Have you ever wanted to hear God speak? It seems I find myself in that place quite a bit. Sometimes I feel like all I do is go through my routine, checking things off of my list while periodically “checking in” with God to make sure things are “all good.” That’s not much of a relationship. God designed us for much deeper fellowship than that. I need to be reminded of this often.
I read this this morning from Job 33:14:
“For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it…”
The verse grabbed my attention because I want to hear God speak to me. Elihu, the speaker in this passage, goes on to describe the first way God speaks:
“In a dream, in a vision of the night…he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man.”
So the first way God speaks is through dreams and visions. It should be noted that the context of this conversation is to try and figure out why all the bad stuff has happened to Job. His friends, all with varying opinions, try to counsel and advise Job on how he ended up in such a mess.
So the “speaking” here is really an intervention. If God really wants to get a person’s attention to warn him, Elihu says he will use a dream.
The second way God speaks is found in verse 19:
“Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones.”
Second way God wants to get our attention according to Elihu? Pain. The example here is physical pain, but any sort of pain will do. I have found pain to be extremely clarifying. Pain forces us to seek deliverance, and will ultimately bring us to seek God.
Let me clarify: I don’t think I can make a definitive theological statement that God always speaks to us through dreams and/or pain. Nor can I firmly assert that all dreams or all pain are sent from God to warn us about our pride. Sometimes we get hurt and it’s more about us that God (i.e. you stub your toe); sometimes a dream really is bad Mexican food.
What strikes me though is that the antitheses to dreams/visions and pain are distraction and comfort, and how we go to such great lengths to be sure we always have both.
I read recently that the CEO of Twitter asked a friend, “Do you remember what it was like to be bored?” These days distractions are endless and easy to come by. If you’re in line at the store or sitting at a red light, distractions are easier than ever to come by. Quiet, concentration and focus are some of the more precious commodities in our information age, and even still we tend to avoid them. Unfortunately, these are often required to hear God speak to us.
Pain is even more distasteful. We not only avoid pain at all costs, we avoid discomfort. I burn the inside of my mouth and think I should take a sick day. Our idea of pain is uncomfortable benches at a sporting event or AC that isn’t working at full capacity.
But discomfort raises our awareness of something no one is exempt from: need. We are all in need of deliverance, and the comfort of avoiding pain won’t do the trick.
Now, I’m not advocating that you should start basing your life decisions on your dreams or order a bed of nails from Amazon.com. Both would be…extremely inadvisable. But maybe our response to the words in this passage could lead us to run to God when we need direction or deliverance, instead of believing that something or someone else can fill the need. God is our loving Father, Path-director, and Comforter in all pain and sorrow. Let’s live like that’s true.