Not too long ago I broke a toe while stumbling through the house with my morning coffee. That tiny fracture made big changes in my routine for months. Oh how I complained especially over the loss of my morning walks. From a day with our family to just going to church.nothing was untouched. The small steady pain was a constant reminder to carefully weigh the necessity of every step.
In our walk with Christ most of us have broken a few toes as we stumble here and there. One second we are strong and assured while the next we are wondering if it is worth taking the next step. God has more often than not incorporated pain into His lesson plan to get my attention. It is a method guaranteed to make me think over what is truly good and necessary versus what is just a passing fancy. When each step is painful it is vital to decide which ones are vital in my path.
I am still learning that when I pray for God to show me His ways then not to complain about His classroom methods. Each day is another in a chain of miracles called life. God’s desire is that even in its tiniest details – both the mundane and the unexpected that I am being given the chance to learn more of His love for me.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future Jeremiah 29:11
“Row harder! More to the left! Don’t stand up! Just be careful!” Who hasn’t heard all these instructions as you began your first solo voyage in a kayak? You might have been feeling a little nervous, but then just as you launched out, barely ten feet from the shore it seems you were sinking under waves of advice.
The Jewish people as they arrived in their new home in Babylon were in very much the same situation. Some people were so depressed they just literally wanted to hang up their harps and give up. There were also some “Prosperity prophets” around telling the people to cheer up because God was going to destroy Babylon any minute and they would soon be back in their own land (PS send a big offering to me) Last of all, there were folks with their hands just itching to pull out their swords because they hated the foreign rulers and wanted revenge. With so many voices pushing and pulling at them many ordinary people were plenty confused.
That was exactly when God sent Jeremiah with this word of encouragement and guidance. No matter the situation you are facing today, the first person to listen to is God! Only God knows the plan. He knows which way to go and how long it will take to get there. But the best part is that no matter how far we have to go, He does not just want to tell us the way. His desire is to get right in the boat with us and help with the rowing. He already knows the way but we need to be willing to listen and if we ask he’ll pick up the oars and go with us to the other side!
As I have gotten older my hearing has dimmed just a bit. When I am in a crowd or at a party sometimes all the talking sounds like the tide roaring in at the beach and I find myself tuning out of conversations while I politely smile and nod. A more serious problem with growing older is that it seems easier and easier for me to ignore advice. “I’ve heard it all before!” I think about a large variety of things. Maybe part of the problem is linked to information overload. I just can’t stand hearing another commercial about the latest diet, stress relief or vacation package. It is as if everyone is shouting and though their volume has increased, my hearing them has diminished.
But I begin to get into real trouble when that feeling of information overload begins to carry into my relationships. If before I begin a conversations I start out by thinking “Oh I know they won’t agree so why ask.” or “Do I really want to go through hearing their opinion again?”
The danger is that if we allow it, our ears will grow callouses over them so thick we won’t even be able to hear when God speaks. Often when Jesus told stories he ran into people who just like myself had grown a bit dull of hearing. He had a short but important bit of advice for us all today.
And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark 4:9
Remember that God gave us ears for listening. Our greatest challenge isn’t in finding some miraculous means of hearing from God such as angels or visions. Our greatest challenge is to remember it is more important to listen to those close to us to tell us the truth. Often God uses them as His still small voice. May we never be too old to listen to His advice!!