Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When God Doesn't Answer

            Have you ever heard of God’s phone number? Believe it or not, it’s not the phone number that they show in the movie Bruce Almighty. Ironically, that number put many people in touch with churches and pastors, which is as close to God as you’re going to get by using a telephone, but obviously no one actually got God Himself. In actuality, God’s phone number is Jeremiah 33:3 which says “Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (ESV) So there you have it; all that you have to do is call to God, and He will answer you.
            But what about those times that He doesn’t answer, or at least it seems like He doesn’t? If the Bible says that He will answer, it’s true that He will, but sometimes it seems like He never answers. What is happening in those cases? There are three options for what might be happening in cases like these. God could be answering but you don’t like the answer so you discard it, God could be answering but it is a way that you don’t recognize, or God could be delayed and He wants you to wait for it.
            The first option, that God is answering but we just don’t like the answer, is more common than many of us like to admit. Just one example of this happening is found in 1 Samuel 15:23. Saul knew what God had told him, but he simply didn’t like it. Instead of completely cleansing the land that he captured in a battle, he spared the best livestock and such for himself. In his rebuke of Saul, Samuel said, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." (ESV, italics added) You see, even back in ancient Israel when there were prophets that had a direct line to God, so to speak, people still ignored what God said when they didn’t like it, and guess what: people are no different today.
            The second possibility when it seems like God is not answering your prayers is that God is answering but in a way that we don’t recognize or understand. The Bible refers to the voice of God as a “still, small voice.” Perhaps you lead a life that is so noisy that you can’t hear God when He answers. Maybe, in connection with the first case, you are afraid that you won’t like God’s answer so you purposefully put yourself in a position where you will not hear it when it comes. No matter what the situation is, the problem here is not with God failing to answer but with you failing to hear it.
            The third case when God doesn’t appear to answer is that He is answering but it is delayed. In Daniel 10, Daniel recounts a story of how at one time he prayed but received no answer for three weeks. When God’s messenger arrives, he explains that he had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia,” a demon, for twenty-one days before Michael arrived to help him. In this case, God did answer but it wasn’t until three weeks after that Daniel received it. Most of us, in our microwave and drive-thru world, don’t want to wait three minutes let alone three weeks for anything. But according to this Bible story, sometimes we just need to wait for God’s answer.
            It is all good and well to tell someone that God always answers and that if they don’t get an answer it is their own fault, but what if you don’t recognize or hear God’s voice when He does speak? Of course you need to work at listening for God, but that’s not going to happen overnight. What are you supposed to do until then? I recently made the comment to one of my friends that “God doesn’t usually answer when I pray.” I was feeling sorry for myself at the moment and at least halfway meant what I said. My friend answered by saying that sometimes God answers, just not in the way that we wanted Him to answer. I agree with this statement, and yes perhaps this is my case sometimes, but I believe that I have more of a problem in the area of not understanding or recognizing what God is saying. So what am I supposed to do? My plan is to keep on praying and hoping that one day I’ll be able to hear God’s answers, but even if I never get there, I’ll continue to pray and to try to hear. The good news is that one day I will know exactly what God says and not have to wonder about it and worry that I heard incorrectly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Plans for the Future

DISCLAIMER: Since this post contains a fair amount of information about my life (no matter how modified and just plain screwed up that that information might be) and since the vast majority of you don’t care about my life, I promise that there will be a fairly good moral at the end that I hope you take to heart.

