How God Speaks to the Brokenhearted / Spiritual Meditations

Admit it.  Sometimes you think God is unaware of what is happening with you.  You imagine He has big things in the world to contend with and your difficulties are small by comparison.  You are told that God loves you and knows every hair on your head, but it doesn’t always feel like it. This story will give you hope.

The following recounts an experience of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich, excerpted from his book The Long Road to Eternity.  He tells of Gods immediate reply to his hurt and frustration.


I doubt it has changed much, but when I lived in Sherburne a friend of mine used to say that there are more pigeons on the feed store roof than there are people in the town. The town is a cute little upstate New York town that came into existence in the 1820s as a stop on the former Chenango canal which connected the Erie Canal with the Hudson River in the days before the railroad reached central New York. Sherburne’s claim to fame in the region is its annual pageant of bands parade in the summer, which attracts marching bands and fire departments from upwards of forty surrounding towns and counties.

While the Sherburne church was built around 1820 the parsonage at Sherburne was built in 1872. It looked pretty on the outside, but it had been cheaply made: if you slammed the front door the whole house shook. Since it was built before electricity, when the house was electrified all the wires for the outlets and fixtures were laid on top of the walls. If the Sherburne congregation had ever been wealthy in the past, that time ended many decades before I got there. The parsonage was furnished with tables, couches and chairs that were decades old discards from congregation members. Each room’s walls were covered with whatever wallpaper happened to be on sale at that time, so each room had a different pattern, and all of it was ugly.

When we got there the house was in bad repair: the laundry room / half bathroom on the first floor had a six-foot-long gap along the wall behind the toilet where the floor and the wall should have met. The gap was caused by the wood rotting away from many years of a leaky toilet I suppose, and it was wide enough that you could look down into the basement through it. I was only able to convince the church trustees to repair the floor by telling them that our district superintendent (who was a very large man) was planning to visit the parsonage, and that if he used the potty there was a good chance he and the toilet would wind up in the basement. The carpets were all a generation old; there was asbestos covering the hot water pipes in the basement and the roof leaked.

The parsonage was pretty humble accommodations, but the town was really beautiful, and we were happy and our children found it to be a good place to grow up.

One Thanksgiving Day it was time to start getting ready for the meal. Our dining room table was covered with the week’s mail and with other papers related to the running of our household. Anna, my wife,  asked me to clear the table so that it could be set for the Thanksgiving meal. As I was clearing the table, I found a letter from the Norwich office of the New York Department of Social Services; it was addressed, “to the Pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church.”

The letter said they were writing to every pastor in the county asking us to pass on to our congregation information about a government food help program that was available to low-income families. They said they thought the county’s pastors would have knowledge of which families might benefit from the program. The letter said something to the effect that they knew how hard it was for low-income families in our area to make ends meet, and the county government was sponsoring a food assistance program for families whose income was low enough to qualify depending on the number of children they had.

As I read the letter, I realized that with my income and our three children our family qualified for government food assistance. This news hit me hard. All I could think of was, “I graduated with a Master’s degree from Duke University that had required a total of 7 years of college. I have been serving God as a full-time pastor for nearly four years, and my income is still so low I qualify for government aid!” I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I even felt a little sick to my stomach. I thought, “How can I possibly be thankful on Thanksgiving when I feel like a failure and a fool?”

So, I just stopped what I was doing and began to pray. I poured out my heart to God, I said, “God, I am sorry that I am so sad on Thanksgiving Day! I know that I should be thankful, but I am feeling depressed and so sad. I wish serving you was not so difficult.” I ended my prayer, “Please Lord, help me with this terrible sadness because I want to feel thankful on this day. Never-the-less, I trust in you and I am putting all of this in Your hands.” And so, I gave it up to God and went back to clearing the table, but I was still hurting.

