I remember the first time I sat down to spend time with God with the full intention of hearing what he had to say. I had my Bible, my journal, my cup of coffee; I was ready. I was focused, eager, and slightly terrified. “What if I can’t hear anything? What if I am the only one who can’t hear His voice? What if I make a fool of myself? What if He doesn’t want to speak to me?” I had to stop myself and turn to listening again because I was getting anxious. I went back and forth from sitting still and waiting for God to speak, to letting my thoughts and doubts run wild. Finally, I looked up to the huge tree in our backyard and saw two squirrels having the time of their lives jumping from branch to branch. In a moment of desperation, and scared of God not speaking, I began to make up God’s message to me that morning. “Maybe He’s trying to speak to me through these squirrels. Maybe He’s trying to show me that just as they run free and wild, I was made to live fearlessly….” I don’t remember exactly what I thought God said, but I do recall writing this long paragraph about the message that I had received through those squirrels. Looking back, I laugh a little at myself for the things I wrote about my first time actively listening to God. To this day, it’s sort of a joke between Him and me. “Hey Gail, remember that time when I sent you the squirrels?”
I’ve grown a lot since then, I’ve learned the beauty of actually hearing from God and I’ve discovered how life-giving, freeing and restoring are the words spoken from God himself. It has been a journey, a beautiful, frustrating, stretching and healing one. And I wouldn’t change any part of it; it was all worth it! Now, I am not going to give you a list of do’s and don’ts, a three step program for you to follow so you can hear God’s voice. There is no magic formula, but I do want to make suggestions and share things that might be helpful for you. I know they were for me.
Intimacy with Jesus is the goal.
First of all, why do you want to hear His voice? Comfort? Guidance? Direction for your life? Encouragement? He does give us all of those, and generously so! But that can’t be your only motivation, otherwise it’s no longer about relationship, but about what you can get from Him. When you have intimacy in mind, when getting to know God is what makes you seek him, when you want to hear his voice because ultimately you want to know His heart, you relax and actually make room for Him to speak. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the what, that we forget The Who; we’re so focused on God speaking to us that we forget to just enjoy Him. Remember, it is a relationship!
Lies will get in the way.
“He doesn’t want to speak to you, you can’t hear from God, you have to do this and this and that in order for him to speak to you…” The story I shared with you shows how lies can get in the way of being able to hear God. I ended up imagining what He was saying instead of having His own words to remember. Don’t get me wrong, the thoughts I captured on my journal about that morning where good, they were biblical, they were right, but in my fear, in my doubt and unbelief, in my believing the lie that He didn’t want to speak or that He wouldn’t show up, I couldn’t hear what He had to say!
What is the truth? In John 10:27 we read, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” In this chapter, Jesus refers to us as His sheep and to Himself as the good shepherd. He says that we know His voice and follow Him! The only way of knowing someone’s voice is by hearing it constantly, until we’re familiar with it. And know that God never will never contradict His character or His Word when speaking.
He longs to speak to you, you are His child, you are His!
You don’t have to beg, you don’t have to fear, you don’t have to convince Him, He desires to speak and to be heard by us far more than we can imagine. He wants us to be so familiar with His voice that we recognize when He is speaking and when it’s not Him. “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”(John 10:5) If we only stay still, if we only quiet our hearts and minds, if we only wait, He will meet us there. Believe me, that is the sweetest place to be.
Don’t box Him in.
Why do you try to box Him in? He is God, and I don’t mean this in a He-is-God-and-you-are-not kind of way, but more as a reminder that since He is God, He is creative and also knows exactly how our hearts need to be spoken to. A worship song, a word from someone, a movie scene, a quote, a thought, nature, the Bible… He is eager to speak to you. So instead of trying to confine the living God into your own ideas of what it should look like and limit Him with your expectations, let Him come to you as He choses. It is an adventure and there is so much beauty and freedom in the unexpected ways He chooses to speak.
A lot of times, what robs and hinders us the most in hearing from God is fear. We are afraid that He won’t speak so we don’t fully listen. Or when we do listen and He speaks we are afraid to have misunderstood or misheard Him so we are afraid to share what He said or to obey what He’s asked us to do, and then we’re afraid to go to Him again because of our disobedience. You see? Fear. We haven’t been given a spirit of fear! We can embrace what He has spoken, with the confidence that we do hear from Him, and if it wasn’t Him, there is grace to cover any mistake you could make trying to listen and obey God. So share, obey, take the step, you weren’t created to live in what’s comfortable, but to believe and live out the daring truth.
The bottom line is this:
He does want to speak to you. I think the moment I realized this, things began to shift in my relationship with God and the way I approached listening to Him. I understood that I didn’t have to do the dance and say and do all the right things, I could come as freely and confidently as a child comes to their Father, because that’s exactly what I am and what He is to me. So breathe and rest, you don’t have to impress him, you don’t have to convince him, you don’t have to earn it, you simply have to come. He’s been waiting for you all along.
Gail’s family is from Mexico and has served as missionaries in North Africa and Spain, so it’s no wonder that the YWAM lifestyle called her name – it’s in her blood! We’re glad this free-spirited nomad has made Louisville her home. Gail is a gentle sunbeam, bringing warmth and beauty to those around her through joyful creativity and deep relationship. She’s a worshiper through and through, whether it’s writing songs that honor Jesus, delighting in his creation with her photography, or celebrating what God has done in the people around her. Gail has many talents, but she’s quiet about it, so you might have to bribe her with Chik Fil A to get her to show them off.