The other day someone dear to me mentioned the struggle with hearing God’s voice. I asked this person the same questions I ask myself when I feel like I’m having trouble hearing God:
- How often do you read your bible?
- How often do you read your bible and really reflect and study the words you’re reading?
- How often do you pray, and what are your prayers like? Are they like a conversation with a friend or family member, or are they more like running through your “to do” list for the day?
- How often do you spend quality time with God? Meaning not just talking to God and then going on with your day but talking and then reading or journaling or just being still and silent?
- How often are you silent during your time with God?
These questions were in no way asked in judgment, but these are my “go to” questions when someone says they’re having difficulty hearing God’s voice. Definitely don’t take it as me saying I do all these things perfectly and hear his voice 100% of the time because that’s far from being true. That’s why I’ve had to ask myself these same questions more often than I’d like to admit.
After going through these questions, this person was able to discover for herself what the root of her problem was. She wasn’t spending enough time with God.
When I was younger I had a pen pal that I had met one summer while visiting my aunt. We wrote each other for years. I would get so excited to receive a letter from her, and I hoped she was just as excited with letters I sent. We learned so much about each other through our letters, and every time I visited my aunt during the summers, all I wanted to do was run over to her house. We spent most of my visits playing with one another, and then we would continue writing when I went back home.
Even though we only saw each other once a year, we were practically best friends. It’s sad I don’t even remember when or why or how we stopped writing. Even worse is I can’t so much as remember her name now. If we were to pass each other in the store, I wouldn’t recognize her. That was so many years ago.
Having a relationship with God is similar to having a pen pal you met while on vacation once. Almost like clockwork, you two write each other regularly. In the beginning, you’re so eager to open the letters, but as time goes by, you find you’re only skimming over her words and maybe don’t even finish reading all of the letters because a friend sends a text inviting you to hang out for a while, or one of your kids spills his drink all over the floor, or you finally have a moment to yourself to close your eyes. It becomes harder to find the time to really sit and take in everything she’s writing, but every so often you make sure to quickly jot down some things about your day or school or work or friends and send a letter in return.
Eventually and without realizing it, you stop reading her letters altogether. In fact, her letters have a special location on the bookshelf. Most are unopened, but you keep them there because you have every intention of reading those special letters . . . one day . . . when you have time. Right now, you’re just too busy.
Your pen pal, though, continues to intently read everything you write, even the letters that look like chicken scratch and have what appears to be coffee stains and maybe even something that resembles part of a grocery list on the back of it. Still, she enjoys reading them and smiles at those imperfections. She knows that means you are leading an active life, and that’s just another piece of knowledge she loves learning about you.
A few times your pen pal writes asking for a time and place to meet and catch up in person because she just learned she will be traveling to your town in a few weeks. She can’t wait to see you and talk to you in person.
Since you haven’t so much as opened your letters, you never respond. She continues to ask, though. In every letter she sends, she asks. In her latest letter, she didn’t ask. Instead, she writes the date and time her flight will land and says she plans to stop by your house first . . . unless you let her know you aren’t available at that time.
She calls to tell you her flight has landed, but you don’t answer numbers you don’t recognize.
Her voice mail says, “Hey, I just got in town. Can’t wait to see you!”
You don’t recognize the voice and assume it was a wrong number. Then, there’s a knock at the door. You open it and see a somewhat familiar face, but you can’t quite place who she is, yet she certainly seems to know a lot about you.
Are You Reading Your Letters?
Our relationship with God can easily turn into this. A relationship can’t be one-sided, but so often we treat our relationship with God like it is. We talk to him when we need something or to quickly give thanks for our meal, but that’s not how you build a friendship. If we don’t open his word and pause our busy lives long enough to really take in the words he’s written to us, we will forget what we’ve previously learned about him and lose out on learning new things.
When we are the only ones talking in the relationship, we will eventually forget what his voice sounds like, and one day when he calls we may find we don’t even recognize the voice on the other end.
I can’t stress enough that you will most certainly struggle to hear God’s voice unless you spend time listening to it and learning who he is. It doesn’t mean you are this awful person if you go a day or a week or more without reading his word and sitting with him, but don’t let too much time go by. The more you spend that quality time with him, the easier it is to recognize when he’s talking to you.