As I browse through videos and various writings I find so much that has meaning for us and especially at this unique time in our lives. The other day I was fortunate enough to discover a writing that Father Rohlheiser titled God’s Finger in Our Lives. I would like to pass on some of his inspirational ideas that will shed light on our world situation and give us some important things to consider.
Robert Frost said that he could sum up everything he learned about life in three words: “It goes on!” That is very true, but Emerson goes a little deeper and says: “Life is a succession of lessons that must be lived to be understood.” Another true statement. But Rohlheiser helps us to understand that life is about how we discern the “finger of God” in the events of our lives. He suggests that each of us ask ourselves: “What is God saying to me in this particular event? What is God saying to the world in this event?”
An understanding that all the happenings in the world are the workings of “divine providence” goes back to biblical times when God’s people believed that nothing happened that was not understood as God’s direct working in that event. For example, they believed that if they lost a war, it wasn’t because the other side had superior soldiers, but rather that God had somehow engineered this to teach them a lesson. Or if they were hit by drought it was because God had actively stopped the heavens from raining, again to teach a lesson. For them, all these happenings were the result of God manipulating the situation.
Thus the sacred authors of the Bible gave the impression that God actively caused the event. This might be in their wording, but certainly not their intent. Rohlheiser makes this clear to us. He says that “never does the Bible intend to teach us that God causes wars or stops the rain or does anything else to cause suffering. The Bible does, rather, accept the fact that these and other happenings are the result of natural factors. Never can we say that a certain disaster is God’s punishment on us for our sins.” Father expounds on this, but to simplify it he tells us that, though God does not cause the disaster or disease or any other challenging situation, God definitely speaks through these events. “It is our religious task,” he says, “to discern the message. What is God saying to us through this?”
So where is the finger of God? “Understand,” Rohlheiser says, “God does not make events happen to us which move us in certain directions like chessman on a game board. Instead, events happen under their own steam as random as rain, which means that God is present in them, not as their cause but as the one who, even in the hardest and most severe of them, offers us the possibility of new life and healing.” “This,” he believes, “is what salvation is all about.”
So, clearly Rohlheiser wants us to understand that God is always speaking to us in every event of our lives. For us Christians, there’s no such a thing as a purely secular experience. The event may be the result of purely secular and contingent forces, but it contains a religious message for us always. It is our task to discern that message.
According to Rohlheiser, it’s interesting that we hear God’s voice mostly in experiences that are deeply painful for us rather than in events that bring us joy and pleasure. C.S.Lewis affirmed this when he wrote: “Pain is God’s microphone to a deaf world.” God is always speaking, but are we listening? It’s when our hearts start breaking that we begin to attune ourselves to the voice of God. Recall some of your own experiences when you heard God’s voice guiding, challenging, prodding you on. Recall when you experienced the “finger of God” in your life. Take the time this week to think about these times and what God taught you through them. It’s never too late to hear the message!