Imagine you have a long-distance best friend. Maybe you already do, so it isn’t hard to imagine. Anyway, it’s been a while since your last visit, and your friend decides to give you a call. You don’t answer. They text instead. You don’t respond. After a week goes by, they stalk your Facebook wall to make sure you’re alive. Yep, you posted at work that morning about your delicious breakfast burrito. There are pictures from the last night when you went bowling with some friends. Your friend decides your phone must be broken and posts to your wall an inside joke about a porcupine, knowing you’re the only person who would get it.
Months go by. Your friend eventually gives up trying to reach you.
One day you see a porcupine on TV. You remember your friend and decide to give them a call. They don’t answer. You try again but it goes directly to voicemail. As time goes on without reciprocation, you first feel annoyed. Then irritated. You wonder if they are intentionally ignoring you. Maybe they don’t care about you anymore. Maybe they never did.
On the other end of the line, your hurt friend watches their phone ring and wonders if they want to answer after you wouldn’t answer their own calls. After being neglected for long months, why should they pick up where you left off? Why should they still call you a friend?
In Isaiah 65, the Lord declares curses on his people of Israel who had rebelled against him and served other gods. They abandoned him. They ignored him. So God replies, “I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (v. 12). But for the one who obeys the one true God, he promises to bless them and “the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes” (v. 16). He then describes a day of “new heavens and a new earth” when rejoicing will replace all suffering. In that day, he says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (v. 17, 24).
When times are good, we often let God’s calls go to voicemail. We assume we’re doing fine on our own and that he’ll still be there when we need him. Then a crisis appears, and we wonder why God isn’t answering our cries for help. We ask why God is silent.
Now I don’t want to imply God is a resentful friend harboring old hurts, but why should we expect to hear from him after ignoring his attempts at contact? Is that a healthy relationship? If we’re not listening to his voice in good times, how are we going to receive a word from him when times are hard? God might not be the one who grew distant.
Do you need to apologize and ask forgiveness for ignoring God?
“Please leave a message after the tone.”
“Hi, friend. Sorry I’ve been a jerk. I should have returned your calls. Will you forgive me?”