(Photo by James Collier – check out his incredible photos, available to purchase, here)
Suddenly: 1. Immediately. 2. Quickly. 3. Unexpectedly. 4. All at once.
“Suddenly, in an instant, as if out of nowhere, the Lord Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise…”(Isaiah 29:5-6)
I remember in the first year of our newly planted church, when we had about 30 people coming along, we had a visiting minister who preached a message he called “The ‘suddenlies’ of God”. We were meeting in a school hall and just as he was getting right into his message (preaching as though he was preaching to 1000’s of people instead of a handful of adults and a dozen or so kids), he said these words: “And God suddenly moved…” and then the heater fell off the wall!!!!! There was a lot of commotion as the people nearby tried to upright the heater and turn it off. And all I remember about his message is that he just kept on preaching as though nothing had happened!! He didn’t even pause!
That memory has always stuck with me because I know that when God moves suddenly in my life, I do not keep going as though nothing has happened! I pause. I stop. Usually in awe of what God has just (suddenly) done.
Often in the Bible it says that Jesus did something (reached out His hand, spoke to someone etc.) and “immediately” a miracle took place. I read these stories and I think to myself, “awesome”! Immediately God will show up when I ask Him to because that’s how He did it in the Bible! Fantastic! I like instant gratification! I like God to move quickly. And so I pray for something to happen and nothing happens. It seems like God is inactive. Or absent even. And that’s so frustrating. But here’s the bit that I forget. When Jesus performed these so-called “immediate” miracles, they were often, in reality, a long time coming. How about the woman who bled for 12 years before Jesus healed her immediately. 12 YEARS! That doesn’t sound like “suddenly” to me! During those 12 years how many tears did she shed? During those 12 years how many prayers did she pray? During those 12 years how often did she feel alone and forgotten and neglected by God? But the Bible says when she touched the cloak of Jesus she was healed. Immediately. Suddenly. In an instant. Out of nowhere!
And then there’s the story found in Exodus 14 when God told Moses “Lift up your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the Israelites will go out on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” So Moses waved his hand over the Red Sea. And the sea parted immediately. Didn’t it? Didn’t the waves instantly stop? Didn’t the waters immediately divide and part? I’m sure that’s how it was in the movie version. But No! The Bible says: “All that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land, dividing the waters.”
All. That. Night.
So much for suddenly!
I’ve recently experienced a three year season of praying long and hard about a situation without receiving any immediate answers. It was difficult, wondering if God was hearing me. Wondering if God cared. Wondering if God was ever going to answer me. But God did hear those prayers. And when He (finally) answered them, it appeared as though He moved suddenly! Immediately our situation changed. Quickly. Almost without warning! In an instant. And I forgot how long I’d prayed and how I’d nearly given up. How I’d nearly walked away from my faith.
I realise (it’s taken me awhile!) that before anything appears to be actually happening “suddenly” in the natural, God is working behind the scenes – getting ready to act unexpectedly and supernaturally.
So why did I have to wait so long for my answer when God could have moved suddenly?
He needed me to learn how to wait.