.
Remember the Past
We all tend to have short term memory loss when it comes to God. Kind of like Dory from Finding Nemo. We always forget the last thing that God did. Which is normal; don’t feel weird. The Israelites had a nasty habit of forgetting what God had done for them. So much so that Moses tells the people, “be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:12, NIV). Even Moses and the Israelites, the ones He split the Red Sea for, forgot what God had done.
In Joshua 4:7, it talks about the Israelites, creating a memorial to remember what God had done. Sometimes, we have to go back and look at what God has done so we can remind ourselves that He is always faithful and will do it again.
How do we do this practically?
Start a journal and keep up with it. Write the promises God gives you and write the encounters you have with God; write down everything. Then, you can go back and see the promises He gave you that you may even have forgotten about, that have been fulfilled. You can read the times He has moved in your life. The time that bill was paid, and you had no idea how it was going to happen. The time you were healed. The time that the relationship was healed. You can look back at the past and see the track record of God. It will immediately calm your heart about the future.
Prepare for the Future
Just because God spoke one way in the past or moved in your life in a certain way, it doesn’t mean He will do it in the same way. It is imperative that we remember the past but also prepare for the future. Rarely does God work in the same way.
A lot of times, we miss God and feel like we can’t hear Him because He is working in a way that we never expected. More often than not, when Jesus comes in an unexpected way, we tend to go in the opposite direction.
Remember the Hebrew people and the 400 years of radio silence we talked about earlier? Yeah. So, God does speak and sends His son the people reject Him. It says this in John 1:11 (ESV), “He came to His own and they rejected Him.” He came to His people. The people who had called out for Him for 400 years, and they did not want Him in the way He came. They tried to cash in on a return policy for Salvation.
We run in the direction of what we feel is comfortable because the unexpected isn’t always comfortable. The silence of God becomes more comfortable than the presence of God. The very thing the Hebrew people were praying for was not the thing they wanted because of the comfort they found in pain.
God may just be speaking directly to you, and you are running in the opposite direction because the pain and the torment of yesterday feels more comfortable than the promise of freedom of tomorrow. We become more concerned with the scenario of the Salvation than our spirits. We focus more on the how and the what than the wholeness that He is trying to bring.
We must prepare for the future by opening our minds and hearts to what God could be trying to do while doing the last thing He told us to do and remembering the past. We cannot close ourselves off from the unexpected just because it is uncomfortable.
This is how this looks in practicality:
I will stay right where I am until you tell me to move. I remember how you ________ and how you ___________. Thank you for working in my life. Thank you for always being here. I am prepared for the next step. Give me the wisdom and grace to see it when it comes. Help me look for you in unexpected places.
Let me encourage you in this. Just because you feel like you cannot see, feel, or hear God, it does not mean He is not there. I know, without hesitation, that He is faithful to complete what He starts.
Remember those Israelites waiting for 400 years? The ones that rejected Him when He came? Jesus still came. He still died. He still rose again on the third day. He is still the Salvation of the world. He still fulfills every promise. Even through our rejection, even through our running, even through our failures, the promise of God remains.
Philippians 1:6 (NRSV) says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus.”
I am confident. I have certainty. There is not a doubt in my mind. No matter how far you run. No matter what you do. No matter where you go. Jesus will bring the work that He started, not just any work, but a good work. A work that is whole. A work that if fulfilling. A work that is healing. This work that is crafted by Heaven’s hands will be brought to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.
If you are alive with air in your lungs and blood in your veins, it isn’t the end, because you are still here. The day of completion wasn’t yesterday. The day of completion wasn’t today, and you missed it. It wasn’t because you didn’t go to enough church services or prayed enough prayers in your “prayer closet.” The completion is going to come only because that is the character of God and who He is. He will complete the good thing that He started because He is good. So, if you haven’t seen the breakthrough yet, it might just be around the corner.
Grant J. Reynolds is an innovator, pastor, writer, sought-after conference speaker and dreamer living in Norfolk, VA. Before writing, preaching, and pastoring, Grant's claim to fame was preaching from a tree stump, at 5-years-old, to a packed out playground (yeah...he's a little weird). You can find him on Instagram @grantjreynolds and at Grantjreynolds.com.