And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened up the scriptures to us?”
Sometimes life can be confusing. It’s like the road map is turned upside down, the GPS isn’t working, and all the road signs that are supposed to tell you where to go are in another language! They say that life is a beautiful journey. They say that it’s not about arriving at your destination, it’s all about the joy of getting there. But when you’ve been on the road for eighteen hours, you’ve run out of snacks, and you can’t find a place to take a bathroom break, it isn’t quite so fun anymore!
Do you ever wish that you could just hurry up and get there? Dash to the next mile marker in your life, and graduate High School? Fall in love, get married? Get that new job you’ve been hoping for? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could have a head-on, insta-collision with destiny, like…tomorrow? Just imagine how blissful it would be to wake in the morning and find yourself smack-dab in the middle of God’s perfect plan for your life! Maybe you’d be a successful business woman, serving as a missionary in a foreign country, or finally recording the album that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life!
Whatever it is that you’ve been waiting for, I’m sure you can relate. Maybe you’re longing for a new door of opportunity to open. Are you desperate to hear a fresh word of direction from God, about your life and your purpose? Maybe you’re wanting some clarity about confusing or hurtful things that are happening.
Wherever you’re at on this journey of life, I know that we’ve all reached the point where we’ve pulled off to the side of the road, shut off our engines, slammed our heads on the steering wheel and cried out, “God, where are you? I’m totally lost! I need direction! I need to hear your voice. What in the world are you doing? Are we just going around in circles? Just give me SOMETHING to work with here!”
How strange a season it is when we lift our voices to Heaven, and hear nothing in return.
The Bible says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord, and I will restore you…” Jeremiah 29:12-14
On those days when I’m seeking (and I’m pretty darn sure that I’m seeking with all of my heart!) and I don’t get any clues, encouragement, cute little love letters from God, or radical “burning bush” experiences, I can begin to wonder what’s wrong. In moments like that, when God feels so distant and far away, it’s easy to panic. I know the truth that He will never leave me or forsake me, and He hears every prayer. He is perfectly faithful…so what in the world is going on?!
The Lord is always speaking to us. His favorite thing to do is reveal who He is, how much He loves us, and the amazing plans that He has for our lives! He loves to reveal the reality of what’s happening in Heaven, which is His perspective, and make that manifest in our lives. The job of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth, and take the things that belong to the Father, which belong to Jesus, and declare them to us! (John 16:13-14) So if God is always speaking, why can’t we hear Him?
The Book of Esther is one of my favorite examples of a time when God appeared to be silent. Esther’s story is so unique. The Bible is full of story after story of God revealing Himself to His people in dramatic, ground-shakingly epic ways! The Red Sea opened, manna came down from Heaven, lions’ mouths were shut, miracles were performed, miraculous wars were won, and God’s hand and voice were so clearly seen! To many characters in the Word, God revealed a new part of His nature and character. To Hagar, He was El Roi, “the God who Sees.” To Abraham, He was El Shaddi, “the All Sufficient One.” To David, He was El Sali, “the God of my Strength.” To the woman who had been bleeding her whole life, Jesus revealed Himself as “Healer.” To the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, Jesus reveled Himself as “Redeemer.” To Paul, Jesus revealed Himself as “Strength made perfect in my weakness.”
But in Esther’s story, God’s name is never mentioned. He doesn’t reveal a new part of His character by splitting open the heavens and performing a miracle. God’s name is nowhere to be found. Not even once, through the whole book! God never speaks through a prophet, “Thus saith the Lord!” or confirms his promises by wetting some fleece like he did for Gideon. As the Author of Esther’s story, God never signs His name in a big fat Sharpie marker. The flashing neon light of God’s presence and direction is nowhere to be seen. But when I read the book of Esther, my heart burns within me. I don’t see the Author’s name, but I know He has been there. Signs of the Author’s style, voice, and faithfulness are seen so clearly. His presence, His voice, and His direction within this book are so clear, if only you know what you’re looking for. I recognize the work of His providential hand, maneuvering every person, event, and word, according to His perfect plan. But do you think Esther was aware of this? Was she getting a play-by-play of God’s plan, or do you think she looked at the upside down road map in front of her, and asked God, “What in the world are You doing?!”
