I’ve been practicing listening for the Lord speaking to me, whether it’s directly or through the Holy Spirit. So, the other night when I got in my car to drive to work (I work night shift) and a song from my worship list or a podcast didn’t automatically start playing as usual, I took advantage of the silence and prayed.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi, Lord. Since it’s nice and quiet, I thought we might talk. Do you have anything you want to say to me?
God: I love you!
Me: I love you too, Lord! I’m so thankful for Your love. I’m so thankful for Your patience with me. Anything else?
Me: I hope I haven’t delayed Your plan because I haven’t done the writing like You wanted me to. I feel like I’ve been trying, but something is stopping me. Is it my own fears stopping me or is it something else?
God: No, you haven’t delayed anything. I’ve been stopping you.
Me: Why have You been stopping me?
God: You’re not ready.
Me: What am I not ready for? Is it just the novel writing I’m not ready for? Do You want me to write other things, like my blog? What do I need to do to get ready?
Me: Holy Spirit, I can’t hear the Lord talking to me. Can You tell me what He’s saying?
Holy Spirit: Relax.
Me: Relax, yes, okay. I’m trying to. (I loosen my grip on the steering wheel, let my arms bend at the elbows, and allow my shoulders to drop.)
Me: Smoke. I smell smoke, burning, BBQ, fireplace, something smokey. I don’t see any fires. Surely, that’s not my rib dinner. What are You trying to tell me?
Holy Spirit: He’s burning off the dross.
Me: Okay. What does that mean exactly? Is that why I’m hurting? (My fibromyalgia has been worse the last week or two than it has been in a while.) I believe You’re healing me, Lord. Is it going to get worse before it gets better? That’s what it feels like. Is there something I need to do?
God/Holy Spirit: Lean in.
Me: Okay. I feel like I have been leaning in. What does that mean exactly?
God/Holy Spirit: Bible reading, meditating on Scripture.
Me: Okay, I can do that.
Yes, I realize it’d be better if I asked one question at a time and waited till I got an answer to that one before asking another one 😉, but I’m still fairly new at this and I was excited to hear His voice so clearly. Anyway, I wanted to relay this conversation for a couple of reasons.
One, God wants a relationship with us. He sent His Son, Jesus, as the atoning sacrifice for our sins so we could have His righteousness to enter into the presence of a Holy God, but a relationship doesn’t develop when the conversation is one-sided.
We can hear the Lord if we really want to, but we must take time to practice active listening. Many times, our mind is preoccupied with the worries of the day, and it stays busy adding to and subtracting from our long to-do list. Plus, all the noise and distraction from the world around us, even when it’s “good” stuff like worship music or a Christian podcast, means we’re less likely to hear Him speak or notice an odd smell or sound and give it a second thought.
It’s great to pray, we need to do that continually, but cultivating our listening skills requires quiet time and patient practice. God speaks to us through a multitude of channels – including but not limited to His Word, other people, nature, thoughts, sounds, smells, visions, and dreams – and we need to be open to them all (but that’s a topic for another day).
Remember, too, God would never tell us something that was out of character for Him, but how would we know what is out of character unless we take time to get to know Him through His Word? Jesus is our ultimate role model, so reading about His life while He was here on earth shows us what the Father is like.
Two, I’ve struggled with my writing for years. I haven’t blatantly disobeyed the call I felt to write. I’ve taken writing classes, stared at the blinking cursor on the blank page, typed a few thousand words, but never seemed able to finish anything I started. Recently I was getting really down about it. The devil had been telling me I was a failure, that I was disappointing God, and that I just wasn’t smart enough because others were able to do it, but I couldn’t. Stupidly, I had started believing the lies.
The Lord, though, wanted me to know it wasn’t me at all. Sometimes we think we’re ready to step into the dream God’s given us, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. God’s dream for us is usually way bigger than our dream for us (otherwise, why would we need God?) and He knows the character traits and skills we need to develop to handle it.
God takes the time needed to train us up, preparing us for our role in His plan. Some of us are more stubborn and take a little longer than others to learn the lessons He wants us to, but since He can see from the beginning to the end, He’s able to make provision for that, too.
How can we disappoint God when He knows ahead of time what we’re going to do? Even though He gave us free will, it’s not like anything we do or say is a surprise to Him.
We can’t rush God’s plan for our lives, nor can we delay it. He has everything under control, and everything is done in His timing. God let twenty years pass between giving Abraham the promise of a son in his old age and Sarah getting pregnant. For Moses, it was forty years of shepherding in the wilderness until the time was right for him to lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, and it took thirteen hard years of trials and tribulations from when Joseph received his dream until he became second in charge under Pharaoh.
It takes time to develop us into the people we need to be, to get everything lined up, and to make things fall into place the way He wants it. And that’s what He does. If we’re following God’s plan for our lives, He will open the right doors at the right time and bring the right people and resources into our lives to make it work out according to His plan.
When I made the decision a few years ago to stop blogging, thinking I was going to focus on my novel writing instead, I was following my plan, not His. Still, I have confidence God can bring good out of even that. He knows all the mistakes we’ll make before we make them and has already compensated for them. God is that good!
So, don’t give up on your dream when it doesn’t work out like you’d hoped. Don’t fall into the devil’s trap of believing you’re a failure, you’re too old, or it’s too late. No one is too flawed to be used by God in a great way. He specializes in gathering the broken pieces of a life discarded by society as worthless and forming them into a beautiful vessel of immense value and usefulness.
God has chosen you, called you, and equipped you to be a part of His plan, to do something significant for His kingdom, and He will help you accomplish it. Keep in step with God and don’t try to rush things, because as it was with Abraham and Sarah, things don’t go so well when you take them into your own hands and try to force it. (See Genesis Ch 16)
Of course, we can’t stay in step with God if we’re not communicating with Him and listening for His direction. And that will only happen if we take the time to develop a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I guarantee it’ll be worth the effort.