As I pulled up to the stop light in a Dallas suburb, I mumbled, “Right, left or straight?” The word “right” lingered in my mind, so I made the turn. My knuckles were white on the steering wheel and every muscle in my body felt like tightly wound guitar strings. As I rounded the corner, I saw a row of yellow buses parked ahead.
I had failed to bring directions to my 13-year-old daughter’s volleyball tournament. Our family was at a hotel for a week-long conference in Dallas, and my job had been to pick up Natalie so that she could join the rest of us after her last game. Her coach had agreed that I could come get her just before the team drove back to our home town of Lindale, nearly 100 miles away. With family cell phones yet a thing of the future, I had no way of communicating that she should go ahead and ride back with her team. My little girl was going to be left on a Dallas street corner as evening came on. I was desperate.
And then an absurd thought came to me: you believe that God speaks; ask Him to guide you to the tournament site. With the sun getting low, I didn’t debate the idea long. I nervously pulled out of the hotel parking lot, repeating my four-word prayer at every intersection. Within 20 minutes I saw her standing beside one of the tournament school buses. I was dumbfounded. I could barely believe it had really worked!
God, the Communicator
It was a long time before I shared this experience with anybody, mainly because I was ashamed to admit I had stupidly forgot the directions. But it was a powerful reminder of what the Bible reveals, that God speaks and wants us to hear and respond to what He has to say (1 Samuel 3:1-11; John 10:2-5). And He has more to speak to you than just directions in a big city. So as followers of Jesus, what’s keeping us from hearing Him?
I find a common obstacle is the struggle to accept that He actually wants to speak to me. I sometimes wonder, why would He? He’s God and probably very busy running the universe. I’m not that important, am I?
This barrier is simply unbelief. We easily doubt that His written word has any relevant things to say to us today, especially about who we as 21st Century humans really are and how we’re to live our lives. So why would we embrace the idea that God desires to communicate something specific, intimate and meaningful to individual humans? Holding on to the belief that He longs for meaningful interaction with us faces withering opposition from the cynicism that rules our culture.
It’s a major hurdle: initiating and maintaining a childlike belief in God’s character as a Communicator. But only as we choose to see Him this way can we embrace that He aches to intimately connect with each of us.
So, if God desires to speak, what kinds of things can we expect Him to say?
He longs for all He has made to choose to come close to Him. So, it seems clear to me that His communication to us will always have the goal of doing just that—drawing alienated people to Himself.
I can identify three basic categories of what God wants to say.
1. How He Feels About You
A lot of us still think of God as angry, busy or simply not that interested. The idea that He has tender feelings for us and passionately desires to express them is a foreign thought or to-good-to-be-true. But we need to remind ourselves of the imagery in Zephaniah 3:17:
“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful singing” (NLT).
Have you ever let yourself stop and hear God’s “joyful singing” over you? It can be more than a person can handle, which is one reason why some may not want to hear it. But it’s there. A song is being sung over you right now and you can hear it if you dare to believe that you are THAT loved and He is THAT good.
Why does He want to communicate this way? After all, humans have continuously violated His will cutting ourselves off from Him. Our sin has wreaked havoc on us and cost Him so much, yet even as a holy God He keeps pursuing us. “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT). He pursues us; He loves us; He likes us because He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has offered His heart even when we rejected Him. He sacrificed Himself even while we were rebels.
He’s for us. And He wants us to know it.
I have come to believe that the greatest percentage of God’s communication toward me is centered on His deep affection, care and longing for me. But I often reject His “still, small voice” as my own imagination. When I acknowledge and accept the countless words of tenderness and affirmation He sends my way each day, then I’m in a position to hear the other things He wants to tell me.
2. Guidance for Your Decisions
Many people turn to God wishing Him to speak when they’re at a crossroads or feel stuck.
God, which school should I go to?
God, what career should I pursue?
God, is this the person I should marry?
Or, God help me find my daughter in Dallas.
And it can be so frustrating when we don’t hear an immediate answer. However, He often has an order to what He desires to communicate to us. Do we know what is most important to Him? I now believe I heard him that evening in Dallas long ago because I had already settled the question of His love for me and dared to go out on a limb in trust.
Guidance from God is vital. But the attitude in which we receive direction can be even more significant. If we are not hearing and responding to His loving affirmation or humbly submitting to His correction, we are unlikely to receive and obey guidance that we don’t understand or don’t like. And rarely do we initially comprehend all the “whys” of what He is saying. Is He going to give us direction if we’re not acknowledging what He’s already shown us? Sometimes He waits until we’re ready to hear and respond to first things, first.
3. Direction in Ministering to Others
What He has to say isn’t just for you. He desires you to be a conduit of His affirming love or joyful song to others. Are we opening ourselves to hear and pass along God’s goodness to those He brings across our path? Affirming words, prayers of faith, pronouncements of truth, declarations of God’s goodness, acts of kindness? It’s difficult, if not impossible, to give to others what we have not first chosen to receive for ourselves.
A desire to hear God is good. It is worthy of a life-long commitment. Whether it’s very specific guidance we need or affirming words of love, He’s ready to give it. But as everything in our walk with God, we must learn to listen and respond His way. So, choose to hear. Choose to obey. And never give up!