This is the first post in a blog series I’m calling, “Hearing God’s Voice”. Each child of God has a unique history with God, and unique ways to relate to him. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of my journey of learning to hear God’s voice, and the ways that’s impacted my life and that of others, too. Join me each week as I share stories from my life that will hopefully encourage and inspire you to listen to him more – because he wants to speak to you!
I was an adult before I learned that God is always speaking.
I knew He wanted me to read my Bible. I knew He wanted me to avoid sin and do the right thing. I knew He wanted me to help others. That was the extent to which I was taught about knowing the mind of God or hearing the voice of God. The church I was raised in emphasized studying the Bible in order to know the mind of God. The Holy Spirit was rarely talked about except as something akin to my conscience: a sense of knowing right and wrong. It seemed there was God the Father, Jesus the Son, and, as an afterthought…that other guy that we don’t need to talk about. Nobody ever told me that God wanted an intimate friendship with me where I not only talked to Him, but He talked back to me.
When I prayed to make Jesus the Lord of my life at eight years old, I did it because it seemed the right thing to do. A year later I was baptized, because that’s what you do after you accept Jesus as your Savior. I don’t remember feeling any emotion about it or questioning it at all. It just made sense to me. I don’t recall that decision making much of a difference in my young life, until I turned fourteen.
When I first encountered the Holy Spirit in a powerful way at age fourteen, I had no idea what was happening. I’d grown up in a church that approached faith more academically rather than experientially, and certainly not emotionally. So, I was stunned when I went on a youth group weekend retreat and encountered God in a powerful way. I honestly don’t remember what the message was, but at the end, the pastor gave an invitation for people to receive Jesus. I knew I had done that once before, but this felt different. I fell to my knees and began crying. I vaguely remember repenting of sin and dedicating my life completely to Jesus. My eyes were closed, but it was almost like I could see fire. It was not frightening, but I felt completely overwhelmed. Back then I just thought I was being overly emotional, but now I realize I was overcome with the presence of the Holy Spirit. God was capturing my heart. I don’t know how long I stayed on my knees crying, but I do know that when I got up, most of the other kids had left. I immediately felt different than I had before. I was changed. There was a passion and fire inside of me I had not experienced before. There was a tenderness to God I had not felt before.
We went on a family road trip the next day to visit my grandmother, who did not believe in Jesus. My heart was burning inside me, and I knew I had to tell my grandma that Jesus was real and He loved her. It was hard to put into words what I had experienced, and I’m sure I was quite clumsy about it, but I shared my newfound faith and passion with my unsaved grandmother the very next day. My grandma did not accept Jesus at that point, but it was monumental for me. My passion for God had exceeded my fear of what she would think of me.
I’d been raised in church and even attended a Christian school, so I was familiar with all the old Bible stories. But after that weekend, I started to read the Bible with a deep hunger to understand God better. Before, the Bible had seemed more like a textbook. Now, it seemed it held clues to deep mysteries that I wanted to understand. I wanted to hear from Him. Reading the Bible was the only way I knew how. I began to often open my Bible and read it as the last thing before I went to sleep or the first thing after waking up.
Sometime within the next year, there was a night I was trying to fall asleep, but sleep wouldn’t come. I felt unsettled in my mind and heart. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about a childhood friend of mine. She and I had been neighbors and our mothers were best friends. We were close friends in our elementary school years, but had drifted apart in our middle school years. By the time high school arrived, I only heard occasional updates on her from my mom.
But on this particular night, I could not get my old friend off my mind. I felt worried about her. My mind would not quit, so I finally got out of bed and took my Bible with me into the family room. For all I knew, it was just my imagination acting up, but I didn’t know what else to do with the feeling I had other than to pray for her. I stayed up a couple of hours past my usual bedtime, praying for my friend and reading my Bible. Eventually I got sleepy and felt more peaceful, so I went back to bed.
I didn’t give it much thought until a few days later. My mom told me that my friend had recently run away from home. I asked her when this had happened. It was the exact night I couldn’t sleep and had spent time praying for her! My teenage friend had spent that very night alone and unprotected on the downtown streets of our city. She had desperately needed protection and prayer at the very moment I could not get her off my mind.
I was stunned. I had not heard an audible voice telling me to pray. I just couldn’t get her out of my thoughts, and I felt unsettled. For the first time, I realized the Holy Spirit had spoken to me! He kept me awake to pray for my friend’s protection at the exact time that she was especially vulnerable. The thought filled me with a sense of wonder. I felt like the God of the universe had sent me a secret message, and I’d received it! I had not heard any sort of voice speaking to me, yet He had partnered with my thoughts and emotions to get through to me. It was mysterious and exciting. Little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg of all that God wanted to communicate to me.
God wants to tell you secrets. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, there’s a wealth of revelation He has for you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we over-complicate things and think that unless we see it written in the sky, or hear an audible voice, we don’t hear from God. But hearing from him is often very simple. Can’t sleep at night? Maybe God wants to spend time with you. Had a weird dream about someone? Can’t get a certain person out of your mind? Perhaps the God of the universe is inviting you to partner with him in intercession.
You’re never too young to hear God, and you’re never too old to begin listening.