Listening to God
Do you hear when God speaks to you? I don’t just mean when you read your Bible, but when you pray, do you hear? Do you listen to God?
Some Christians believe that the only way God speaks to His people today is through His written Word. That is definitely one way He does speak to us, and I submit that if you are not in His Word regularly you won’t hear when He speaks to you in other ways because you won’t recognize His voice.
But I firmly believe that God speaks to His people through His Holy Spirit, but it is up to us to listen and obey. Recently I had an experience of God speaking to me during my prayer time with a fairly specific direction of something He wanted me to do. I want to share this experience with you so you can see what I mean.
I had a conversation with a colleague who is going through some personal challenges with an very ill and most likely dying family member. She confided that she was struggling to handle both her work and family responsbilities, as she is the primary caregiver for this family member. She thought she ought to be able to do it all, and her co-workers were not very sympathetic to the fact that she was really not able to. My response was to show her sympathy and to tell her I thought she needed to prioritize what she could do and that she shouldn’t feel guilty for having to let some things go, to say “no” to some responsibilities. She thanked me for talking to her and we hung up.
Now, just to be clear, this is not really a close friend. I have known her for a few years as a work colleague, but have not had occasion to deal with her outside of work. Yet, the next morning as I kneeled to pray in the morning, I was compelled to pray for her and her family. Having lost family members to similar illnesses, I could understand how she felt and so I lifted her up in prayer to the Lord. Immediately a poem that I had copied into my journal almost 20 years ago came to mind. I felt the Lord telling me to send her an email with that poem and let her know I was thinking about her and praying for her.
When I finished my prayers, I pulled my journal from the shelf and leafed through it looking for the poem. When I found it, I read through it and it brought tears to my eyes. The poem is called “Juggler in a Mirror” by Jane Middelton, and is about a woman trying to juggle too many sticks, but being unable to juggle the one called fear. It was actually written for survivors of disfunctional alcoholic families, which has nothing to do with the reason I had copied in my journal and nothing to do with my colleague’s situation. But I went to my computer with the intention of typing up the poem and sending it to her. Before I did this, I checked my email and checked to see if I had any blog comments from the day before.
Then, as I opened MS Word to type the poem I thought, “This is stupid. I don’t know if she is a believer, if she will care that I prayed for her, if this poem will even be of any help to her.” I quickly talked myself out of doing what I had so clearly heard the Lord tell me to do. I closed my email and my Internet browser, and hibernated my laptop. I returned my journal to the bookshelf. I walked to the bathroom and continued to get ready for work. As I styled my hair and put on my make-up, I heard the Lord again, “Why didn’t you send the email? You need to send that poem.” I just couldn’t shake it.
So I went back to the living room, restarted my computer, and opened MS Word and typed up the poem. Then I composed an email telling my colleague that I had prayed for her and that the Lord had brought this poem to mind. I said I hoped she didn’t think it was too weird, but I wanted her to know I was thinking of her. I hit send, and then finished getting ready for work. As I walked back to my bedroom to put on my shoes, the song “Hands and Feet” by Audio Adrenaline came on, and I knew I had done the right thing.
The next morning, I checked my email and saw that she had sent me a reply. I was a bit nervous opening it. Imagine my delight when I read:
Thank you for your thoughtful email. It was very kind of you to think of me and I am so appreciative that you did. Isn’t God’s grace amazing. Amidst all the incredible suffering watching my family member fight this disease emerges your touching email and powerful poem. Your email came at a perfect time. It was a long week of juggling. It warmed my heart, touched my soul and gave me permission to let go of some wooden sticks.
She went on to say that she is a believer and that she is trusting in God’s grace and mercy in this trying time. Though it is not easy, she has His peace.
God spoke to me and I listened. I was His hands typing up the poem and email. His Word has impressed on me the importance of encouraging others, of being there for those in need. Some of the scriptures that are in my heart and I believe helped me to hear what He was saying to me include:
But if it were me, I would encourage you.I would try to take away your grief. Job 16:5 (NLT).
There the Lord will display his glory,
the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” Isaiah 35:2b-4 (NLT).
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. Romans 12:8 (NLT).
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 (NIV).
What would have happened if I had not listened? What if I didn’t believe God could speak to me directly about a specific thing He wanted me to do to encourage another believer and lighten her load? My colleague and fellow believer may have found encouragement elsewhere, but perhaps not. Perhaps she would still be struggling, thinking no one in her professional life understood, trying to juggle the many sticks that it was impossible for her to juggle.
God does speak to His people today in very real and specific ways. He wants us to be His hands and feet to a hurting world, and that world is often right in front of us. His direction is always consistent with His Word, always an extension of what He has already said through the prophets, the apostles, and others who heard His Holy Spirit and wrote what He directed. The question is not whether God is speaking. It is whether we are listening and obeying. Are you listening? Will you be the hands and feet of Jesus?
Me again… When you told me about the post discussing the Holy Spirit, I figured this has to be it. I remember reading it the first time in the morning, thinking about it with gratitude all day, then finally writing a comment.
The Holy Spirit speaks to me, too. Last winter, I was going through a long period of prayer, meditation, and study. It was really intense.
One night, I woke up and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart regarding the matters that were dominating my prayer life. His instruction was for ME to be the one to change, and there was even a “list” of issues I had to address. I wrote everything down, slept a little, got up and knew exactly what I had to do. (I wrote it all down in my little book!) And my life was changed. It’s true.
I’ve never experienced anything like that. I understand the story about your collegue. It’s the best, isn’t it? Glad I turned back and got to read this again! Thanks… : )
Linda, This isn’t the one I was referring to, but this was a good example of the Holy Spirit speaking to me. I love to hear stories of other Christians hearing from the Holy Spirit and following through. He can truly change us!
Here is the post I was referring to: http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/credit-where-credit-is-due/
oh no. oh yes! I am in the right place at this moment! Early this morning God sent me a cue and I replied with “How shall I do it?” but there’s no response. I go about my morning business and have forgotten about it when suddenly I heard His answer. I paused, then heard it again. I said, “Okay Lord I’ll do it but please help me do it”. I need to do it by Friday so I have 2 more days to wait for His further instructions. I feel a little pressured but based on previous experience I know He will come to my rescue.
Thank you Linda for this post — 1st you have blessed your colleague then your blog friends. The circle of blessing keep on growing because there are people like you who are generous enough to share the gifts from God!
Rea, That is so exciting to hear that you are listening to God! I know He will answer your prayer to help you do that which He has asked you to do. I will keep you in my prayers that His instructions will be clear and you will have strength and courage to obey. Peace, Linda
I am so thankful for this post Linda! For you! For Jesus and how He speaks to us. I often hesitate to tell someone “God told me . . .”. I once read a book and this person said she started saying instead, “I think God told me to do such and such a thing.” It’s that human part… was it God or was it me? 🙂
This is a beautiful example of it being God. And you showed us your reasoning and struggle with it, and ultimate obedience. Sometimes we won’t see or hear about it being a blessing or the right thing to do. But, we go on faith and do what we believe we hear Him tell us. 🙂
I have felt, thought!, that He has wanted me to send out cards, letters and notes to others real regularly this year. I had fallen away from doing it as much once I started blogging. He keeps nudging me and putting someone on my heart nearly everyday to write to. These are people who don’t write back or contact me, for the most part. Yet, He asks me to! It’s a joy to obey and trust that He has His reasons. 🙂
God bless you as you listen to Him and He speaks to you each day!
Deb, Remember what I said about being used by God where we are? This is what I meant. I often feel like at work I am of no use because I can’t really share about Him, but this experience reminded me that I can show compassion and love to others even if I don’t ever mention Jesus. And I can listen for His leading regarding those who need it most. As Linda commented, He will lead us to those whose hearts are already softened.
