God always answers, one way or another,
even when people don't recognize his presence. (Job 33:13-14)
Today young Elihu speaks up. He has waited for his elders to speak. When they failed to convince Job, he felt compelled to speak. (I love the way he explains himself: The Spirit of God made me what I am, the breath of God Almighty gave me life!)
All my life I've heard the maxim: God always answers prayer. Sometimes it's "yes," sometimes it's "no," sometimes it's "wait."
So far in these chapters, Elihu hasn't said anything that raises my hackles. Well, maybe at the end, but I'll get there.
God answers but we don't recognize his presence. Yup, that's me. Hmm, I have a hard time knowing what God's will is. I pray "what should I do?" but I don't get a clear cut answer. Maybe my spiritual hearing has improved as I've grown older. At some critical junctures in my past, I felt the most strongly that God led me to do something that ended in disaster. A tough place. Either I misunderstood God's will, or else He wanted me to go through that difficult period. Neither answer sat well with me.
Elihu gives examples of ways God speaks. These are as true today as they were back then.
In a dream, for instance, a vision at night.. .God opens their ears and impresses them with warnings. (Job 33:15-16)
I rarely remember my dreams. After Jolene died, I had several dreams about her. She was alive, at peace, in the dreams. I woke up gradually to her absence. But they comforted me.
The second way Elihu mentions, we discussed yesterday.
God might get their attention through pain. (Job 33:19)
God, couldn't you have taught these lessons some other way? But like Benjamin Franklin first said (found this yesterday when I was looking for quotes on wisdom): "There is no gain without pain."
Then Elihu pulls out what he considers his trump card:
You may fall on your knees and pray--to God's delight!
If only he did this, according to Elihu,You'll see God's smile and celebrate.
Hmm, I took Job's raging at heaven as a form of prayer. He wanted to talk with God. He wanted God to speak. And God was silent.
I agree, God speaks to us in ways we don't recognize.
I agree, God doesn't always give us what we want (and I'm glad).
Does Elihu think that using a prayer formula or a specific prayer posture would guarantee a better answer? Because it's true, Job isn't kneeling in reverence and penitence.
Elihu has wisdom, but he still doesn't have experience. Maybe God had always worked that way in his short life. And he didn't have the wisdom to recognize God works in different ways at different times.
Sometimes prayer is a battle. Battling with God. About ourselves. For others. I have heard of people awakened in the middle of the night to pray. That has happened to be very rarely--but it has happened occasionally.
If you ever wonder why God doesn't seem to be listening--take a second look at Job.
After I wrote this post last night, I felt compelled to mention a book I read years ago. Prolific author Cecil Murphey had a Job-like experience, not in suffering so much as experiencing God's silence. Seeking God's Hidden Face: When God Seems Absent. I don't recall the details, but the fact I remember the book suggests it made a powerful impact on me. If you are struggling with the issue of God's silence, check it out.