I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
God loves to talk to his children, though to some of his best friends he is inexplicably silent for most of their lives, and their roots grow deep.
Some of you have cried for years for God to speak to you and heard little, while others seem to keep up a daily correspondence. Some of you feel a ‘sense’ that comes over you, while others quote him verbatim and affirm he said it That Way.
Some of you have been hurt by people who used God’s voice as ammunition in an argument, or a shouting fest, or a church split. Some of you are afraid to repeat anything he told you because—what if it was just your imagination?
Did I mention that learning to hear God is a journey?
My dad was right; it takes time to learn to hear him. And you will make a lot of mistakes. It’s okay. Keep listening. He is so good.
I have missed him often, disobeyed him often, and still he offers me the precious gift of his voice. Sometimes it comes in power; sometimes in quiet sweetness. Sometimes it makes me weak in the knees with glory; sometimes it is the most natural, simple thing in the world, when he helps me learn what to cook for lunch, or how to get started on a project, or not to forget that item at the store.
His words do not come to me in English, but in a shape. Each time I speak them to someone else, I am conscious that I am decoding and must be careful; I can never say them quite like he did.
He speaks in so many ways. Only once in my life do I remember begging God for a sign—one dark evening when I was a teenager, facing a nearly insignificant decision that I knew would have bearing on all the rest of my life. He gave it to me in the stars. Once he showed me a woman with the saddest eyes I’d ever seen: showed her to me so sharply that I stopped walking in the middle of the fairgrounds and knew I was to speak to her. It has haunted me always that I walked away. (I disregarded his voice and he didn’t give up on me; can you believe it?) Once he lifted a taboo, and then spoke to me the sweetest words of my life. More than once he’s made me laugh aloud—like the time I went to him with a decision and he said “What are you asking me for? Your husband already told you to go for it.” More than once he’s wakened me from sleep when I asked him to. Many, many times he is my reminder, the quiet voice intruding on my thoughts to tell me what I must learn or do. Many times his words are simple joy, and leave me smiling. Many times they are so sharply sweet they leave me weeping and worshipping.
He is so good.
How to hear him?
I can’t sit here and tell you “Now if you just open your heart wide and say the right words and clear your mind of all distractions… If you want it bad enough… If you persist in prayer until he answers…”
No. In fact, trying to completely clear our minds can result in the most ludicrous of ideas. Anything pops into them when we try so hard to empty them. And if we succeed in shutting down all thought, we are simply caught in a great paralysis of holy nothingness. Sometimes our silence shuts him out.
Other times our noise takes over. We are so desperate to hear from him that we cut ourselves off from him—screaming into the sky while he stands waiting at our elbow.
If you can, start your conversations with him by bringing your mind to rest on this simplest of truths: He is right here. Otherwise your spirit is still on the wing, flitting about trying to locate him. Let your heart return again and again to nestle in his presence. God is delighted with the smallest of faith, and loves to reward it.
There is much of his voice that you’ve already heard. Start there.
I like what came out repeatedly in your stories. While you are thinking, he speaks to you. While you are moving, he steers you.
There may be times you will need to hear specifically from him before you act, but may I suggest that they are few? He has given you everything you need for life and godliness. He already told you how to love him supremely, how to love others sacrificially, how to conduct yourself in relation to friends, enemies, difficulty, celebration, government, ill health, an evil world, hard work and joyful play.
Live. Act. Walk forward—always listening. He will be with you and teach you everything you need to know.
I am grateful to have said all on the subject that I feel I ought. I am tired. I feel a great need to grow in Jesus—and though I have told the truth as clearly as I know how, I know that some of what I say is slanted because he is not done teaching me.
Hope and courage!