God loves to answer this question, no matter what the situation. We often wait till difficult times to ask this question since it’s easy to coast along when things are satisfactory or good. Life is often a learning ground if we open our heart to what God wants to teach.
God may want to teach us something about ourselves. There may be some aspect of our personality getting filed down (ouch). Or there may be some quality being birthed in us that is not natural – like patience. It could also be some aspect of God we are learning about – like grace or abundance. These lessons stretch our faith and trust capacity.
Challenging times invite us to ask a new question, “What am I supposed to learn?” Answers could come during listening prayer, or later Once asked, pay attention to themes in your devotion time, topics of sermons and how they relate to your situation, and to the characters that you are reading about in the Bible in your personal Bible Study. God uses these common practices to unveil answers to our questions.
People going through leadership issues often find themselves studying Nehemiah. I recently heard a sermon on Jonah titled with a reminder that “Change is possible.” Joshua and David battle stories fuel us with courage for challenging times. The apostle Paul offers examples of boldness, adventure, tenacity, and perseverance through adversity. God is not limited to characters in the Bible. He may use the story of a modern day businessman who shows integrity. He may use the conversation of a friend who shares what she is learning in life or learned from her Bible Study. Second hand lesson points count. God will get his point across when we ask with a sincere heart.
In pondering a Bible story that seems hopelessly ancient and unrelated, keep asking God if there is anything in the story that relates to our situation. Some people may get a disturbing dream and toss it aside. Again, ask God if and how the dream relates to the current situation. Before writing the dream off as a bad pizza dream, ask Him if there is a clue in the dream to a solution to the current day challenge. It all matters.
As God teaches us about some aspect of His character, we can ask Him how that relates to our situation. “God, I know you listen. I believe you hear my cry about this situation in my life. How does your grace work with this memo from headquarters in New York that impacts my work world? How can you love that person over there who gossips? How do I co-exist (let alone love) that person? God, how does your grace help me today when I am exhausted taking care of my autistic child? How does your grace meet me when my family member has hurt me so deeply?” Into each of these questions, look for answers. Even in the asking, growth unfolds. That’s why it is so important to keep the dialogue of prayer going. Look for, and allow answers from above.