Sometimes I wonder as to the fact that I’ve got an innate sense of purpose. Every worldview seems to comment on the reason as to why life exists. And it’s one of those things that, at the best of times, you can’t quite put your finger on.
I am a Christian; a believer in the specific god of the Hebrews, Yahweh, who offered reconciliation to all through his son Jesus Christ. In that worldview, there’s room for signs, for spoken words from God, for specific, tangible directions as to what specific people should do. The first half of the Bible is rife with it - Jonah was told specifically to go and warn a group of people about God’s sovereignty, and his hatred for their disobedience to him.Abraham was told to leave his people for the place that God wanted him to be in, but wasn’t told why. Samuel was told who to make the next king after Saul.
And, I have to say, there’s been plenty of times in my life when I’ve longed for something as blunt as this. For the heavens to part, for angels to drop out of the sky and say “listen, fool!” (Ok, so in my head, when angels talk it sounds something like Mr T), and for some kind of obvious direction as to what the next step is.
And, sometimes, I could swear that I hear something. That there’s a sign of some description going on in my immediate field of view, that there’s a tiny voice in the back of my head.
And I’d love that to be enough for me.
The Yahweh I’ve read about, isn’t the sort of person who whispers in the back of people’s minds. He repeats himself until people get the hint, he makes people listen by getting fish to swallow them up until they decide to finally listen. He sets bushes on fire and then doesn’t allow them to burn up, and speaks in a thunderous voice, and the arrival of his son into the world was firstly announced with a star and then with a choir of angels!
On a side note, I’m more serious about this Mr T thing than you probably think I am. The shepherds were scared. Not “mildly entertained”, or “uplifted by the ‘angelic voices’ of the choir”, but scared.
The point of all this is, I don’t think God would whisper if he wanted me to do something.
I’ve also heard it explained that the only way God ‘speaks’ to people these days is through the Bible. The argument is something along the lines of “seeing as the Bible is infallible, it is complete. There is nothing to be said that isn’t said in it”. I think that’s a pretty good litmus test for publicly debatable issues, such as, “should one trust the Book of Mormon?”, and “is it ok to cheat on your husband/wife?” It doesn’t, however, account for the fact that God has in the past and today revealed himself to human beings, personally.
Such an attitude does, however, highlight that personally, the best thing you can do with your energy is reading the Bible. It’s not so much a plea to ignore ‘signs’ for the sake of ignoring signs - it’s a plea to focus on the beautiful, huge, powerful word of God that is his word for sure, that provides specific instruction and revelation as to God’s character.
The Bible is personal. It’s a book, written by God, that tells us the way that he sees his relationship with humanity. Everything from joy, to heartbreak, to the promises made on both sides. There’s no better way to know God than to read his autobiography. Than to pour over the words that he speaks, to meditate on the relationships that he holds, to attempt to fathom the depth of character that is visible, particularly, in Jesus. Jesus is the perfection of God’s plan - he’s the start and the finish, the be-all-and-end-all. Jesus wasn’t God’s plan B after we screwed it up. There was never a plan B.
The thing with looking for signs is that it’s so easy to be so wrapped up in them that you forget to leave room for the best expression of God’s plan that’s available to us.