The Lord is revealing His name, nature, and character every single day. It may not be in an obvious, burning bush or sea-splitting way, but He is speaking, moving, and directing. Every line and scribble in my life that appears to be so messy, out of place, or just plain puzzling, is there for a purpose. The Author is weaving together a most beautiful story. I just don’t see it yet.
As much as I don’t like to admit it, sometimes I’m like the guys who were walking down the trail of life in Luke 24. In their story, Jesus had just risen from the dead. The miracle of all miracles had taken place! These guys had every reason to be excited, whooping and hollering for joy, because God was working in their life in such an amazing way! But they were so confused. They were afraid, and perplexed, and totally blinded to the most beautiful thing that was happening right before their eyes.
“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you are having with one another as you walk and are sad?’ Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?”
They continued to explain to Jesus everything that had happened, the report of the resurrection, and how some friends from their group went to the tomb and didn’t see Jesus there. As these men walked on the road with Jesus, “He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus revealed Himself in a way that these men had never heard before. It was so different from what they were used to, they didn’t even know that Jesus was talking to them!
Finally, when they got to their house and broke bread together, something that they were used to doing in the past, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him, and He vanished from their sight.”
Suddenly, everything made sense. When the Spirit of wisdom and revelation hit them, they could see clearly. They had the “a-ha!” moment they had been aching for, and everything was clear and sunny and bright again! Jesus was alive! And He had been WALKING with them that whole time!
“And they said to one another, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened up the Scriptures to us?’”
I love that verse. Even though they couldn’t see Jesus in the way they were used to seeing Him, and God wasn’t doing things the way He used to do, their hearts still burned within them. They knew Him by the Spirit, and they recognized that He had the Words of life. Something inside of them was drawn to what Jesus was saying. They didn’t know why, but a magnetic force pulled them in and tugged on their hearts.
God was doing a brand new thing in their lives, and even before their minds or human understanding could comprehend it, their spirits knew.
Their hearts burned with passion and fresh fire as He spoke. Sister, you are never traveling down the road of life all on your own. Just like the men in this story, Jesus is right there with you, guiding you, speaking to you, and opening up the Scriptures to you, whether you can recognize Him or not!
Maybe you don’t feel God holding your hand like He used to, as you would joyfully blaze forward on this trail, and you’re wondering why you can’t feel the warmth of His presence. Perhaps in the past, Jesus lifted you up on His shoulders every time a freaky snake would jump out to attack; but now you’re standing there, shaking in fear, because you’ve got a sword in your hand, and you need to kill the snake. Maybe He used to always sing the same song over your heart, a lullaby of sorts, and suddenly He changed the dial on the radio so you don’t recognize the tune! Any of these shifts and changes can cause us to freak out. But we must remember and hold fast to the truth: the Lord is doing a new thing. Just because I can’t recognize it, or make sense of it yet, doesn’t mean He’s not with me and guiding every step of this process.
What if Esther compared her story to the stories of what God had done in the past? What if she didn’t step forward in boldness to save her people, because she didn’t have a burning bush experience? Sometimes we can get so used to Heaven’s manna from the past, that we don’t step into what God is doing in our lives right now. The manna stopped so that God’s people would press forward and take the Promised Land!
If you’re feeling a little bit clueless, still not sure how to read your map or what to do next, I want you to take a deep breath. You’re not lost. Your tank might be out of gas, you may not be able to read the road signs, and your connection to Heaven might seem a little shaky, but I promise you this: God is with you. He will never leave you or forsake you! You know that you are chosen by God to be His royal Princess Daughter; He delights in you, He adores you, and He has amazing plans for you. Let that be enough.
If everything in your world seems out of whack and off kilter, remember that God is still penning your story. He’s in mid-stroke. You can’t see everything that He’s doing behind the scenes. Let that be okay.
Trust the Author.