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?