Asking God for a sign

Dr Peirong Lin

Asking God for a sign

In a blink of the eye, we are now in March. I am in denial of this new year, with life challenges feeling insurmountable. I work in full-time ministry with heavy responsibilities while raising 2 young active boys alongside my husband. It isa full season with lots of beautiful days, but also days that are really long and challenging. After the intense year that has gone, I wonder how I can survive this new year, let alone thrive.

God met me in my wondering.

In one of my recent work trips in Dallas, we visited a church for the very first time.With nursery services offered at church, I could pass my younger son, who was travelling with me, to them so that I could attend the church service. This was the first church service in 3 years that I did not have little people to care for. While I was glad for the respite, I was sure that I would be called in to attend to my son. I was pleasantly surprised that this did not happen. God had other plans.

In the sermon, the pastor referenced the story in Isaiah 7, where Judah was about to be attacked by their neighbours, Syria and Israel. This left Judah really fearful, “shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” It is in this context that Isaiah was sent to King Ahaz, the king of Judah.

Isaiah assured King Ahaz to keep calm and not be afraid: the Kingdom of Judah would not be ruined. It is the enemies that would be ruined instead. Ahaz was called to stand firm in his faith.  After sharing this word, Isaiah invited Ahaz to ask for a sign, which he declined. He reasoned that he did not want to put the Lord to the test. At first glance, this seemed like a gallant reaction. Ahaz was on board and believed all that Isaiah had said. Yet Ahaz was chided for testing the patience of humans and God himself. This rebuke and subsequent reaction revealed Isaiah’s perceptiveness of what was truly going on. Ahaz was dismissive of what Isaiah said. He did not take seriously what was said did not want to show what he truly needed or thought.

Through this story, I am convicted at how I am like Ahaz. I do not engage because I do not really believe the prophets that God sends my way. I do not want to be in a vulnerable position by asking for a sign. At the same time, I do not want to show my disbelief hence give the impression that I actually believe. The temptation to put on a front becomes real.

God however does not give up on Ahaz, or me. God chose to give Ahaz the ultimate sign – Immanuel, God with us. God is with us in our human condition, whatever we are going through. He does not magically remove the problem but is with us as we face the problem. I am reminded to look for him in my day-to-day life, to see him in small miracles in my children, or in impossible work problems that are solved before I try to deal with them. The mighty God I serve is with me. He is here in this (not) new year and is with me through all the challenges that will come my way. It is this ultimate sign that will get me through this year.