I wanted to hear God, but my efforts to discern his voice seemed like they were in vain. The truth was, I was desperate for his direction, but felt like I was fumbling through the dark alone.
I thought I was a good listener. I’m not a loud person, and when others talk, I try to pay attention. But over the past month, I’ve learned that this skill could use some fine-tuning. My focus wanes. My mind gets distracted. And if it’s my kids talking to me, that’s a whole different story. Don’t judge. My son has been known to tell a story about Minecraft that lasts twenty minutes.
Last week, another example of this occurred. My daughter spoke to me, her voice dripping with exasperation.
“Mama, you’re not listening to me!” she declared. She was right. It was dinnertime, the most stressful time of day for me, and I was tired. While I cut vegetables and browned some meat in a sauté pan, I turned my attention to her. With lots of animation, she told me what she wanted to be when she grew up. Yesterday, it was a frog. Today, it was a bus driver.
Even though I know her mind will change again tomorrow, in that moment, her declaration was the most important thing in her world. It didn’t matter that she’d asked me for exactly seven hundred and twenty-three things that day or that I needed a nap. She wanted my attention right there, in this split second decision.
And there it was again – a truth God keeps pressing on my soul lately. Over and over, he shows me that the time I spend listening is as important as time being heard. How hearing others instead of just waiting for my turn to speak is a skill that’s fading fast in our world, but one he values deeply.
If we don’t value listening to others, listening to God will be an afterthought too.
After going through a particularly dry season in my spiritual and creative life, I God reinforced this truth in a new way. Have you ever fought against a storm for months and wondered, “Where is God?” You look for him and try to discern his voice, but can’t.
Although I tried to remove distractions, my life was filled with a lot of noise. Voices telling me what I needed to do or not do. Some of them were voices of wisdom, and others weren’t.
In the midst of a busy week, I read the story in the gospel of John where Jesus walks on the water. I’d read this story many times, but this time I was struck by the way the disciples’ response changes. This particular instance occurs right after the miracle of the loaves and fish, and the disciples have been out on the water fighting against the storm for a while. When they see Jesus, their first reaction is fear.
Then, he speaks.
““It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:20-21 NIV
Considering their first response, they probably couldn’t see Jesus very well or recognize him by sight alone. But at the sound of his voice, their demeanor changes. They let him into the boat. Not because the circumstances around them have changed, but because they recognize the voice of the One speaking to them.
Time with Jesus taught them to recognize the voice of Jesus.
Often, I want the benefits of the relationship without taking the time to foster it. I want to hear God without taking the time to really know the One who’s speaking. But because he is a compassionate Father, he still speaks. If I want to hear him, though, I have to do some fine-tuning. This fine tuning has less to do with my ears, and more to do with my heart.
Fine-tuning looks like:
- Inviting him into each aspect of my life. Even the ones I think don’t matter or the ones I want to hide.
- Confessing to him when I mess up instead of ignoring it.
- Getting into this Word daily, even if the time is short.
- Loving his people who are hard to love.
- Persisting in prayer, even when I don’t think it’s making a difference.
There are dozens of things I could add to this list, and I’m still a work in progress. But the more I walk with him, the more I see that the journey will never be finished on this side of the curtain. Until then, I will keep pressing onward toward him, hoping to bring others with me along the way.
Friend, if you’re in a dry spiritual season right now, know that you aren’t alone. God hasn’t stopped speaking to you. Sometimes we need to get rid of the distortion in our lives to hear him. Keep listening for his voice, and like the disciples in the middle of the storm, it may come right in the midst of your biggest obstacle.
If you need to shift your focus from a struggle or worry and see what God is already doing in your life, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. I talk more about the ways a simple shift can change everything. Many people have sent me messages saying it is a timely book for this season. This encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“Shift has been an absolute encouraging and engaging read. Abby has a gift for finding the fingerprints of God in the happenings of life. And not only does she find them, but Abby helps you start to see them in your own. It was a blessing for my heart and a balm for my soul. I look forward to processing even more deeply. ” -Kelly B.
You can pick up a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.