The verses for our devotional study today are Isaiah 2:3-4. In Verse 2, God says that "He will teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths." The Message paraphase of this verse says that "He'll show us the way He works so we can live the way we're made."
There's so much security in that, isn't there? We were created to live life God's way, and He's promised to teach us everything we need to know to do that. No more running around, trying to figure out what it is we're supposed to be doing that we're not doing that's leaving us with this empty, unsettled feeling that there's got to be more to life that "this" (whatever it is). It is far more simple than that. All we need to do is follow the directions that He's given/gives/will give us.
But here's the thing about directions: you actually have to listen to them and do what they say for things to go well. I have a set of bookshelves I've put together myself, and let me tell you - the one I didn't read the instructions for is extremely unstable! And life works the same way - if we're going to live it well, there's a set of instructions to follow, and we need to listen to them.
Listening for God's voice takes time, patience and practice. It's possible to read His Word without actually understanding a word of it on the heart level where it's meant to instruct us. It's possible to pray frantically for help in a situation for which we need specific direction and then rush off without waiting for an answer, still trying to figure out what we're supposed to do, on our own.
But God's Word says there's a better way:
"...In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength..." - Isaiah 30:15
We need to get quiet.
Quite some time ago, a good friend of mine picked up the phone and made a reservation for me at a retreat center. I was leading a song at church that weekend, but there was something in the way - something that was blocking my ability to lead it from my heart. And so my friend packed me off to a retreat center for 5 hours, to sit quietly with God, and find from Him the wisdom and instruction I needed.
The first 1/2 hour was painful. I had about eighteen million things I was thinking about other than the task at hand. Getting quiet, internally, seemed like an insurmountable task. But my friend, far more seasoned in this sort of thing than I was, had warned me it would be like that, and I'd taken with me, on his advice, a notebook. Every time something came into my head that could be labelled as a "distraction" (for example: things to add to the grocery list, emails I needed to write, phone calls to make, etc.) - I just wrote it down, so I could deal with it later. And finally, all the head chatter faded, and I moved into silence, and waited.
And He spoke. Through His Word, through the beauty of creation all around me, directly to my heart - and even through the nap I ended up taking that day. And 5 hours later, I was so at peace, and knew what I needed to do to live the way I was made to live, instead of the way I'd been trying to live instead. I'd confessed the sin I needed to, and walked straight out of the barren wilderness of it into the rich, full mercy of God. It was beautiful.
And it began with being still.
Sometimes life can be so overwhelming. It's busy, frantic, fast-paced, and loud. It's tough to hear anything in an environment like that. But if we could just be still...
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - of whom shall I be afraid?.... I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Be strong, and take heart, and wait for the Lord." - Psalm 27:1, 13-14
But how do we do that? How do we "be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord"?
Well, we repent for what we need to. We slow down and rest (even when there's a million things to do, because they will still be there later). We get quiet. We choose to trust Him (no matter what). And we listen. We listen for the Voice that will always speak truth, whose words are life and light to all who hear them, and who promised us that all we see is not all there is.
And we keep on waiting on Him, day after day, because we know, no matter how dark things may seem some days, that there is always hope.
"Do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-12)