Have you ever heard a sound go off so loudly that it left your ears ringing? When I was in middle school and high school, I used to be a bit of a pyromaniac. I remember several occasions when my brothers, their friends and I took our 4th of July fireworks, manipulated them, and then had some fun. What happened next was the fireworks would go off, we would run for our lives, and on more than one occasion, the noise would cause my ears to ring. Happily, I no longer play such pranks, but I remember vividly the sensation of that annoying ringing in my ears. It reminded me that there was an explosive event that caused this nagging sound in my ears.
I shared a story last Sunday at church about a church service Courtney and I attended when we were visiting Hawaii in which a guest speaker shared some of his testimony. Having served as a missionary in Afghanistan, he was on his way home from the field, when he stopped in Iran for two weeks. There he was arrested on false charges only to have a death sentence put on his life when the authorities discovered he was a missionary. He shared some of his struggles in prison, the beatings he endured, and the depression that settled into his soul. Listening to him, I found myself locked in. His story was an explosive event for me. He wasn’t an eloquent speaker. Polished is hardly the word I would use to describe his communication style, but he was honest, transparent, truthful and inspiring. Conviction began to fill my heart and with it came so much peace. I began to realize that the difficulties I have faced in my life haven’t been nearly as large as I have made them and with this conviction came peace, and with it a confident, settled assurance that God’s presence was with me.
The missionary also shared that several times in his life when facing difficulties, including during his ordeal in Iran, he had used the same approach to God. That is, he would come to God, share with Him all of his problems and tell Him just what he wanted Him to do about them. Initially, I found God’s response to him comical, yet also both unsettling, and comforting. God would answer, “I see all of those things Dan, but I’m not concerned about them right now. Have What you need is more of My love.”
Listening to God’s response to him, I couldn’t help but sense that God was speaking that very message to me, and it began to ring in my ears. What had seemed comical a few moments earlier when God’s word was directed at him, all of the sudden seemed far less comical. I asked myself: What does God mean He’s not concerned with the problems I am facing? Just receive more of His love? At first this made no sense. But as I began to process these words, this is what came up in my heart as Why would God not want to just remove the road blocks in front of me that are preventing me from ministering more powerfully? And then the reason hit me.
God began to soften my heart and speak to the crux of the matter. He is so much bigger than my problems, always has been and always will be. But the circumstances in my life had become very big to me and in the process I had lost something of immense value.Hunger for Him! Feeling certain God was speaking to me, I realized that I had so magnified and focused on my discouragement that I had virtually ignored hungering for more of His love, and this neglect, in fact, was the heart of the problem.
The scriptures are full of of several stories of individuals facing challenging circumstances and their responses to them. Exodus 32 narrates the story of the Israelites in the wilderness making the golden calf, their sin being making for themselves an intermediary between them and God. In the following chapter, Moses goes into the tent of meeting and cries out before God. The heart of what he shares with God as he is trying to figure out what to do with the people of Israel is found in verse 13 where he says, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
Moses was desperate to know God and His ways. In the middle of difficult and discouraging circumstances, he hungered for more of God. I sense this is God’s desire for my life right now, but maybe it is for yours too. When things go well in our lives, it can be so easy to be unaware of vital heart issues, but it’s when challenges come that these tend to come to the surface. I am convinced that the only way we can actually grow and mature through such times is if we stir up our hunger for more of God right in the midst of our difficulties and make Him rather than our problems our priority. When we hunger for Him, as I am beginning to discover afresh, God has a way of giving us the wisdom, power, and love necessary to flourish in such proverbial wildernesses.
I want to wrap up with one final thought. Jesus shares two parables in Matthew 13. “44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.’” I close with these verses because they are so explicit. The sacrifices necessary to know Him are always worth the cost, and that includes persevering during both the good and the bad times. My question to all of us today is do we not only really believe this, but are we prepared to sell all we have in order to gain the hidden treasure or the pearl of great price? I feel more sure than ever that my answer is a resounding yes. And the reason is I am desperately hungry for more of Him. May this be the cry of your heart as well!