Just as I finished clearing the table the phone rang. A young woman was on the line; she said, “I would like to speak with the pastor please.” I said, “This is the pastor,” she asked me, “Are you the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church?” I said I was. She said, “This might sound funny; this has never happened to me before, but I was just in my room praying, and I heard God speak to me. He said, ‘Call the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church and tell him, “I am watching you and everything will be fine.’ So, I am calling you. I know this sounds strange, but that is what happened. Does that message make sense to you?” I thanked her and told her that was just what I needed to hear at that time. I asked her where she was calling from. She lived in a town about 15 miles away.

Do I need to say that my sadness was immediately turned to thankfulness?! This was the second time, and last time so far, that God spoke to someone on my behalf, the first telling Anna to marry me and now telling this woman to tell me to trust in Him. This experience is another reminder that God is always watching us, really hears our prayers, and is as concerned with our feelings and what is going on with us as any loving father is.

Conclusion

This experience also helped me to realize the accuracy of Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” I have found again and again that God responds to us when our hearts are broken for any reason and we turn to God with faith. The Lord truly is close to the sorrowful!

Relevant Scripture

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.(Psalms 139:4)

 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  (2 Corinthians 6)

man holding crutches over head

Miracle Recipient Reveals God’s Memos /Spiritual Meditations

How many times have you watched the rising or setting sun over a beautiful landscape and appreciated the magnificence of God’s creation?  How many times has the Bible addressed  your need?  There are many ways in which God speaks to us, but I know one person to whom God has spoken loudly and he is going to tell us what he’s learned.

How God Speaks to Us

The pyramid below not only represents the ways in which God speaks to us, but also how frequently He does so. (Relevant Bible verses can be found at the end of this post for each level of the pyramid with links to example accounts)

ways God speaks to us pyramid

The top level of the pyramid falls into the realm of miracles; when God speaks to us directly through word or action.  This is what I want to explore today.

What are Miracles?

In its most basic sense, a miracle is an unusual, unexpected, observable event brought about by direct divine intervention. Because they are rare, I want to share with you the insights of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich who has experienced 46 divine interventions. 

But let’s start with a Biblical example; notice that the lame man did not request a miracle.

One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer.  There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something.  They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!”  Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong; he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  People there saw him walking and praising God, and when they recognized him as the beggar who had sat at the Beautiful Gate, they were all surprised and amazed at what had happened to him.(Acts 3:1-10 TEV)

Pastor Ehrlich sees a pattern in when and how God acts in our world.  The following are conclusions he has reached and outlined in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.

Miracles range in intensity from low intensity things which could be considered fortuitous coincidences or God-incidences, to high intensity things or events which are undeniable manifestations of God’s power and/or presence, such as the healing described in the passage above.

The good news is that the miraculous power of God, that was clearly present in the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is still available to God’s people today. 

God’s Three General Rules for Miracles

God’s first rule is that God always uses the smallest amount of miraculous power, and on the fewest possible number of occasions, to accomplish His goals.

God limits the use of His power because He wants to preserve our free will and our ability to choose God freely. As we go through life, we unintentionally provide God many opportunities to save us or help us, or to comfort or encourage us. God responds to our needs in varied ways, but in general God’s response is always as limited and small scale as possible in order to bring about the needed result. This hiddenness or unprovability of God was a part of God’s plan because if we could prove God, it would take away our need to have faith, and it is important to God that we have faith.

Why does God want us to have faith? Faith is the overcoming of doubt, hopefully substantiated by reason. Faith, the Bible tells us, is the activating agent of worshipping in the Spirit (James 5:15). God is all around us all the time (Acts 17:28) in the form of the spiritual energy that holds us and all things together (Colossians 1:17), and faith is what opens the door to the Spirit to come into and intervene in the physical world. (Matthew 21:21-22). Because frequent, large, splashy displays of God’s power would take away our need for faith, God uses the least amount of His power and the smallest level of intervention to accomplish His purposes.

God’s second general rule of miracles is that miracles are always for the benefit of God’s people.

God reaches into the lives of those who trust in Him, those who earnestly seek Him, and those who love Him wholeheartedly, and generally, but not always, in response to our prayers.

