I can be a bit thick sometimes, especially when it comes to hearing God’s voice.
At church on Sunday night we committed a Bible verse to memory as part of the service. The verse was Isaiah 30:21, and it goes like this:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
At the time I thought nothing of it. Actually, that’s not quite true. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what it was saying–and maybe I still don’t–but I made a mental note to go away and read the verse in context to try and get a handle on it.
The verse comes in the middle of a chapter (and, in fact, a series of chapters) prophesying woe and doom. God is disciplining His children (and other nations) and showing them the error of their ways. But, even though they have worshipped false gods and idols, God is always longing to show mercy to His people if they follow His ways:
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18).
God is saying that, even though we have been disobedient, all we have to do is cry for help (Isaiah 30:19) and As soon as he hears, he will answer you. He’s saying He’s a gracious and faithful God, in other words.
Which brings me to my current situation. I’m coming to the end of an eight-year stint in higher education. At the moment I’m in the final stages of writing up my PhD thesis in linguistics at Newcastle University. It’s been a fun ride, though very hard at times. However, all things end and now I’ve got to head out into the big world and get a job… At 27 years old. Pretty shameful, I know.
Now, I know the general area I want to work in, but I’m still utterly clueless about where I’m supposed to go. Jobs in the academic-related sector are few and far between and, generally, when they come up, you have to go for them. So I’ve been sending out applications left, right and centre to universities up and down the country. Throughout this time, Jen (my wife) and I have tried to stay open to God’s will; we’ve basically said: “whereever you want us, Lord, we’ll go. But try to make it obvious, please!”
Well, God’s already answering that prayer. All of the applications I’ve sent out so far have come back with a resounding negatory. Nothing. Not even an interview. Of course, this makes me feel pretty crap, but if I believe God is faithful, then I should give thanks to Him for answering my prayers!
More generally though, I don’t have a feeling of being “called” anywhere in particular. When this whole process started, I made a point of saying that I don’t just want to stay around the North East simply because that’s where I’ve been for my entire life, or because it’d just be easy to do. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to stay here. We’ve got family and friends here and it’s a fantastic place to live. But I felt it was important to give all that to God and stay open to His direction.
I suppose I expected God to tell us where to go. Maybe audibly. Or maybe by dropping an email in my inbox. Or possibly even a little more esoterically by placing a glowing halo around a job advert or something. I don’t think I even considered something a little more conventional, like, oooh, drawing my attention to a verse in the Bible… A verse like Isaiah 30:21, perhaps.
I was praying and meditating on this verse yesterday as I walked home from university and I felt God gently prod me and reassure me at the same time. I think this verse is God’s way of telling me that I just need to listen to His voice and follow His ways. I’ve been fretting about where to go and how I’m going to get a job, but God’s telling me whether I look to the right or to the left, I’ll hear His voice and He will be faithful. I believe that God has a plan for our lives and I believe that He’ll reveal it to us if we stay close to Him.
Sometimes God reveals stuff to us one step at a time. This is the way, says the Lord. All we have to do is walk in it.