I'm enjoying life in Texas these days! I'm busier than I've been in a while, but I feel so blessed and grateful for God's work in my life! =)
Today I wanted to share a chapter from my book, Seeing God Through The Storm. I know that listening to God isn't only a challenge when we're suffering, it's also hard when we're busy. =) So I hope this will be an encouraging reminder for each of us, wherever we are today.
Sometimes in the midst of the storm, it seems like God is silent. We call out to Him, yell at Him, or beg Him to act, yet there’s no reply. If you’ve experienced something like this, you can imagine how Job felt.
Perhaps God’s apparent silence was even more difficult for Job than his physical agony. For several chapters Job cried out to God, grieving over his situation, pleading for answers. Job’s friends condemned him. God remained silent. So Job made his final defense for his innocence, then he had nothing more to say. God hadn’t answered his questions or brought him relief. What else could he do?
Job had complained, questioned, begged, and wept until he was empty. His three friends finally stopped arguing with him. Then someone else spoke up.
So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu…became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused. -Job 32:1-5
Elihu was no kinder to Job than the other three men had been. He said, Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man! To his sin he adds rebellion; scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God" (Job 34:36-37).
However, in the midst of Elihu’s tirade, we once again find a gem of truth.
Why do you complain to Him that He answers none of man's words? For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. -Job 33:13-14
God does speak.
We may not always be perceiving, but God is always speaking.
God speaks to us through His creation (Rom. 1:19-20). Take a minute to consider the tree outside the window, the clouds drifting overhead, or the flower blooming among the weeds. God’s creation daily demonstrates who He is—His character and His ways (Ps. 19:1-3).
God is also speaking through the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16). We have pages and pages of God’s Word that He has spoken to His people over thousands of years. No matter what we’re going through, there is something in God’s Word that will speak to our need.
John 1:1 says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. As the Living Word, Jesus is continually speaking.
We may feel like God is silent, ignoring us, or has forgotten us, but that is not true. God could never forget us (Is. 49:15). His love never ignores us. And it is God’s very nature to speak. Our role is to keep learning how to listen.
For many people, listening is a lost art. It’s easier to talk. Listening to God requires even greater effort than listening to people because we can’t audibly hear God’s voice. Being still and listening with our spirits goes against our natural tendencies to keep busy or to surround ourselves with noise. Most often God speaks in a quiet voice, which we won’t hear unless we cultivate a listening heart.
In my illness I’ve had a lot of time to practice listening to God. As I lay on the couch day after day, too weak to speak, God was the only one I could talk to. I directed almost all my thoughts toward Him. Little by little, He has taught me how to listen to His side of the conversation.
In the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading the Bible. Being familiar with God’s Word helps me discern when God is speaking to my heart or when I’m hearing some other voice. God will never speak anything to us that contradicts what the Bible teaches. God’s voice is the voice of truth. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would speak to us and make the truth known to us (John 16:12-15). We learn to hear God’s voice by knowing His Word and by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Another thing that helps me listen to God is the habit of asking Him questions—and then expecting to hear from Him.
*I begin each day by asking God what He wants me to do that day, then waiting on Him to guide my thoughts.
*When people say upsetting things to me, I pray, “Lord, is what they’re saying true? What do you want me to learn from this?”
*If I have a decision to make, I ask God what His will is and wait for His guidance.
We can know we’ve heard God’s voice when His peace reigns in our hearts. As long as there is confusion, frustration, or conflict within us, we probably haven’t heard clearly from God. Yet He doesn’t always speak in the way we expect or give us the answers we want. At times I’ve asked God to explain a situation in my life, and instead He convicted me of a sin in my heart. He knew I needed a pure heart more than an explanation. But He did speak to me.
Listening to God doesn’t fit a formula. Primarily God speaks to us through the Bible. But as we learn to recognize His voice, He can also speak to us in unexpected ways. Sometimes God has spoken to me through a song, a painting, a person’s comments, even a dream. With the Holy Spirit living inside us, we always have the ability to hear God’s voice. However, there will always be competing voices, so it’s important to ask God to make us better listeners.
Perhaps at times we don’t want to listen to God because we’re afraid of what He’ll say. I feel that way sometimes. But even when I don’t like what God speaks to me, I’ve discovered it’s always worthwhile to listen to Him. About three and a half years into my health trial, God spoke to me through this verse: Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer (Rev. 2:10a). I clearly heard the Lord speak those words to me personally. At first I was encouraged—I didn’t need to be afraid! Then the second part of His message sunk in—my trial wasn’t over yet. I still had more suffering to endure. That was not something I wanted to hear, but God knew I needed to hear it. I needed to prepare my mind for more suffering. God knew what anguish I would experience in the following months and years. He graciously gave me this warning, along with the encouragement not to be afraid.
I believe God is always speaking in one way or another. Learning to perceive His voice is an ongoing process. Thankfully, He is a patient teacher. When He seems silent, don’t despair. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you listen, to open your ears to the ways God is speaking to you—perhaps through the love of other people, through a gentle breeze, or through a child’s laughter. Keep reading God’s Word, keep asking Him questions, and keep expecting to hear His voice. For God does speak—now one way, now another… (Job 33:14).
As we learn to listen and hear the LORD speaking, we will be transformed. We will grow in intimacy with the Almighty. We will find what we need in our suffering.
I am the good shepherd…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. -John 10:14a, 27