"M-O-O-OM! You're not listening!"
Have you ever been snapped back into reality with those words? I have! Without meaning to, I can drift off to... somewhere else... while my kids are trying to tell me something important. (Well, important to them, anyway!) Many times they assume I'm not listening, but really I am. I'm just not giving them the answer they want! Either way, what they are communicating is that it's incredibly frustrating to feel that you're not being heard.
Aren't we the same way?
Editorials are full of people writing in to have their voices heard on a myriad of topics. Customer service phone lines are busy all day long, taking calls from people who need to be heard, and need some changes. The blog-splosion in recent years attests to the fact that many of us have something to say. Comments affirm us because we feel we've been heard. The evidence that we've been heard in our voting, in our committee meetings, our PTA/PTO boards and church governing bodies, is seeing things change. "Finally! They heard what we were saying and made some changes!" I suppose there's no more frustrating feeling than being in a dire situation and feeling like no one hears your cry for help, especially someone in a position to offer assistance.
How much more frustrating is it, then, to feel that God Himself isn't listening? It's one thing to be ignored by fallible humans, but to pray and pray (to the One Who controls all things!) for a situation to change, and feel month after month, year after year, that nothing is changing. In fact, it's getting worse. Where is He? Doesn't He care?
No one understood this more than the prophet Habbakuk, who cried out to God,
"How long, O LORD, will I call for help,
And You will not hear?
I cry out to You, "Violence!"
Yet You do not save." (Habakkuk 1:2)
In other words, "God, why aren't you DOING something??"
I love God's answer:
"Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days--
You would not believe if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5)
Oh, God hears. Habakkuk thought He didn't, but the fact that God gave him an answer proved that He did! And we can be assured that He hears us today. In fact, the answer He gave Habakkuk is an answer for us, too. The verbs "look" and "observe" were plural. Down here in my neck of the woods we would say, "Y'all look! Y'all observe!" We're part of that "y'all." He wants us to know He is doing something in our days. It may seem like He's not at work in certain situations we've observed or in our own circumstances, but He most certainly is. He doesn't "drift off" like we do. I love knowing that!
If there's a situation in which you've been waiting for God to work, and it doesn't seem that He is, keep praying. BUT, while you're continuing to pray, try shifting your focus to some areas in which God's work is clearly evident. You don't have to look far. He is doing a mighty work of regeneration in hearts and lives of folks in your church, workplace, and all over blogland, and the changed lives are obvious! He is doing big things in Asia, Africa, in inner city areas, and all over the globe. Go to some missions websites and see what He's up to. It'll knock your socks off! Take that opportunity to praise Him for what He's doing, and thereby transform your worry to worship. He's at work in your situation, too.
I once heard a pastor discuss the difference between grumbling to God and lamenting to God. (Hint: one is okay, and one isn't!) We know what grumbling is, and the truth is that while we may point a finger at those Israelites for doing it, there are three more fingers pointing back at us because we do the same thing! But, the Psalms are full of "laments," honests questioning of God. What's the difference? The explanation I heard was excellent:
Grumbling calls God's character into question
Lamenting calls God's character into action.
So, what can we do when we feel ignored by God? Praise Him for the acts we can see, and take that as evidence that He's working in ways that we can't see. Rather than question His character, let's call it into action. Let's pray His character over situations that need His intervention. He IS at work. All the time. He is doing something in our days that we would not believe if we were told!
For more study on the book of Habakkuk, visit Revive Our Hearts to read or listen to the series titled, "Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith."