Do you ever struggle to hear the voice of God?
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19 NLT).
I’m trying to discern the will of God. But here’s the problem: I’m not a good listener. Instead of sitting still in the presence of God, I try to figure things out by myself. My mind often speaks. My ears rarely listen. And yes, it makes me angry!
I have preconceived responses to the questions I’m asking God. In other words, before God even speaks, I already have connections made. Therefore, I find myself asking for God’s opinion of my thoughts instead of simply listening to His will. It’s no wonder I find myself so anxious!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Prov. 3:5-6 NLT).
I depend on my own understanding. I try to connect the dots. My brain likes to talk; therefore, I struggle to listen. Maybe you can relate.
Today, I want to share a well-known Bible story with you. It’s the story of Jonah.
“The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgement against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.’
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish” (Jonah 1:1-3 NLT).
You know what happens next? There’s a storm at sea (V. 4). Jonah and the sailors are in danger of being killed (V. 5). Because Jonah knows the storm is a result of his disobedience, he tells the sailors to throw him overboard (V. 12). After he is thrown into the sea, Jonah is swallowed by a large fish (V. 17). In chapter 2, Jonah repents. And in chapter 3, Jonah finally makes it to Nineveh after God gives him a second chance.
Then, the story makes a shift. As you know, God calls Jonah to Nineveh to pronounce His judgement. But after Jonah gives the people of Nineveh God’s message, they repent! Therefore, God decides to not destroy the city as originally planned.
“This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people’” (4:1-2 NLT).
Do you see what I see? Sometimes we think too much. We rely on our own understanding. We try to figure things out. Consequently, we fail to listen to God. The definition of obedience is simply “listening.”
Jonah didn’t obey God because he had a preconceived idea of how the situation would turn out. Jonah didn’t obey because he knew God would pour out His grace and love to the people of Nineveh. If Jonah would’ve simply listened to God instead of connecting the dots—well, the story would lack some interesting details!
You see, it’s time for us to listen. It’s time to empty our brains of preconceived ideas and connections that aren’t from God. Our brains can become so full of ideas that we can’t find the space to hear God’s voice. Only by surrendering our thoughts to God can we truly become obedient to His call.
God says, “‘Be still, and know that I am God!…’” (Ps. 46:10 NLT).
So let me ask the question again: do you ever struggle to hear the voice of God? Maybe you’re making too many connections in your brain to hear anything with your ears. If so, you’re not the only one!
Isaiah Pauley is a senior at Wahama High School. He can be followed at www.isaiahpauley.com, or on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page.