Earthquake: Where God Was Not

by Larry Hehn on June 15, 2011

disastersLast year I experienced an earthquake for the very first time. Seated at my desk at work, minding my own business, I was surprised to see my computer monitor swaying back and forth for no apparent reason.

My office chair then joined the dance, shifting from side to side on its plastic casters. What an eerie feeling – the earth rumbling, the room swaying, and me sitting there dazed, completely at the mercy of the tremor.

Such earthquakes are very rare in my part of the world. This one’s epicenter was roughly 250 miles (400 kilometres) away. It measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. Some buildings and roads near the epicenter were damaged, but no injuries were reported.

Despite a great deal of local media hype, the entire event was pretty tame. A joke email quickly circulated with a photo of the “devastation” experienced in my area as a result of the earthquake:

earthquake

All joking aside, that tiny blip on the seismograph still had an effect on me. Going through just that slight tremor was unnerving for this earthquake rookie.

I couldn’t begin to imagine how terrified and helpless one would feel in a quake like the ones that rocked Haiti and Chile last year, causing more than 200,000 deaths and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of buildings.

It made me think twice about just how vulnerable we are to forces of nature.

It also reminded me of Elijah’s experience with God at Mount Sinai, where Elijah faced a mighty windstorm, an earthquake and a fire, but didn’t experience God in any of them.

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

Elijah didn’t experience God in the windstorm, earthquake or the fire. Rather, he encountered God in the sound of a gentle whisper after all that fury had passed.

When it comes to hearing from God, I guess I should stop expecting thunder and lightning, and start listening instead for His gentle whisper.

How do you usually hear from God?

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie's Church of Christ June 15, 2011 at 4:17 am

usually when I am travelling or outdoors ex: camping, mountain biking and backpacking induce God for me.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I agree, Charlie. I really notice His presence when I’m out in nature.

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Moe June 15, 2011 at 6:30 am

I’m so sorry to see the devastation from the earthquake. Those plastic chairs are irreplaceable. 🙂

I am so with you on hearing from God. We want this supernatural experience when often times God speaks in the simplest ways. To me, he speaks through his Word, through a hug or a call of encouragement by a brother in the faith. Sometimes through a blog post. But God is always whispering. We just have to make sure to pay close attention.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Spot on, Moe. Thanks!

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Jason June 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm

It’s funny you posted this after my video blog from yesterday. 🙂

For me, it’s heading out on the Trace away from everyone and everything.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Very cool when posts unintentionally overlap, eh? Haven’t watched your video yet, Jason. Will be doing that today. Looking forward to it!

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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Wow, do our two posts ever tie together! Awesome!

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Jessica June 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Great word, friend! And a timely reminder that God is not affected by the earth-shattering catastrophes that happen, but that He remains. And after the storm, He will always be found in the still.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Amen. Thanks, Jessica!

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Ryan Tate June 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Yeah, I don’t think the voice of God is laid out in the stars or in nature, but rather best found in the humdrum, helter-skelter events of the day. In the smiles of my kids, in the voice of my wife, in an encouragement from a friend, in a conviction from a book. But mostly it is found right in scripture, alive and active, yet the last place we look.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm

So true, Ryan. Scripture should be our default mode, but I don’t consult it nearly as often as I should.

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Tony Alicea June 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Supposedly I experienced 2 minor earthquakes in Japan but I was too young to remember.

God speaks to me in a bunch of ways. Through conversations with friends. Through His word. But I can usually hear most clearly when I’m taking a walk and just meditating in silence.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Yep, silence seems to be so rare these days, but so necessary and worth seeking out.

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Clay Morgan June 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I second what Moe said: God is always whispering. I often forget the part where I should be listening better.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Me too, Clay. I think sometimes it’s because I have a pretty good idea of what he’s going to say and I don’t want to hear it.

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Monique June 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Growing up the youngest of 6 and being a mother of 4, there was not a lot of quiet in my life. I treasure the still small voice and seek it out as often as possible. I do find if I strain too hard to listen, I hear nothing. I see God in the small things and spring is the best season for me as I see Him in all the new creations. If you are open you can see and hear God all around. I am thankful to Him for allowing me these pleasures.

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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Thanks, Monique. Remind me to help you get a Gravatar tonight!

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Monique June 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Thank you for your help. I think I have one now.

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Larry Hehn June 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Yep, looks great!

