When God's Answer is a Question
By Shawna Sullivan
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Shawna's Story
My two-year-old pressed firmly on my growing belly in an attempt to connect with her baby brother. Curious hands stretched outward, as if searching the globe for treasure; the sudden kicks made her giggle and jump with delight. Expecting my second child after a recent miscarriage was an answer to prayer, but as I evaluated my life, nothing made sense. The cyclone of life changes within the past few years had left me spinning. Having children, moving apartments, and leaving behind a career left me lost and weary.
Before this second child entered the scene, I needed to get away…alone.
I nervously booked a charming bed & breakfast within a few hours of NYC for two nights. Driving north on I-95, all I could picture was the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis, demanding a blessing. Like Jacob, I had some wrestling to do.
My husband and I had moved to the Northeast seven years prior with a plan: work in the corporate world for two years, and then settle back in the South with bolstered resumes and secured futures. Each year the plan shifted, ushering in seasons of simultaneous blessing and grieving. My heart was grateful; however, I was under the faulty assumption that after years of dedicating our lives to a church plant, we would experience the reward of an easier life.
It wasn’t getting easier, and I wanted answers.
Nestled against the Long Island Sound in the Lower Connecticut River Valley, I entered a scene resembling a Hallmark movie. The website described it “perfect for a honeymoon, anniversary, or romantic weekend getaway,” yet there I was standing alone at the counter — a pregnant woman carrying baggage.
During my visit, I didn’t leave the room except to eat. Pages began to fill with accusations, doubts, and questions addressed to my Heavenly Father. In the deep recesses of my heart, I knew that if I was going to confront God and find freedom, everything needed to be brought to light. I was weary of feeling enslaved to my unfulfilled longings.
In the midst of questioning, “Why?”, I was confident that peace and joy could be found, but I didn’t know how.
My questions for God continued:
God, why did you bring us to New York City to start a family?
Why are we here, helping to plant a church, rather than move where we want to be?
Why are you calling some of our closest friends to leave Manhattan, but asking us to stay?
Why aren’t you providing more financially?
Why does your blessing include so much pain?
You’ve blessed us with a beautiful family, but why isn’t that enough?
The night was filled with raw and tangible confession. Repenting of my deep-seated anger and bitterness, I fell asleep with a tear-soaked pillow.
The next morning, I pushed back the heavy, dark curtains allowing sunlight to wash the room illuminating undiscovered places, symbolic of the purification process in my heart.
“Since then, we have a great high priest… Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, … Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 3:14-16, ESV).
It was time for me to draw near, be quiet, and start listening.
During this process, I heard the whispers of a God who had seemed blind to my pain remind me He is a God who sees.
Throughout scripture, God is approached with lists of questions and accusations, yet he often answers back with reminders of his character or a question of his own.
When Job seeks understanding for the suffering in his life, God responds, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding,” (Job 38:3 ESV).
I felt God directing this same question to me.
As Proverbs 3:5 suggests, would I continue to lean on my own understanding or begin to lean on his alone? Dedicating this time to meditate on his Word and cry out in prayer, like so many who have gone before, allowed me to be heard.
I had arrived with a need for answers, yet departed with a question from Him that addressed my deepest longings: Do you trust me?
It was with this question that He graciously ushered me back into my real life.
As the twists and turns continued, my eyes began to see his faithfulness. My heart began to lean on his understanding. And my joy began to increase amidst the unknowns.
Even now, I can hear his gentle whisper in my spirit as I continue to demand answers and lay heavy burdens at his feet. Do you trust me?
Can you hear it too?
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE prayer resource that will guide you through meeting with God in prayer, called, “Closer: Five Postures to Hear Him Louder."
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens in January and June. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Shawna Sullivan is the mother, home educator, and chauffeur to four children. She and her husband love encouraging others to live intentionally, embrace adventure, and find joy in a life surrendered to the mission of Christ. Now back in Texas after 13 years in New York, she will never take a backyard, time with family, air conditioning, or her own laundry room for granted.
Shawna writes regularly on her website, sharing truth-filled encouragement and practical ways to find a fulfilling life by investing in that which is truly valuable.