There are a lot of things I miss about being in a youth group. One is the feeling you get in summer camp when it’s time for breakfast, lunch, and games all day long with your best friends in middle school or high school! I probably didn’t say this then, but looking back, the best part about camp was after dinner – an evening meeting where there would be teaching by someone special and worship music that made every heart feel like singing along together as one body celebrating our Lord Jesus Christ.
The camp experience was a lot like a Mission Discovery trip. All of our trips have breakfast, lunch, dinner, but instead of games all day, we focus on serving others in communities around the world.
I remember one specific camp that I went to when I was in high school. The speaker went through one passage from 1st Kings each night. I don’t remember everything that he said. I probably should have taken some notes and kept them all these years to make writing articles like this a lot easier. But I do remember the story well, it was a story about Elijah, the prophet, who was running and hiding because he feared for his life.
The passage reads:
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)
There are so many takeaways from this narrative. However, one may be learned from the back story. Elijah had been running and hiding because he was afraid for his life. He’d been traveling for such a long time that he sought refuge in a musty, dark cave. We don’t know if there were any animals in the cave, but we do know that he was alone.
Elijah was past the end of his rope. He had run for his life for 40 days and 40 nights and the only hope of safety he can find at that moment was in this cave on the side of a mountain. If there was ever a time for God to show up it was then.
And lo and behold, God did show up, but it was in a very, very unexpected way.
We read stories in the Old Testament about a big God doing big things to reveal himself to humanity. We read stories about a fire by day and a cloud by night. We read stories about God parting the waters so masses of people could cross the Red Sea. We read stories about talking donkeys.
The God of the Old Testament worked in very big, mysterious ways. But in this story about Elijah, He was different.
In this story, God wasn’t in the wind, which we could imagine was more like a tornado. And in this story, God wasn’t in the fire or the earthquake that would have caused the very rocks of the mountain to become dislodged.
Elijah was alone, in hiding, terrified out of his mind. And God showed up with a whisper.
That’s what makes this story so special. It gives us very important clues about who God is and how He works.
Have you ever been a caveman?
I’m sure we’ve all been in stages of life when we would have identified with Elijah the caveman. We were running from something or experiencing life and all of its curveballs. And if there was ever a moment we needed to encounter God, it was right then.
I know I can point to several moments like that. In my mind, I needed him to work in really big, powerful ways like he did in the Old Testament. I wanted him to shake things up with a giant wind or earthquake or level everything out with His superheated fire so I could start all over again. And instead, I didn’t get any of that.
What I received were gentle whispers.
What do whispers look like?
We do this thing called “God Sightings” on Mission Discovery trips.
God Sightings are simple. We ask each other at the end of a service day, “How did you see God today?” And it takes about two or three days for everyone to feel comfortable sharing, but once we get into it, it becomes a practice of recognizing and being grateful for the small ways God has worked throughout the day.
Whispers are a lot like God Sightings.
I can look back on the moments in my life where I’ve needed to encounter God in a new, refreshing way, and I really expected him to do something big, but instead, I remember a small God’s Sighting.
I recall how alone I felt when my mother passed away. I spent hours on a porch with a pet cat I had at the time. To me, you know, that is such a silly thing to look back on as an adult and think, man, that moment with a cat could have been a God sighting. But as a nine-year-old going through a life-defining trauma, I needed comfort. And if God has to use a pet cat to give me some semblance of peace when I need it most, He’s going to do it. It was a gentle whisper.
There are all kinds of little things that happen in critical moments of life. And as little as we may think they are, the question is, “Are they really whispers of God?”
Then there are events that we might brush off as coincidences. And sometimes a coincidence is a coincidence, but other times it’s a whisper – an acknowledgment that God is paying attention to your situation right now, and He’s with you, whether you realize it or not.
And sometimes a whisper is a conversation.
Whether we are talking to friends or mentors or having a random conversation with someone that gives us encouragement, conversations can be whispers from God, letting us know that He’s with us and He cares for us.
A lot of people wonder how to hear God’s voice, and getting in a routine of practicing God Sightings is a good place to start. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Where did I see God today? How did I see him?” And then ask yourself, “Was God telling me something through all of that? Was God trying to show me something?” God Sightings are a great way to start paying attention to God and hear His voice on a daily basis.
Remember, God doesn’t always show up in the ways we expect. Sometimes, God shows up and a gentle whisper. And as with any whisper, you have to lean in to hear it. You have to come closer to the presence of God to really hear His whispers.
Do you know any cavemen or cavewomen?
Do you know people that are at the end of their rope and need God to intervene?
Is that person you? If it is, a great prayer for you to say is, “God, show me.” And at the end of each day ask yourself where God was working and was He trying to show me anything?
If you know any caveman or cavewoman, you might have tried praying for God to move in some big miraculous way. But, instead of praying that God would move in a massive way that will completely change the situation and help them to start over, start asking God for a whisper.
And remember, if we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, God might use us to whisper to those who are hurting. A whisper may not be advice. It’s more likely that a whisper is a reminder that God sees that person in their pain and wants to be with them and make them whole.