           “What are you doing to do when you grow up?”
            Whenever I hear this question, I laugh to myself especially since it is usually directed at children. I mean, come on, a lot of people in college don’t even know what they are going to do much less these small children. The reason that I say this is because I’ve been asked this question many times in the past. In most of these instances I said that I didn’t know and people looked at me like I was the weird one (How can you possibly not know what you’re going to do with your life?) Finally I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up and had an answer to people when they asked one of the stupidest questions in the world. And then God entered the picture.
            This is not to say that I wasn’t saved before this or that I hadn’t been praying. Rather I was praying about what God wanted me to do and I thought that I had received an answer: I was wrong. Somewhere around tenth grade I decided that I wanted to be an architect. Who wouldn’t want to go through hell in college so that they could design buildings and paid very little when they got a job? Seemed like a no brainer to me. But while I thought that I had life figured out, God was up in heaven shaking His head as He hit my plans a few times with his heavenly hammer.
            About a year after deciding that I wanted to be an architect, God’s squishing of my plans finally reached me when I realized something: I’m too left brained to be an architect! I have my fair share of imagination, but I’m much more comfortable with numbers and math than I am with creativity and such. So I decided that I would do structural engineering instead. It was also around this time that I decided that I wanted to serve in the military and my preferred branch was the Marines. Also, I thought to myself, what better way is there to join the Marines than by going to the Naval Academy and getting a commission there? So that became my plan. Once again, God was up in heaven wondering why I was such an idiot and letting Michael practice his angel martial arts out on my life’s plan.
            My 11th grade year I applied to the Naval Academy. I even attended one of their summer seminars to get a feel for academy life and had a chance to realize that I didn’t need to go to college there. Alas! I was too stupid to learn the lesson that God had for me and finished applying to Naval Academy. Everyone that I talked to said that they thought that I would have a good chance of getting in. My grades and ACT scores were good, I had good references, a good interview, and received recommendations from both my Senators as well as my Congressman (you only need one of these recommendations to qualify for an appointment). Despite my impressive application packet, during my 12th grade year, I was informed by letter that I had not been accepted into the Naval Academy.
            Due to my failure to get accepted to the Naval Academy, I was forced to go to a different college. So, had I learned the lesson that God wanted me to learn? I’ll give you a hint: if I had, this post would be shorter than it is now. I was accepted to college and entered with a declaration of civil engineer. At the same time, I began to look into entering the Marines ROTC program on campus. I can only guess that by this time God was wondering how I could be such a complete moron as he took my plans and smashed them with a sledgehammer. I took a Marine class, and this time, rather than just closing a door as He has done in the past, God tried a different tactic. The Marine class was going just fine all semester long. I learn ranks, when to salute, about uniforms, and a ton of other stuff, and I was still convinced that God wanted me to join the Marines. That is, until about two and three days before classes ended. The teacher from our class had been inviting people from different careers in the navy to come speak to the class. Finally it was time for the Marine to lecture.
            As I said before, God didn’t close the door this time. I could have entered the Marines ROTC program the next semester and yet I didn’t. Why not? Because of what the Marine said. God used an actual Marine to show me what I was getting myself into which was actually quite different than what I had thought that I was getting into. Let me preface my next statement by saying that several people over the past year or two had told me that I was too smart to join the Marines but I had just dismissed those statements. It was during this lecture that it hit me: The Marines are too stupid for me! God was probably up in heaven nodding His head as He put His baseball bat away.
            So, do I have my life figured out now? Heck no! I still think that I’m supposed to serve in the military so right now I am seriously considering Air Force ROTC. I also believe that I’m supposed to go into civil engineering which is what I am doing. I suppose it is possible that I finally am going down the right path, but it’s equally possible that God is backing out His steamroller for yet another lesson.
            This is why I laugh when people ask kids what they’re going to be when they grow up. I don’t know and I’m already almost through my first year of college, and unless those kids are extraordinarily luck, they don’t know what they’re going to do either. So try to refrain from asking kids what they’re going to do with their lives. All that it does is put undue pressure on them to make a decision that they don’t have enough information to make. Oh, and one other thing; never tell a child that they can be whatever they want to be. I used to want to be a Marine, but now I don’t think that I would be a very good one. Instead, tell kids that they can do whatever God wants them to do. After all, that’s the only way that they’ll have a happy life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

When the Lights go out

            I remember when I was a small child and liked it when the electricity went out. With no electric lights and only candles to see by, me and my siblings could play games like hide-and-go-seek-in-the-dark without anyone being able to cheat. Also we could make the argument that we couldn’t do school since the lights were out. Every time a thunderstorm came along we would cross our fingers and hope that the electricity died. Of course, we weren’t very smart kids because we also flew kites in lightning storms in an attempt to reenact Ben Franklin’s experiment but anyway… The problem with these child-like fantasies is that the world runs on electricity. Like the toaster. Toasters use electricity and without toast, there’s really nothing to live for. I mean, there is God, happiness, true love, but all of those pale in comparison to toast. (And I cringe, waiting for the lightning bolt to strike me down for comparing God to toast and ranking Him second)
            Another thing that electricity produces, if you have an electric water heater is, (you guessed it!) hot water! Hot water is fantastic for showers and washing the dishes, just two situations where cold water just doesn’t cut it. When I finally realized that both toasters and hot water are a product of electricity, I put two and two together and decided that since each of them was great by itself, they would be even better together. My only regret is that I lost my fillings when I was slammed into the wall by the electric shock.
            Last night the electricity where I live went kaput right while I was studying physics. Not that I wanted to study physics, but I have to anyway, so I was a little ticked at the interruption. With my physics engorged brain on the loose, I began to think about the efficiency of a generator that I would need for a hamster wheel to power all of the electronics in the house. For the hundredth time I concluded that I am a hopeless geek. The lack of electricity made my night bad, right off the bat. First of all, the toaster had no power so I was unable to have toast for dinner. My foul mood was worsened by the fact that I had to take a cold shower and by the fact that I kept running into to walls and stuff.
            So how did the electricity die in our house? There a few theories on that, some more plausible than others. I’ll start with the ridiculous ones. There is a slight chance that the mammoth storm that we were having disrupted the power lines. Like I said, ridiculous. It’s more likely that a dog got into the power station and fried himself, disrupting power flow. Now I’ve no grudge against the dog, but if he wanted to commit suicide because no one loved him, one would think that he could have done it so that it didn’t inconvenience everyone else. On a side note, this leads up to an important safety rule: No matter how bad Rover is, never throw him into a power station. You should throw your cat in instead!
            The most logical explanation for the lack of power is that it was a conspiracy. How do I know this? Last night when the power was out, I saw a car that had its headlights on. The conspiracy was invented to prevent me from studying physics or to generally inconvenience me. I know this because today when I was riding the bus to school, guess what? The lighted sign indicating the bus route worked but the stoplights didn’t, creating a huge traffic jam and making me late for my first class.
            In any case, the power is back now, so I’ll probably never find out who it was that was conspiring against me. I guess that it will remain one of life’s little mysteries.