Does God ever nag?

The word has a negative connotation, definitely. “Don’t be a nag,” we chide, and we hope our words shock people out of the rut they’re in. “Me? Really? Is that what I’m doing? Sorry.” Nothing positive is ever paired with nagging. Coughs nag. Tickles in the throat nag. We never talk about a nagging joy, a nagging sense of hope. Right?

But back to the question. Does God ever nag? I don’t know what you’d call it, but… sort of?

The dictionary unpacks two kinds of nagging: Persistent fault-finding, and continuous urging. I can think of a third category: endless reminding. 

What does it mean when the Bible says, “(Samson) grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…” (Judges 13:25)? Stir can have a gentle connotation to it, right? Like in a recipe. “Stir in 1 cup milk.” But it can also have a more interesting flair, depending on how we use it: “He created quite a stir today, didn’t he?”

The dictionary definition includes ideas like “cause to move or be disturbed slightly,” or “rise or wake from sleep.” The Hebrew word for stir here means “to agitate.” Agitate means “to make (someone) troubled or nervous,” to “disturb.” My thesaurus links agitate with words like: upset, perturb, fluster, ruffle, disconcert, unnerve, disquiet, disturb, distress, unsettle, unhinge, rattle, faze, discombobulate, struggle,  push, and press.

So does God ever nag us?

He’s definitely not in a perpetual fault-finding game with us. But I think it’s pretty clear that he’s continually urging us and reminding us of things that matter to him and ought to matter to us.

The sermon I preached today is a perfect example of this… this… divine nagging. Maybe niggling is a better word. Or not.

Earlier this week I banged out my sermon, put my laptop to sleep, and went about my business. But an idea was trying to get my attention. I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t done with the message yet, that something wasn’t quite right. I went through it again, switching out words, dropping entire points, adding others.

Better. But not done yet.

I went through round two. Round three. Round four. Better, better, better.

But not there yet, God seemed to be saying.

Jesus, show me. I’m missing something, I can feel it, I prayed.

And then, on Saturday night, while watching a movie with my kids, I got it. I’d missed the point of my last two pages. The ideas were all there, but I’d mislabelled some things. Put them in the wrong order. It was more confusing than it had to be. I made the changes and knew in my spirit, It’s done. This is it.

Thank you, Jesus, for… uh… nagging me. My message was so much stronger for it.