Hearing and Acting (Isaiah 59:1)

Behold, the LORDS hand is not so short
That it cannot save;
Nor is His ear so dull
That it cannot hear.

Isaiah 59:1

There is a tendency for believers to have a certain amount of confidence in God’s power and to lose confidence at the end of that. Worse, we have a tendency to think that God fails to hear us.

There are probably more root causes of these issues than I will ever know. I think that the ones I most often hear, though, are that we doubt His power because we do not see it employed and active in the world around us and that we think He does not hear because He does not answer. In both cases, we operate under a wrong supposition: we suppose that God behaves the way people do.

We expect that God would always use His power because people who have power are wont to do exactly that: use their power. We suppose that God is held to the same operating principles as fallen men. And He is not. God does not use His power for whatever reason makes sense to Him. It may be, as seems to be indicated in portions of the gospels, that we lack faith and thus limit His ability to work. It may be that He does work and that we chalk it up to coincidence or the law of averages or some other way of explaining away what is legitimately miraculous. Science keeps trying to do that with the plagues of Egypt. It may also be that He is not working because He is waiting for the right moment to step in — the moment when it is impossible apart from His intervention. He did exactly that with Lazarus. It may be any of a host of reasons that simply do not occur to me. One thing is certain: God is not lacking power to accomplish the things that concern me.

We also suppose that God’s silence is indicative of failing to hear. There is more than one thing at work here. There is God’s actual silences and there are those times when He answers and we do not want to hear that answer and so conclude that God has not answered. There are probably more, but those are the ones that happen most often in my own life. God’s actual silences are not indicative of His not hearing me. To think this is to ascribe human limitations to God. He is not encumbered by anything so paltry as physical ears that can only register so many sounds at once or by time that limits the opportunity to hear something spoken. He is outside of time and He is not a man to be subjected to man’s limitations. He is abundantly able to hear every word spoken and every prayer uttered. If He is silent, then He is not yet ready to speak or, perhaps, I am not yet ready to hear and understand the answer. Sometimes, I think that God withholds answers from me because I would not understand them if He gave them. So He brings me through things that give me the necessary framework to understand the answer and then responds to me. It is like a teacher not directly answering a student’s question, but taking them the long way around through related concepts and necessary context in order to fully comprehend the answer when they receive it. God is the greatest Teacher in the history of teaching. Sometimes, I think that God remains silent because the answer is time-bound and needs to be given at an exact moment in time in order to be useful. Like knowing who to marry or what job to take. Knowing that I would be a technical writer today would have changed the arc of my learning and early employment, but that also would have changed whether or not I arrived at this point in life. I might never have become a technical writer had I set out to become one. I actually set out to become a teacher and landed in technical writing. Knowing where I would be today would actually have hurt my chances at being here today. Sometimes, answers are like that.

Part of my faith; my trust in God is and must be to trust that He hears me when I call to Him and that He operates to bring about good for me. He has promised to both hear me and act on my behalf. To trust Him is to accept that His silence has a reason and that His inaction may be an action unto itself.

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