Sometimes God uses a non-believer to bring about a miracle to save a believer; and God sometimes gives a miracle to a non-believer to reach that person or to reach others who witness the miracle to help them become believers or to comfort or encourage them in their faith.

God’s knowledge of each person is complete and entire, and His wisdom, power, knowledge, and abilities are without limit. God knows what is going on in each of our lives, minute by minute, and God really cares about what we are going through.

God’s third rule of miracles is that His miracles are a gift of his grace: we cannot earn them with good deeds or buy them with a donation to a ministry or other good cause.

Unfortunately, some preachers I have heard twist Paul’s statement that “a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” They say giving money to their ministry is just like planting a seed, that it will always produce an abundant plant of blessing – expect up to a one-hundred-fold return for every dollar you give.

Others who claim to be Christians try to convince people that X number of prayers for X number of days will get a guaranteed result. These beliefs trivialize God and would have you believe He behaves like a cosmic vending machine: put in the dollar and out pops your hundred. All we can do is ask God for a miracle or make ourselves available to be used by God.

What Inspires a Miracle?

Miracles come in two varieties;

  • the first type of miracle are those that occur as we reach up to God in prayer making a request and God responds.
  • The second type of miracle are those that occurs because God intervened without our asking; that is why I said miracles happen generally but not always in response to our prayers. [There are times, as you can see in the scripture regarding the lame man in Acts 3, where God knows what is needed and provides.  Though the man may have hopelessly wished for health he did not ask for or expect it.  In this case Peter and John were the conveyors of the miracle.]

Barriers to Miracles

Anyone can ask God for a miracle at any time, and God may grant one; but for a number of reasons that you and I may never understand, what we ask for may not be granted by God. Among the reasons we don’t receive the answers we are looking for are lack of faith, and improper motives. James writes: “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures” (James 4:2-3 TEV). Miracles are rare and hard to come by, that is why they are so special.

Miracles are More than Just the Miracle Itself

Miracles are just one of the ways that God speaks to us.  His love for the recipient of the miracle and those witnessing the miracle is introduced into our everyday life.  And these manifestations make a big impact on us internally, externally or both.

Miracles are a bit like fishing with dynamite – they blow you out of the water. They change lives, not just by physically rescuing a person, but by opening people’s eyes to the reality of God and to the nature of God, thus inspiring us to learn more about God and to obey God.

I spent many hours speaking with an atheist who was genuinely curious about what I believe and why. At the end of our talk I convinced him to at least keep an open mind to the reality of God. A few weeks later he told me that he had really been praying intently and God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. He said, “This changes everything!” He wanted to become a pastor and tell everyone what he had discovered.  When we are confronted with the reality of God that knowledge has the effect of causing us to reevaluate our priorities and behavior, and even, for some, to reevaluate our understanding of the universe.

Conclusion

To experience the miraculous, we cannot elicit it from God by using some magical incantation, neither is a life of study required. All that is required to move into miraculous levels of interaction with God is to have enough faith to seek God with all of your heart, and to have a willingness to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength until you find that God is real and knows and cares about you.

You will find several accounts of miracles experienced by Pastor Ehrlich, myself and others in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu.

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Relevant Scripture

God speaks to us:
Through Nature  


(Romans 1:20)  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  

(Psalms 19:1 – 4)  The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.  Yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

Through Scripture
What to Know About the Bible

(2 Peter 1:20 – 21)  Above all, you must realize that “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.   

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   

Through Signs

(Matthew 16:1 – 4 NLT)  One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!  

Through Dreams and Visions
What No One Tells You About Your Dreams
Stunning Vision Reveals Heaven’s Lobby

(Job 33:14 – 16)   For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.

Through Angels
Angels in Our Lives…Literally  

(Luke 1:26 – 27 NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

Directly and through Jesus
God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life
An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing 

(Hebrews 1:1 – 2 NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.  

(Exodus 3:4-6) When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.