How does our God speak to us in urgent situations? Often, He speaks to us ahead of the situation so we will steer clear of it. At other times He will speak to us with an urgency that, if we are listening, is unmistakable.
That our God speaks to our urgent situations has been proven repeatedly in my life. A few posts back I told of one such urgent message that helped avoid a very serious vehicle accident. Here are a few more.
Keats Island, B.C. Canada. In 1980, I was guiding climbing and backpacking trips around the Sunshine Coast in Canada. I had an assistant who was fairly new to leading in the wilderness, but she was an apt learner.
We had a group of high school students out for a climb on some cliffs on the far side of Keats Island, our headquarters. While I was belaying the climbers up the cliffs, the assistant was to start sending them down on rappel. Our stations were separated by about 60 feet.
As she set up the first climber to rappel down the cliff, I had a clear warning that there was a serious problem. The warning was so urgent that I responded with a single word to the other station – “Stop!” Everyone pretty much froze in place, staring at me. I did not know what the problem was, but I calmly asked my assistant to hold that climber until I got over to “check on something.” I finished the belay for my climber, got him “clipped and gripped” at the anchors, and headed over to the other station.
The rappel device and belay line were tangled at the harness, and the locking carabiner gate was propped open. Furthermore, at the angle it was set up the belay line could have come off the ‘biner, leaving the climber unprotected. It was an egregious set of errors, but all too common in new climbing leaders.
I cannot tell you how many times I thanked my God for that warning. The error was never repeated.
Pine Ridge, CA. Another experience in which I received a clear warning of impending danger was while driving down the Sierra mountain highway from where I lived to Fresno for grad school. It is often cloudy at the mid-elevations during winter in the Sierra Nevada, which when you drive into it is essentially a very dense fog bank. And so it was on this day.
As I came around a corner at full highway speed, I came into a fog bank. It was the thickest fog I remember encountering in my years of driving those mountain roads. I estimated visibility to be about 50 feet. This was a section of four-lane highway that is usually lightly traveled, but as I entered the fog bank I had a very clear sense of immediate danger. The message was so urgent I was startled into action. I hit the brakes hard, slowing the vehicle as quickly as possible.
As soon as my speed got down to about 10 MPH, looming not even 50 feet ahead on the roadway was a tipped-over truck and low-bed trailer. I was on it so quickly I had to swerve to miss it even at that slow speed. The D-6 Caterpillar the truck was moving had spilled onto the roadway, completing the blockage of both the downhill lanes. The accident had happened only moments before, and the driver was still climbing out of the truck.
My normal approach to getting through these fog banks was to let off the gas and get ready to stop if something show us. Had I done that, I would have driven into the wreckage of the truck and its load. Clearly and urgently, I was warned before any danger was apparent.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have been so warned in matters ranging from inconvenience to the threat of death and serious injury. Wild animals, dangerous persons, driving hazards, and even gunshot wounds have been avoided because of the warnings. Many of my friends who have learned to listen can tell you their stories as well.
Am I the recipient of special revelations from God? I do not believe so. Our God is always speaking to us, and always warning us when it is necessary. Many of my friends have had similar experiences. None of us see these as “special revelations,” but as the everyday working of the Holy Spirit in those who listen.
The key to hearing God’s warnings in the clinch is to cultivate a heart that is trained to hear Him speak all the time. The more we give ourselves to union with our God, cultivating conversational communion with Him, the more we are able to hear Him in urgent and not-so-urgent circumstances. He is speaking to His children often each day. To hear it amid the clutter of our noisy, self-focused lives requires discipline and practice.