I've Never Heard God Speak To Me
I distinctly remember this moment when I was serving as a leader at youth camp when a student came up to me after an evening service and said these words to me. He was heartbroken and looking for hope. He said it as a statement but really asking a question. This young man was sad and serious and wanted answers. He came to me, feeling like he had never really heard from God and asked me “how do I hear from God?” He explained to me that he prayed a lot but didn’t know how to hear from God. He desperately wanted to hear God speak. He listened to his friends and others talk about hearing God speak and how “God told me this” or “God told me that” and he felt empty because he didn’t feel like he had experienced something like that yet. And then started to feel all the “what’s wrong with me” feelings since everyone else seemed to be able to hear from God but he couldn’t.
I think most of us, if not all of us, have been there. In that moment, I remember talking to the young man and helping him know that I knew how he felt.
I remember feeling the exact same feelings during previous seasons in my life. But I was able to share with him about how the primary way the Lord speaks to us is through His Word. The Lord even reminded me of Romans 10 where it talks about how faith comes and is built from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.
And I got to ask this young man questions about when he reads his Bible. And when he reads his Bible about specific things that happens to him when he does that. He began to realize “oh that’s God speaking to me?!?” And he was relieved and excited!
And then we got to talk about other examples of how I recognize God speaking to me. I told him about how lots of times I have this “gut” feeling that I now recognize after years of experience…and testing these feelings out to know what the voice of God is. Again, he was relieved to know he has that too. And we got to talk about what testing that out with scripture (to know what truth is and what is not) looks like and learning to recognize it better and better with time and experience.
I liken it to the experience that I have with my 6-year-old son, named Mayes. For most of Mayes life, he has had some trouble with his speech. We have him doing some speech therapy at school to help with a few sounds and techniques that are especially difficult for him. When most people are around Mayes, he will talk very openly and expressively with them. He is super friendly and has a lot to share! He’s an amazing kid!
But friends sometimes, sheepishly, look at me and say, “I’m sorry, what did he say?” And it’s totally okay because he can be hard to understand at times, especially if you don’t spend much time with Mayes. We try to extend grace because it’s obviously not their fault that they have trouble understanding certain words. But my wife and I can be his translator, as needed. Most of the time I know exactly what he’s said because I’ve spent time with him, I KNOW him, and know how he communicates. When I don’t, his 10-year-old brother, Kress, definitely does. Kress ALWAYS knows what Mayes says! He’s the real MVP!
But the more time I spend studying scripture and time spent in prayer and time paying attention to the voice of the Lord, the more I can discern His voice. After years of relationship with the Lord, the better I have gotten at hearing Him, listening to Him, and following Him! And the good news is that I can keep getting better! And the more I do that, like Romans 10 says, the more my faith grows! But Romans 10 is clear that it’s not just for me – it’s for me to share.
An example of trying to grow in my relationship with the Lord and discerning His voice is that there are times when I “randomly” think of someone during the day. But it’s one of those feelings in my gut that’s not like “I ate a weird burrito” feelings but rather “God’s doing something here” random. And I’ve learned that as I “randomly” think of that person, instead of just doing “hmm that’s weird…I haven’t thought about them in a long time,” I now am more inclined to stop and say a prayer for that person, even if I don’t know why.
And recently, I’ve even added a step to send that person a text after I pray, to let them know “hey, I was just thinking about you and wanted you to know I prayed for you just now. I hope you are well.” Or I’ll write something similar unless God puts something more specific on my heart. It’s amazing how many times I’ll get a response about how much that message meant to them or what God was doing in them in that specific moment, and it was clearly not a coincidence that God wanted me to reach out to them. God is good!! You should try this exercise with me.
I can promise you something. God wants to speak. God is speaking to you. We just need to learn how to stop, rest, and listen. He is good and faithful! I love you church family! Keep reading the Word of the Lord! Keep praying! Keep listening! Keep sharing!