Choosing to Hear God

As I pulled up to the stop light in a Dallas suburb, I mumbled under my breath, “Right, left or straight?” The word “right” lingered in my mind, so I made the turn. My knuckles were white clinging to the steering wheel, and every muscle in my body felt like tightly wound guitar strings. As I rounded the corner, a row of yellow buses were parked ahead. An incredulous sigh of relief burst from my lungs.

I had been distracted and failed to get directions to my 13-year-old daughter’s volleyball tournament in Dallas. Our family was at a hotel in the city for a week-long conference. I had the task of picking Natalie up after her last game so that she could join the rest of us at the hotel. Her coach had agreed that I should come get her just before the team drove back to our hometown of Lindale, nearly 100 miles away. Family cell phones were yet a thing of the future. I had no way of calling to get directions or inform her that she should just ride back with her team and stay with a friend till our conference ended. My little girl was going to be left on a Dallas street corner with evening coming on! It was my fault, and I was desperate.

And then an absurd thought: “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 pulled out of the hotel parking lot, repeating my four-word prayer at every intersection, trying to keep all the rational questions at bay. And then after about 20 minutes, I saw her standing beside one of the tournament school buses. I was dumbfounded. It had really worked!

God, the Communicator

It was a long time before I shared this experience with anybody, mainly because I felt like such a bad father having forgotten to get the directions. But it was a profound reminder of what the Bible reveals—that God cares, He speaks, and He wants us to hear and respond (1 Samuel 3:1-11; John 10:2-5). He has even more to say than merely providing driving directions.

As followers of Jesus, what’s keeping us from hearing Him?

I find a common obstacle is accepting that He actually wants to speak to me. I sometimes wonder, why would He? He’s God, after all, and terribly busy running the universe. Surely there’s more important stuff calling for His attention.

This barrier, however, is simply unbelief. Many today don’t even take His written word, the Bible, seriously. So why would we embrace the idea that God longs to communicate specific, intimate, and relevant words to individuals? Holding on to the belief that He desires meaningful interaction with us can feel silly and naïve in the 21st Century where cynicism rules.

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 dare to believe that He is ready to intimately connect with each of us as we open our hearts to Him.

So, if God desires to speak, what kinds of things can we expect to hear from Him?

He longs for each person He’s made to accept His offer to come close to Him as His child. So, it seems clear to me that His communication will always have the goal of doing just that—drawing alienated people into His family.

I can identify three basic categories of what God wants to say.

1. How He Feels About You

Many still think of God as perpetually angry, busy, or simply not interested. The idea that He has tender feelings for us and passionately desires to express them is typically 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 imagine that God is joyfully singing over you? Close your eyes, still your heart, and tell your Heavenly Father that you want to hear His thoughts, feelings, and even His songs about you. There is something tender, personal and transformative He wants to communicate—perhaps with a melody or through another kind of affectionate expression. 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 woos and pursues. “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 loves us; He likes us because He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and paid an unimaginable price to make us His children. He has offered His heart even when we rejected Him. He sacrificed Himself even while we were rebelling.

He’s for us. And He wants us to hear it so we can 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 as His son. 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 and don’t know what to do.

God, which school should I go to?

God, what career should I pursue?

God, how do I get out of this mess?

God, is this the person I should marry?

God, how do I fix this relationship?

God how can I find my daughter in Dallas? 

It can be frustrating when we don’t receive an immediate answer. However, I believe He often has an order to what He desires to communicate. 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. In my desperation, I dared to put that love to the test.

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 or obeying 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, joyful song, or message of hope to others. Are you willing to hear and pass along God’s goodness to those He brings across your path? Affirming words, prayers of faith, pronouncements of truth, declarations of God’s goodness, acts of kindness?

But remember, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to give to others what you have not first received for yourself.

The desire to hear God’s voice is good. It is worthy of a life-long commitment. Whether it’s very specific guidance you need or affirming words of love, He is speaking. But as everything in your walk with God, you must learn to listen and respond His way. So, choose to hear. Choose to obey. And never give up!

Response

  • What thoughts, circumstances or past experiences stir up unbelief that God speaks and desires to communicate specifically and meaningfully to me? What will it take to lay down those hindrances?
  • Do I really want to hear what God has to say to me?
  • When I don’t hear God in the way I expect, how do I respond?
  • What do I need to do with my cynicism, my unbelief?
  • Jesus, what do you want to speak to me right now?

(Edited and reposted from October 21, 2019)

One Comment on “Choosing to Hear God

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