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Jon June 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Psalm 46:10 comes to mind after reading this post. A lot of times, it’s about being still and just waiting on God. I think it’s a problem a lot of us have because we’re so impatient. A gentle whisper isn’t something you hear unless you’re actively paying attention.
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm

We move at such a fast pace these days that silence and stillness are uncomfortable and feel unproductive. But they are exactly what we need. Right on, Jon!

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Bernadine Milley June 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

okay. first of all, I had to look up what a Gravatar was! lol
God has spoken to me from His Word, through other people verbally or in writing and ‘in my head’ quite often with just one word that I fully understand. Three things that I’ve noticed is: 1. his voice is loving and kind even when he’s doing some serious correcting. 2. when He speaks, all other voices are profoundly silent. 3. that when I have rebelled against what he’s saying, He is silent and doesn’t force or argue me into obeying. He just works on my heart in His own powerful way and waits. I am so loved, honoured and grateful that He does this and it is a great example to me.

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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Well said, Bernadine. Thanks!

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Liz McLennan (Bellymonster) June 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm

God speaks to me through my children. After the miracles of their births, I found myself drawn back to the church of my childhood – seeking ritual and comfort and a place to give thanks or beg forgiveness, depending on the day.

But mostly, my children are so GOOD. They see the best in people, ask the questions that lurk in my own heart and have faith in God simply because He makes sense to them. No one has yet told them not to trust and love Him, so they do. They’ve learned He exists to watch over them, us and that he called my brother Home, to help Him move the heavy stuff.

last week, DS2 announced to anyone who would listen that “God lives in my heart!” It disconcerted more than one stranger, but cracked us right up. Ds2 was quite serious about it, though and later I wondered if perhaps it was God, sending a gentle reminder that He is still here, waiting for the secrets of my heart and my complete trust.

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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Wow. Welcome and thanks for sharing, Liz!

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Rich Langton June 15, 2011 at 6:47 pm

I feel that perhaps God is often speaking to me… I’m hearing…. but responding is the problem. He’s said so much in His word, He reminds me often of the appropriate response, but it’s in obedience is where the rubber hits the road!
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

True dat, Rich. Hearing is just the beginning!

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Cindy Holman June 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm

We were in a 7.2 earthquake in Northern California when our 19 year old son was a newborn baby. It was devastating – no injuries or personal damage to us or our home – but the town next to us was completely leveled. It is unnerving to have the ground under your feet feel like jello – not fun. So I hear you! Any tremors here in Seattle over the past 16 years leave me with a cold sweaty feeling.
I hear God’s voice mostly through music and people in my life – and I try to listen to music when I walk – I hear Him whisper things to me and I get my best ideas from Him when I do this 🙂
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Larry Hehn June 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Always a pleasure to hear from you, Cindy!

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Amy June 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm

In the shower, always in the shower. In fact, after I went on my mission trip in 2009, I went through a little depression. One particularly bad night, I jumped into the shower and was just praying and complaining and crying. I had gone on this trip, hurt myself less than 24 hours in and was rendered “useless” for the rest of the week. (I just couldn’t do the physical work we had gone to do). However, since I had to stay off my feet and was alone quite a bit, I had a lot of sweet, quiet time with the Lord. So, I’m in the shower on a really hard night, crying and asking why. Why did everyone else get to connect with each other and I didn’t? Why did YOU let that happen? As I am asking these questions, He stopped me cold with his answer. I knew it was Him. It was the first time I had EVER clearly heard his voice. He said “I didn’t send you there to connect with other people. I sent you there to connect with me”. It changed my perspective on the failure of the trip. I now know it wasn’t.
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Larry Hehn June 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

Very cool, Amy. I get a lot of my best “aha!” moments in the shower too. It seems to be the place where I stop thinking about all the other stuff and get open to what God has to tell me. Cheers!

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sarah June 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm

A mentor of mine once told me that the hebrew word used in this story of Elijah is “sod,” and it means the most intimate and tender of whispers. It is something that has always moved me and stuck with me, thinking of this big and powerful and limitless God that we serve, stooping down and taking care of us in such personal ways. It’s a beautiful story and an astounding truth about who God is.

thanks for the reminder.

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Larry Hehn June 17, 2011 at 12:32 am

There is so much depth to many of those Hebrew and Greek words that our words in English just don’t capture. Thanks for mentioning that, Sarah!

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