I’ll bet you are a blessing to those you send cards and letters to! I have a friend who sends cards periodically just to say she is thinking of me, and it is so wonderful to get some “real” mail! I think it is more about the fact that someone thought of me than of any great number of words. Peace, Linda
Could anyone read this story without desolving into tears? Isn’t it the best feeling in the whole world to get a word from God and follow it through to its joyous end?
I am so thrilled for you, and I have a feeling you help more people than you know. I get that same should-I-shouldn’t-I feeling where I hesitate, but usually not for long.
A wise girlfriend told me that God will never direct us to someone whose heart hasn’t already been softened by the Holy Spirit, and I have found this to be the case.
Hugs to you. : D 😀
Linda, This experience has had me smiling about how wonderful God is since it happened, though I do also understand the tears. Your girlfriend does sound wise, indeed, and I am going to remember her advice the next time I hear God leading me to write or speak to someone to provide encouragement. Thanks for the hugs! I love hugs. 🙂 Peace, Linda
Thank you, Linda.
Thank you for sharing this today. I love the way He uses our hands and feet to help others. ( Love the song!)
“What would have happened if I had not listened? What if I didn’t believe God could speak to me directly about a specific thing He wanted me to do to encourage another believer and lighten her load? My colleague and fellow believer may have found encouragement elsewhere, but perhaps not. Perhaps she would still be struggling, thinking no one in her professional life understood, trying to juggle the many sticks that it was impossible for her to juggle.”
Our God is faithful and so worthy of ALL our praise. Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re doing the right thing and we hesitate or walk away but still He presses us to respond. It was very noble of you to listen and obey… and isn’t it wonderful how the word she received was the word she needed?
It’s great to be able to hear His voice and zone in on it above all the noise and distractions. Sometimes I convince myself that ‘my own thoughts’ are leading me even though the Gentle Nudge is telling me otherwise. I am challenged and encouraged today. I am challenged to listen more keenly to what HE says and I am encouraged to step out even when I don’t feel comfortable.
Your post is filled with so much, Linda. I thank you for sharing.
Ann, I praise God not only for how my colleague was blessed by my listening and obeying, but by how I was blessed as well. I also find myself listening to my own thoughts, then hear God nudging me in another direction. I actually have arguments with Him sometimes in my head. When I start to argue to strenuously, that is when I know it’s time to stop and listen. I’m so glad this post was also a blessing to you! You are a light for Him and I’m am happy to be an encouragement to keep His Light burning brightly in you. Peace, Linda
This was not just written because it can be written but because God allowed it to be written in this time.Let God be praised.Keep ministering and blessing us.
As I read this I remember growing up with my grandma who was the head of our extended family.She’d call all of us together at five in the morning for devotions and she’ll start singing”We need to hear from you,we need a word from you,If we don’t hear from you,what will we do,wanting you more each day to show us your perfect will” While she was singing this my cousins and I would snicker and make fun of it because we wanted to know how will she hear God. As we got to the age thirteen and she continued singing this song every morning and hearing it in church we started asking her questions,how will you hear God? How do you know when its God speaking? Why do you want God to tell you what to do? She sat us down and she said”I know that you are smart enough to get what am going to say because sometimes I think you guys put some of those words in the dictionary but listen,God gives us wisdom,that means having a clear understanding and insight.It’s telling what is right and what’s wrong.It’s having good judgement,it’s being able to sense when you’re close to the edge.It’s making the right choice or decision and only God knows what that is,that’s why I ask him to speak to me and tell me what to do.” This has stuck with me all my life and I am thankful for that.Now as I am on my own, I sing that song everyday as I wait to hear God as I pray that he’ll direct me with wisdom in all things.
Lord,I pray for your wisdom and understanding.I know wisdom is better than gold and understanding better than silver(proverbs16:16),so make me rich in wisdom and wealthy in undertanding.Help me to wait on you to be my guide that I will hear you when you speak.My ears are wide open,if there be anything that’s making me unable to recognize your voice I cast it out now in the mighty name of Jesus.Speak lord for your servant and daughter listeneth.
