Does God Hear Us? Thoughts on the Feast of the Conception of St. John the Forerunner

The Gospel according to Luke begins with the story of the circumstances surrounding the conception and birth of St. John the Forerunner. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years (Lk. 1:5-7). However, in comparing this with the hymn of the Forerunner’s parents’ righteousness, the words of the angel who appeared to the Prophet’s father may seem a little strange to us: Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John (Lk 1:13). Why was the righteous man’s prayer heard only now, when he’s already reached the limits of his earthly life? Could it really be that the Lord did not harken to the voice of the holy Forerunner’s parents all their lives?

This is a question that is close to every Christian. Does God hear us? And why does He so often keep silence in answer to our requests? And if He answers, then why don’t we hear that answer? One doubt unavoidably gives rise to others, and life gets filled with indecisiveness, wavering, and fruitless searches.

It is hard to justify God’s silence. Nevertheless, in this is the meaning of a Christian’s life. After all, God’s love is not blind, it is perfect, and that means that it can refuse a request that would not be beneficial to a person. Our faith should ceaselessly destroy our reason’s doubts with one argument: If God is silent, it means that He has a reason for it! This is the thought with which we should bring the good tidings of the Savior to the whole world. We are called through our patience, through our faith to justify God’s silence before the insane world, which demands that the Creator definitely proclaim Himself clearly and unambiguously. In fact, God is not silent; He speaks in the language of perfect love, which can be understood only by one who is ready to answer this love! In this language even silence is filed with the reverent acceptance of His fatherly good will toward His creation. It is very important to receive this and keep it in your heart in order to answer your doubts in a moment when the cruelty of outward circumstances or some other causes make you doubt that God hears us. It is in that very moment that our faith must have its word: It means that the time has not yet come for my Savior to give me the task of witnessing to His love, to justify His silence before the whole world… This is a great honor—to hear God’s silence in your life and to answer it with thankfulness!

There is something else. Few have the resolve to ask God. For some the responsibility is too heavy, others are simply afraid that God will not answer. Nevertheless, we have to ask. This is a healthy need of the human soul—to fill life with God’s answer. The lack of is testifies to spiritual sickness—to faithlessness. This path is mortally dangerous, because such a person does not need God, and God is alien to him. Not the Savior, but his own “I” fills his life. Consequently, sooner or later he has to experience the bitterness of dissatisfaction with himself, and with the world around him.

There is only one way to avoid the destructiveness of disappointment—to live according to God’s counsel, in His presence. Just the same, often for us this way of life, this asking of God becomes inaccessible because our own expectations and hopes take up too much of our turning to God, and do not leave any place for the Creator’s voice.

Unnoticeably to us, the question grows into a demand. It seems completely innocent to us, it seems to be the natural development of our feelings and anxieties. However, the first step in that direction has been made—we are demanding… Of course, this demand may not sound so completely self-assured. It sounds like a pious confession of the Creator’s omnipotence, similar to how the tempter once approached the Savior in the desert: If Thou art the Son of God… (Mt. 4:3,6). So also does our demand made to God begin with the thought of the Creator’s omnipotence, with the secret reproach: “After all, Lord, You can do anything, You can turn circumstances around in such a way that the answer would become unambiguous and obvious.” Yes, our reason craftily tells us, the Savior Himself once even said quite definitely: Ask, and it will be given thee; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto thee… (Mt. 7:7).

And the person waits for the answer. But the answer does not come—God is silent. Unfortunately, this happens rather often in our lives. We converse with the Creator in different languages, not understanding what and how they answer us. We are expecting to hear the thunderous voice of God Almighty, we demand a clear answer to our prayers, beg Him to resolve our perplexities; but in answer we meet ordinary people, immerse ourselves in ordinary circumstances, observe the same old world, the same old life around us. The world has not changed, it seem to us; no great changes have happened, not even in our modest little life. Could it really be so hard for God to answer, to come and show us?
Probably the Prophet Elias in the Sinai desert waited for God’s appearance, as heralded by the angel, with similar feelings. Holy Scripture talks about this without extra details, but with sufficient definiteness: And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice (3 Kings 19:11-12)—and there is the Lord. As it turns out, it is actually simpler in real life to see God in something extraordinary, miraculous, or colorful than to accept His Providence in everyday life… These expectations of meeting with the Almighty Creator of the world are too tempting to get rid of so easily and to hear the loving voice of the Savior to us in the advice of a close one… We expect and demand an obvious and definite answer that leaves no room for wavering and doubt; but God leaves room for patience, love, meekness, and humility.

Just like us, the Jews were not hoping to receive an answer like this at all when they were expecting their messiah who would subject peoples to them and restore the might of Israel. However, from this perspective the Gospel turns out to be absolutely incomprehensible. Couldn’t the Almighty Lord openly testify to His presence to the world? Why is it all so complicated? Why was the meek, gentle voice of Jesus of Nazareth heard from Olivet instead of the voice of the Master, the Creator, or at least a great military commander or king? Why did the Lord hide Himself from many people—wasn’t He able…?

God’s Providence for us is ceaseless, it need not be specially sought; we only need to listen to it and stop. This is the lot of our faith, its living and healthy manifestation—the feeling of constancy and hope in God, assurance in the fact that He always answers, in every moment, ceaselessly.

Man is called to seek God’s will. This is the only thing that is truly worth spending our whole lives seeking. Nothing else can bring happiness, nor eternity. All of life’s problems begin when something else appears next to God, and man tries to fill with it the inadequacy of his efforts in reaching for the Truth.

We need to give place to God in life. He does not break through forcefully, but stands by the door knocking: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). And this is the most important fact in the life of a Christian: God only answers those who seek Him, who are ready to find room for Him in their lives. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you (Jas. 4:8).

Source: http://orthochristian.com/74162.html