Mom, I should have listened to you.
What parent doesn’t want be told, “You were right”? Years ago, I thought those words would bring me such sweet satisfaction.
Strangely now, it didn’t. It made me sad. I could see the regret in her eyes and hear it in her voice.
I didn’t want to be right. I just wanted her to listen to me.
Because I knew what I was telling her was in her best interest. I knew it would save her pain. I knew it would bring her joy. I knew it would improve our relationship.
But she didn’t want to listen. Back then, our relationship couldn’t thrive because communication wasn’t free-flowing.
I shudder to think how often I have done the same thing in my relationship with God. And, like my daughter, I’ve experienced the pain of regret.
God primary motivation isn’t to be right (although He is, every time!). He wants relationship.
When we say, “I’m doing it my way,” or “I can figure this out on my own,” we shut out the voice of Truth. We miss out on the joy and protection of relationship with Him. God wants to reveal His sweetness and love. He wants us to know who He is.
Sometimes, we’re not intentionally shutting Him out. But if we don’t intentionally make choices that help us listen for His voice, we can miss it. And we experience pain and regret.
The Free Dictionary explains listening this way, “If you listen to something,you deliberately pay attention to it.”
It can’t be something that we just “hope” happens. We have to be make deliberate choices. That is what opens the door for the Holy Spirit to do amazing things in our hearts and minds.
Look, I’m not an expert on this.
I’ve spent far more time telling God my thoughts than listening to His. I’ve rushed through my quiet times to get to my to-do list. Filled my mind with clutter and distractions. Focused on my circumstances instead of Jesus.
But lately, I’ve been making some choices that have helped me listen more often and effectively. And He has rocked my world. He has revealed parts of Himself and His plan so powerfully that I sometimes do little else but thank Him. Oh boy, friends, am I a work in progress, but I thought I’d share a few things that I’m finding helpful in creating an environment to listen to God’s voice:
Accept His grace.
I think that one of the reasons why it was hard for me to hear God’s voice at times is because I struggled to believe He was truly pleased with me. My performance-driven tendencies made me believe I could never measure up. Even though it wasn’t true, I felt like going to God was like going to the principal’s office. I felt like He was going to tell me something else to do. Or rap my knuckles for the ways I was falling short.
This “accepting grace” thing is a moment-by-moment process. But as I do, I’ve come to realize is that He just wants to reveal more of Himself to me.
Does that sometimes convict us? Yes.
But when we experience the sweetness and character of God more deeply, we are able to receive His conviction in a different way. We understand that it is always wrapped up in His grace and mercy. It’s always motivated by love. And when He asks us to do something for Him it’s always powered by an overflow of being with Him.
What does it mean to be still? Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” “Still” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word rapha which means “let go” or “release.” It might be better translated as “cause yourselves to let go” or “let yourselves become weak.”
In other words, we have to let go of control and acknowledge that God is sovereign. It means saying, “I choose to trust You, God. Your way is better than mine. I believe You are working for my good. I submit to Your way.”
It is so difficult to be still! I’ve clung tightly to my to-dos, my plans, my ways, my family concerns, today’s events, tomorrow’s struggles.
But when we “let go,” it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to help us know God more. He reveals Himself to us as we dig into His Word. We recognize His activity in our lives. We begin to trust His plan. We see His activity even — or maybe especially — in our times of suffering.
Extend an invitation.
A couple months ago, I came upon this verse in Samuel: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” This is the very first recorded invitation the prophet Samuel extended to God, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Samuel went before God and asked Him to speak to Him over and over again. And I would argue that God spoke to Samuel as powerfully and as often as anyone in Scripture.
I want to be like Samuel. I want to hear from God powerfully and often.
Recently, I’ve begun carrying a notebook around in my purse. When I feel God speak to me, I don’t want to lose the thought. I take it with me as I sit with my Bible in the morning. For me it has become symbolic. Opening my notebook says, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I’m willing and not only do I invite you to speak, I expect you to speak to me. And I think it’s important enough that I want to write it down so I won’t forget. So I can share it with others.”
Submit to His leading.
Submitting to His control isn’t just a “one time” thing. It means in everything. In every moment. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying.” We can’t literally be praying every moment. What the verse means is that we should maintain continuous fellowship with God as much as possible during the day.
I’ve been doing that by asking Him over and over again throughout my days to show me which way to go, to help me trust Him, to let go of anger … and, friends, He answers. To a ridiculously specific degrees sometimes!
Ask. He’s ready to answer.
So often, I’ve done my “obligatory” quiet time in the morning and then rushed off to seemingly more “productive” things. Lately, I’ve been taking more time to just sit with His Word. In that time, He speaks to me, preparing me for my day. Giving me insights that I don’t even realize that I’ll need that day or that week.
We can’t build relationship with anyone if we do all the talking and then rush off to more “important” things. I’ve realized how foolish I am when I don’t take the time to listen to the Creator of the Universe who knows everything. What could be more “important” and “productive” than that?
Creating an environment to listen to God will change your longings, your perspective and your sense of peace and joy. It will bring you freedom like never before.
It has for me. That’s what He’s always wanted that for me. He wants it for each one of us.
We just have to listen.