God is speaking . . . how do we hear Him? “What’s it like when you try to hear from God?” I’m a campus pastor, and this is one of my favourite questions to ask students. I don’t ask “how is your prayer life?” because it prompts guilty confessions that they should be praying more. That’s not what I want. I want to hear their questions; I want them to describe their struggles, their uncertainty, and their rare clear experiences of hearing Jesus. It’s funny that such a central part of spiritual maturity can be such a mystery. We believe that our God speaks to us today, but I’ve found that, more often than not, people are uncertain about how to hear Him. When we really need to hear Him and come up with nothing it’s easy to wonder—Does He speak? Am I doing it wrong? Or maybe He’s talking, but just not to me? What do I have to do to get God to talk to me?
I’ve had my fair share of temper tantrums when I’ve tried to hear God and epically failed. But I’ve also learned, over the course of my growing and messy life with Jesus, some of the things that get in the way of hearing Him. I know that if I avoid these pitfalls, I’m putting myself in the right posture to hear.
1. Stop Trying so Hard
A number of years ago I met regularly with a spiritual director who told me to stop trying when I went to pray. He said this to me every week: that it was God’s responsibility to speak—not mine. I had a hard time believing this. If God was always speaking and I wasn’t hearing Him, who else was there to blame? I must not be doing it right. But there was no formula, no system. Like the grace we each have been given and have not earned, I was to simply come and let Him be the Giver. I was to come and be—for 20 minutes a day, to be exact. I was to be quiet and let all the crazy thoughts and emotion in my mind settle down. I was to be open to the presence of God. Even though it felt like nothing, he said something would shift in me. And he was right. How, after all, can we hear God’s voice when every other voice is speaking to us at the same time? Jesus is not an over-talker. It’s in the quiet that we hear Him.
2. Don’t Avoid Solitude & Silence
And there isn’t a lot of quiet these days. Our lives are a constant barrage of voices: our families, work, friends, the hundreds of strangers we pass by each day. And then there are the myriad of other “voices” on our smartphones, computers, tv, etc. Every instant of our lives can, if we choose, be filled with voices and information: and many of us do choose (I must confess, I check Facebook while in the bathroom.) Most of us are so used to this invasion of our lives that we don’t realize how much more chaos and, well, noise we’re living with than people did a hundred, fifty, or even twenty five years ago. We don’t realize that we’ve become strangers to silence.When I actually seek to be silent a new type of noise emerges—an internal noise. From the outside it looks like I’m being still and knowing that He is God–– but on the inside I am overwhelmed with a tangled mass of emotions, running thoughts, and unfinished to do lists. Being still becomes equivalent to opening the door of that storage closet I’ve been flinging things into for much too long. I don’t know how I feel. I am not at peace. But I know peace is on the other side of all that chaos in my head, and it’s only in my times of silence—of solitude—that Jesus is able to bring order out of the chaos.
3.) Don’t Push Jesus Away When He Shows You Yourself Letting Jesus bring clarity out of the chaos feels vulnerable, and sometimes even scary. It threatens any illusions I’ve hidden behind, because Jesus is speaking—and He’s showing me myself: what’s really going on behind my irritability—what fears are really driving my tendency to overwork—what old wounds prompted me to snap at my friend. Sometimes I throw a whole mess of thoughts and feelings onto a page (or five) of my journal. After it’s all out there in black and white, I write one simple question: “what is true?” Jesus is somehow able to speak the truth to me in a way that I can receive it, regardless of how difficult it is. For me, I’ve found that the first thing Jesus speaks to me about is my own heart—the broken parts, the selfish parts, and the parts that bring Him joy. He wants to show us ourselves so that he can speak life to the deadness in us, speak love to the wounds in us, and bring wholeness and holiness to the brokenness in us. And as He speaks, and mends, and heals, He is preparing our hearts to participate in the work He is doing in the world.
I love it! Kirsten gives very good advice about how to hear from God. I love that she suggests that we should stop trying so hard. For me, a ‘doer’, being quiet and putting all other voices on mute for a while requires discipline. I have to be open, with a heart ready to be and receive. I am grateful to be reminded that He is the Shepherd and that it is His responsibility to speak. Sometimes, just being with Father is enough to be revitalized and refreshed. Other times, He will comfort us with words, either written or spoken. Time with Him is well worth the investment. After all, knowing Him is what it is really all about.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
Louise and her husband, Bernard, pastor a small French PAOC congregation in Eastern Ontario. They have four grown children and four granddaughters.
Louise’s passion is to see women of all ages find their true identity in Christ, at the center of Father God’s love for them personally. She is a teacher of the Word and a conference speaker.
Kirsten, thank you for this robust reminder that Jesus speaks. Yesterday, a sweet Christ-loving friend of mine went to be with God. I had spent most of the day with subtle anxiety stemming from to-do lists, deadlines and expectations (that I tend to heap on myself) before receiving the shocking news. In a moment, God’s perspective invaded my self-focused world and as I began to ponder the beauty of my friend's life, I could see my own with a new perspective. I could sense Jesus asking, "What matters, Kaitlyn? What really matters?" Love matters. God’s perspective says, “If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere" (1 Cor 13:3-5 msg). Love tastes sweet, heals all and looks like willingness and obedience. Jesus says, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word" (John 14:23 esv). To know the Word is to know Jesus. Yes, Kirsten, the willingness to give the sacred twenty minutes, daily, is what matters - the letting go to let God in - the open heart and vulnerable Spirit. A vital connection to Him is the body-soul fuel for a life of impact and value on Earth. Thank you for the invitation to be more connected to the giver of life, and for taking the time to write about what really matters.
Hi, my name is Kaitlyn. I am a twenty-five-year-old high school math teacher from Saskatoon. I grew up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan with pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks, horses, cows, and hockey sticks for company. I love chocolate cake, bright flowers, painting, grass mowing, pretzels and Jesus. My life is ordinary. However, the God-stamped design of it is wildly thrilling – as is yours, whoever you are.
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