Trusting God seems to come easily for some people. Alas, I’m not one of them. For me, it seems like a constant struggle. Just between you and me, I have a tendency to beat myself up about it. I reason that someone as blessed as I am should not struggle like that.
Not surprisingly, God has a different perspective. He also has a different way of dealing with my meandering faith. I bring the hammer of self-reproach; he brings a gentle nudge. I’m so grateful for his gentle nudges that redirect my thoughts and energy when they wander astray. Gentle nudges evidence his kindness; his kindness draws me into that repentance that is a coming home.
On one occasion I was praying at bedtime. I was feeling overwhelmed by things that hadn’t gotten done that day, things I knew would be facing me the moment I opened my eyes the next morning. I felt like I was being swallowed whole. And, of course, no one but me seemed to care.
As I was sharing all that with the Lord (okay, truth be told, as I was grumping and grumbling), I got one of those gentle nudges. I sensed the Holy Spirit asking me which among all those problems I thought he couldn’t handle. With a sheepish roll of my eyes, I responded, “None of them.”
“You’re wrong,” he replied. “I can’t handle any of them” Stunned, I asked why not. “Because you won’t turn loose of them.”
Peter counsels, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” He cares for us! What’s more, because he cares he insists we crawl into his lap and pour out our hearts to him. What an amazing father! Our father comes, not with the iron fist and stern voice of punitive correction, but with a gentle nudge to bring us back on course.
A couple years ago I attended a Formational Prayer seminar hosted by Dr Terry Wardle. During a break I sat gazing out a window. Another problem—I don’t recall what—was troubling me deeply, and I was asking God for answers to questions I didn’t even know how to ask.
As I sat there, staring out the window at nothing in particular, I sensed the Lord asking me to notice the trees. “Yeah, I’ve seen trees before.” I thought. He gently nudged me, “Yes, but you’ve never noticed these trees.” I looked more closely and was taken by their simple beauty. I spent several minutes just gawking at them. Leaves were rustling. Birds were flitting in and out. I began to imagine ants crawling up and down and moss growing on the north side. Life was happening out there, and I wasn’t even aware of it.
Next, he drew my attention to the puffy white clouds set against a deep blue sky. He nudged me again. “Do you understand how clouds work?” I began to think about the remarkable science that is involved in atmospherics. However, within a few seconds my knowledge of the subject was exhausted, and I was again reduced to awe as I watched their changing shapes drifting across the sky. A few more minutes passed.
One more time I felt his gentle nudge to look beyond the clouds, beyond the sky, to imagine what lay beyond. The vastness of space overwhelmed me.
Then I heard him say, “I’ve got all that.” My jaw literally dropped! I was amazed, impressed.
Then he whispered, “I’ve got this, too.”
Sporting a newfound smile, I began to breathe easily for the first time in days.
I’m so grateful for the nudge of God. (Did you feel that?)
Jerry has more than thirty years of experience in a variety of pastoral roles, including planting/pastoring several churches. He is also the Founder and Director of Ministry Consulting Group, which focuses on administrative services and leadership coaching for churches and other ministries throughout the United States and beyond. His specialty is church and ministry startups. Jerry and his wife, Jeanie, have five children and a bunch of grandchildren. The entire Stephens clan resides in central Ohio.