“Then he said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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” (1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV).
When I first traveled to South Asia, I was predisposed to prefer Nepal to Bangladesh. After all, Nepal is the “rooftop of the world”, the home of mighty Everest. It is a remote land of mystery, having been closed to foreigners for centuries. Its beautiful scenery and exotic culture have great appeal making it a major tourist destination since being opened in the past century.
Bangladesh on the other hand is a flat rice field, known primarily for floods, tsunamis, malaria, and poverty. It lacks mountains, waterfalls, or large forests with abundant wildlife. Its history is tied to that of India, and many assume it is still part of that larger nation. There is little tourist industry, and one may spend weeks there without seeing another foreigner.
However, after a number of years and many visits to both nations my attitude has changed greatly. I still love Nepal, and am freshly impressed by its beauty each time I visit.
But I have also learned to appreciate the quite different scenery and environment of Bangladesh. There is a lot to be said about fertile soil, plenty of fresh water, and lush greenery at all seasons.
I guess the lesson is that a land does not have to be spectacular to be beautiful. I am reminded of the story of Elijah’s vision of God in the wilderness. God sent the prophet out to stand upon the mountain so he could “see” the Lord.
Elijah was sent great events – a wind, an earthquake, and a fire – but God did not reveal himself through any of those. Rather he spoke to Elijah in a “still small voice.”
How often have we thought, “If God would just allow me to see a great miracle like those done by Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles, my faith would be so much stronger?”
We envy Moses, Isaiah, and Paul for their wonderful visions of God. We wish to have been in the shoes of the Twelve who spent time with Jesus, saw his wonderful works, and heard his teaching first hand. How convincing must that all have been.
But we are reminded that God appears to all of us in all the many aspects of his creation. He is not just in the mountains or the storms. He is also in the quiet fields and the gentle rains. His voice whispers to us in our moments of quiet reflection with the same authority with which he thunders in a hurricane.
Elijah was in a time of great crisis. He believed himself to be all alone, deserted even by God. But God reminded him that he is always with us, when we live in faithful trust. He does not reserve his appearances to times of great drama, or reveal himself only in spectacular scenes. Rather, he is everywhere, always, to comfort and help us.
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).