Sunday Lifestyle

Nudged by God

MANO-A-MANO - Adel Tamano -

Tinapik siya ng Diyos.” (Rough translation: “He was nudged by God”). My relative said this last week while talking about someone close to her who was experiencing financial, career and family problems. According to her, as this person was going through these difficulties, he was being “nudged” by God. The idea of God making his presence felt during times of misfortune, defeat and despair readily clicked with me. As a Muslim, though imperfect in the practice of my faith, I believe that God is always present in our lives and that he manifests his presence in many ways, especially during our times of trial.

Recently, perhaps even randomly, I’ve taken to reading the Psalms, which, as a side note, is respected by Muslims because in Islam the Christian holy books (Old and New Testaments) are accorded proper respect. The Psalms are a perfect example of our search for God’s presence in our lives during our most desperate hours. Psalm 3 reads in part:

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!

Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts my head high.

I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

Which brings me to this point: when David was calling out to God in this Psalm, he was able to derive strength and courage because of God’s presence and his belief that God would deliver him from this enemies. Very often, as we go about our busy lives, tending to our career, our family, our hobbies and other preoccupations, we have the unfortunate tendency to get so utterly consumed in our activities and forget the presence of God in our lives. But when we hit a speed bump or even a roadblock on our race to success and our life’s journey — for example, we get sick, we experience a loss in our family, a business goes belly up, we get retrenched, etc. — we suddenly turn to God for help. Hence David’s plea, “Lord, how many are my foes!” I don’t say this as an indictment but rather as a recognition of human frailty, that we recognize God’s presence — and seek his help — particularly during life’s down cycle instead of during life’s upswing.

So when we experience God’s little nudges in the midst of our personal problems and defeats, I think it isn’t because that is the only time that God makes himself present and tangible in our lives but rather instead it is during those times that we are most open to him. The reason I say this is that I think he is always present, always manifest in our existence. The Holy Koran makes numerous references to tangible, even mundane, things like the cycles of the sun and moon, the growth of plants — in short, the very fact of earthly life and existence as the tangible evidence of God’s existence and presence. Unfortunately, there is an aspect to being human that makes us selfish and self-centered and so we lose track of the divine presence in our lives.

Related to this, is the reality that God will test us. I hesitate to explicitly state my belief that God will send problems and difficulties for us to face because it may give the wrong impression that I believe in a God that is manipulative and perhaps even whimsical. I don’t believe in a whimsical God but I do believe that everything that happens in our lives, the good and the bad, is the will of God. In fact, Islam means, quite literally, surrendering to God’s will. So I don’t believe in a random, disorganized, purposeless reality and when I’m faced with trouble and defeat, as I have faced many times in my life, I take courage in the fact that these happen for a reason. And part of the reason is to open myself up to the reality, to being nudged by God, to being reminded that I am not wholly self-sufficient, that I should remember that I need to ask for his help. Part of human frailty also involves our deep vanity that we are adequate in all things.

Finally, one of my favorite verses in the Koran is the verse that says that “on no soul does God place a greater burden than it can bear.” Thus, for every person facing some great test or trial, the upshot for them is that God knows that they can bear the trial. Not necessarily that they will win or overcome the problem, obviously no person’s life is victorious in all things, but that they have the strength to bear their problems. So maybe when we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders and we feel God’s little nudge, it could be that he isn’t nudging us at all, but actually helping us carry the load; that, precisely because he knows the limits of what we can bear, in his great mercy and compassion for us, he actually helps in the lifting. So he isn’t actually nudging us when we are faced with deep despair and great trial but instead is steadying our shoulders and giving us strength to carry the load.











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