Don’t expect God to talk to you on your cell phone. He doesn’t zoom or text either. God communicates through the written word in a sacred book: the Bible. For thousands of years people have found strength, courage, and comfort in Scripture. It is a powerful book because it is God’s Word.
One way to connect with God through the Bible is to open this book at random and read the verses your eyes fall on. Some may regard this as superstition or at least foolishness. It seems rather simplistic. But didn’t Jesus recommend being childlike? This practice was not beneath saints and other holy people, and it worked for them. When St. Francis of Assisi was founding his religious community, he opened the Bible three times, and each time he learned a principle for his Rule that the Franciscans would live by. Francis called this practice “First Opening.” When Thomas Merton was discerning whether to join the Trappists, a community with a high regard for silence, he opened the Bible and read, “Be silent, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Several times in my life, God has spoken to me this way. The most striking message came when I was an eighteen-year-old postulant with my heart set on becoming a Sister of Notre Dame. I entered the convent in the turbulent era when a number of sisters were leaving the convent. That year some of my teachers whom I admired were among them. I wondered, Maybe I also better go now before I get into this too deep.
One day I was praying alone in our college chapel, asking the Lord what I should do. The Bible on a stand in the front lay open. I walked up to it and looked down. These words (which happen to be today’s, Tuesday’s, Gospel) leaped out at me: (Mark 10:28–31)
Peter began to say to Jesus,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
I stayed. It is now more than fifty years later. Over that time, difficult circumstances have prompted me to ponder those words anew. I clung to them. I credit them, God’s personal communication, for my perseverance.
I have witnessed God speaking to other people through Scripture. In my talks on the Bible I invite the audience to draw out a slip of paper with a Scripture verse and take it as God’s words to them. At one convention, after this was done, a young woman came to me with tears running down her face. She said, “As I was on the plane coming here, I was debating if I should just quit my job as a DRE.” She handed me her slip of paper and said, “Read what God said to me.” It was, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Another time, I was giving a workshop to a school faculty. One woman kept walking out. Finally, after the Scripture verse activity, she stood and explained, “I’m sorry. I’ve stayed as long as I could, but my contractions are getting closer. I need to call my husband and go to the hospital. Before I leave I have to read you my verse: ‘Your labor will not be in vain.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Later I learned that the woman had several miscarriages and the whole parish was praying for a successful delivery this time. The next day the principal called to tell me the baby was born.
God touches our lives in many ways. Undoubtedly he can choose to talk to us in our own human words whenever he chooses.
• Has God ever spoken to you when you have practiced the “Lucky Dip” or as some refer to it, “Bible Roulette”?
The following video is a touching mosaic of God’s words to you culled from the Bible: a treat for the heart and the eyes.