First of all, God will not make His presence known to each of us in the same way. We read in Exodus 33 that when Moses asked to see Him, His glory was so brilliant Moses’s eyes were shielded, but when Elijah needed to feel His presence, He manifested Himself as a small voice (I Kings 19:11-13). God knows exactly how to meet us where are. I ask for a bit a forgiveness in advance from my cousin and my friend, as I might not have remembered the exact details or dialogue of the stories, but I know the broad strokes are indeed accurate.
Because of a divorce, my cousin found herself having to raise her two children on her own. These were not easy nor inexpensive years as they lived in Southern California and the two children would be entering middle school soon and then high school. She had a good job and worked hard, but still it was difficult to provide. Finally, one night she found herself in tears as she discovered she didn’t even have any scrap paper to take home. In frustration and discouragement she cried out to God, “I can’t even afford scrap paper!” The very next day, a co-worker, a very, very unlikely co-worker, came up to her with a box full of scrap paper and said, “ ––, I don’t know why, but I felt like I was supposed to bring this to you. Sorry, all it is is scrap paper.” This time the tears were tears of joy.
A friend of mine has now found herself providing 24/7 care for her husband who is suffering from a long and slow degenerative disease. The days are taxing, the future looks bleak and unchanging, and she finds herself impatient, frustrated, and drained. She continually prays for God’s strength, but one day (during a break from her care giving) while bike riding with her best friend, she broke down when they had stopped at a bridge to rest.
“I just want to know that God is listening,” she said between sobs. Her friend put her arms around her and said, “Let’s ask God for a sign from the river.” And then proceeded to pray, “God, show us something from the river to let us know that you hear us.” Almost immediately, a huge fish jumped from the river in a large arc. “Look!” her friend said, but by the time she had looked up, the fish had disappeared. The sobs returned.
“Now I even missed my sign!”
But she hadn’t. For it wasn’t the fish that was the sign. Our river has river otters, or so they say. Few have ever seen them, and those who have say they have seen near the southern part of the river, swimming. Never by this bridge which is two miles up the river. However, on this day, at this time, one of those elusive little creatures decided to exit the river, climb up on a rock, and look directly up at my friend. From her perspective it even looked like he was smiling at her. The two looked at each other for a long time before the otter slid back into the water.
No, God does not appear on demand, and yes, I know, skeptics will say both of these incidences were merely coincidences, which is how the world explains unexpected encounters. But nothing is unexpected for God, and when He believes we need something a bit more tangible from Him to reinforce the words of His promises, He provides it.