I could not believe that he would listen to me. (Job 9:16)
Isnt this a major problem people have with God? We know he is all-powerful and just. We know we are imperfect, and our understanding is limited. Like Job, we pour out our hearts to the Lord, yet so often nothing seems to change. And when we dont get the answer we expect, we are tempted to think that God hasnt listened to us. With the psalmist we plead: Help! Dont hide your face from me.
It took a while to get there, but God finally did speak to Job in chapters 3841. Whats interesting is that he didnt provide precise answers to Jobs questions. Instead, he asked Job a series of questions that left Job awestruck, penitent, and open to fresh blessings. This powerful encounter between God and one of his creatures moves the dialogue to a whole new level. God knows exactly what Job needs to hear in order for his faith to grow. The essential question isnt whether God is listening. Its whether Job is listening!
The notion of listening gets even more complicated because God is in the habit of responding to our questions in ways that only open up even more questions in our hearts.
Todays Gospel passage is a clear example. Jesus enters into dialogue with three would-be followers. Because he is listening not only to their words but to their hearts, he says not what each of them is expecting but precisely what each needs to hear. He shows them that the kind of discipleship he is asking of them is different from the noble intentions they are offering to him. And he does this by painting a powerful picture that clarifies how each persons decision should change his or her life.
Its interesting that we never find out how these people respond. In a sense, we dont have to. Jesus is content to have us ponder his questions ourselves. His goal is not to give us mini-biographies of these people but to ask all of us to listen to him more deeply. When we enter into dialogue with the Lord, we dont always get the answer we seek. But we always get an answer. So linger long enough to listen, and let his words of invitation pierce your heart.
Jesus, I want to follow you. Show me what is holding me back from taking the next step.
Psalm 88:10-15 Luke 9:57-62