Kenisha, Your grandma sounds like a woman wise in the ways of the Lord. And what a blessing that she passed that desire for Godly wisdom on to her grandchildnre. Thank you for adding that wonderful prayer. Wisdom is one thing I do pray for almost every morning, and He does answer that prayer. Wisdom is better than silver and earthly possessions. I am so glad He freely grants wisdom to those who ask and desire to do His will. Peace, Linda
Hi Linda – A moving, beautiful, relevant blog. For us, the passage from Isaiah was precisely on-target (and if the Lord should move you to say a prayer or two for our family, we’d love it. We believe we know what God wants to do with us right now, but we’re SURE getting a lot of efforts from the other side to stop it from happening!).
My wife tells me that the time she first started listening to God – instead of just calling godly friends for advice – was about six years ago. She had gotten very sick (and nearly died) with what turned out to be toxic mold in our apartment. One result was that she had to be very quiet. And during that time she started listening to God – and hearing Him.
For me, it was longer ago. Actually, it was an Episcopalian priest who spoke in our college chapel service who encouraged me to do it (and, no, I’ve never even visited an Episcopal church, but I must say he was excellent). He just talked – didn’t preach – but he certainly said a great deal! It took a bit of nerve to step out and follow his advice, but the first time I did, it worked – and of course it’s gotten easier since.
A little later I noticed John 12:26, which says “where I am, there shall also my servant be.” That made me realize that, if I wanted to be God’s servant, instead of asking him to bless what I wanted to do, I should ask him “God, what do YOU want me to do today” – and then ask him to bless THAT.
And what a thrill it is to find out that that works!
We’ve had a great variety of experiences – and answers – that have come as a result. Some quite amazing. But the large majority (2/3? 3/4?) have been similar to the moving story you told above. That is, leading us to pray for someone, or encourage someone, who we didn’t know had a need.
God bless you as you continue to listen to Him!
Pete, Thanks for the confirming comment. I have a good friend who often says “God told me such and such when I was doing my hair this morning” and people look at her like she’s nuts. But I know she long ago developed the ability to listen and is well versed in the Word. (She’s in her late 80’s, I think). I had experience with her once in prayer group where the Lord kept telling me to read a passage from Ezekiel to her, but I didn’t know why. As we were about to wrap up the prayer session, I finally obeyed and said, “I have to read this to you.” It was the passage where God tells Ezekiel that whether the Israelites listen or not he is to tell them what the Lord says. She started to cry because she had felt the Lord was telling her that she needed to say something at a congregational meeting, and she had asked for confirmation because she wanted to make sure she should say it. The verse I read was her confirmation. That was probably five years ago, and I’ve slowly learned to listen to His voice more and more since. I wish I could say I always do, but I am human. I pray that some day there would be no hesitation to follow whatever He says. Peace, Linda
Yes, I must say it’s often NOT easy to learn to listen AND act. And I’ll admit that my wife and youngest daughter are FAR better at it than I am. I have to make a real effort to listen quietly enough to hear.
I laugh at some of my failures. Years ago, while still living in Seattle, I’d been downtown and was starting back out to Kirkland. The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge had been built by then, but the section of freeway through downtown Seattle had not. I was driving up parallel to the east shore of Lake Union, toward the right turn that would take me to the bridge. Suddenly I heard that “still, small, voice” say “Turn right, right here!” Did I turn? No, I asked God “Why?” By that time I was in the middle of the intersection, and it was too late.
So I continued up to the usual turn. And found it was blocked for construction! (As was normal for Seattle then, there had been no advance warning signs.)
I had to go back – and turn at the exact street where I’d heard that quiet voice! It was a very good lesson in “listening” and in following the Spirit, not my logic (and, believe me, logic was what had always been natural for me)!
Maybe I’m improving – finally. A couple times recently the kids have asked me “Who are you, and what have you done with our father?”