GOD’S VOICE SOMETIMES SOUNDS LIKE UN-COMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE

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During an afternoon lunch date I asked Angela if she hears God’s voice, and if so how does God speak to her and what does He say. I have to add this was after much chatting about ‘what’s new’ – I didn’t just dive into this question. I truly appreciate those friendships where you can talk about a fancy pair of heels, groceries, love, family and God all in one visit. Our lunch date consisted of all these which made for an excellent time.

I have to be honest, when I did ask Angela these few questions there was a long pause. They are not the type of questions you can answer within a few seconds. It’s the “oh my, I really have to think about these.” She was quick to respond that she, like myself, has never heard God’s voice audibly. Then there was the long pause. After a few more bites of my burger and fries I leaned in closer to hear her response. She said that she hears God’s voice when she is compelled to step out of her comfort zone. As someone who becomes anxious in crowds, travelling on public transit is not a preferred form of transportation for Angela. When travelling on public transportation she would rather sit alone but has felt compelled to sit beside certain individuals. She feels that it’s God’s way of asking her to step out of her comfort zone and obey Him. I asked if by sitting next to a certain person if she felt like she was supposed to talk to them or pray for them. She replied with, “No – sometimes I talk to them but sometimes I just feel compelled to sit next to them.” Reflecting on her response, I’m reminded that when God asks us to do something out of our comfort zone it could be something as simple as sitting beside a fellow traveler. It’s God’s way of reminding us that He’s with us and we don’t need to fear.

busMy conversation with Angela didn’t end with just one story of how God speaks to her but continued telling me of how she felt that God spoke to her about getting into a specific post-secondary school. She explained that it was somewhat of a difficult process applying for the school but she diligently persevered. After much paper work, long and difficult waiting periods and close dead lines, she didn’t get accepted. “All the doors seemed shut and I tried to remain positive because God is faithful and I trust He is in control…I was confused and angry, disappointed for a bit but it was an important experience.” She was sure that she had heard God’s voice tell her that this was the school she was to go to. Otherwise she wouldn’t have gone through the long process of applying for it. However, she didn’t remain upset about not getting in or didn’t questioned if she had heard wrong from God. She reminded me that God speaks to us and it’s up to us to obey His voice. Then she explained that when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Issac, Abraham obeyed God each step of the way. In the end God didn’t want Abraham to go through with the sacrifice. Abraham obeyed God’s voice and God provided Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead of his only son. (Genesis 22).

Angela’s story of God telling her to apply for a specific post-secondary school and going through the long and difficult process only to not be accepted helps me not to question God’s voice. It does leave me with this question though: Why would God ask you to do something when it’s not going to work out in the end? I can think of numerous areas of my life where I thought I was supposed to do something and it would, in turn, have a certain result. I have to learn to listen to God, to go out on a limb and pursue those nudges, all with keeping in mind that the end result may not be what I thought it might be…and that’s alright!

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“But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of ram.'”                      1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

 

 

*photos by author

God’s Voice Sometimes Sounds Like A Desperate Call to Love the Unlovable

Everyone seems to know where ‘the best’ restaurant is for Chinese, Indian, Thai, etc. Like everyone else I claim to know where the best Thai food is in town. The restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, but what it may lack in curb appeal it makes up for in layered flavours of sweet and spicy. It was at this gem of a restaurant Claire and I had an afternoon lunch date, joined by her adorable 1-year-old daughter. Although her daughter avoided the spicy dishes, she did enjoy steamed rice (which was more like sticky rice seeing that it ended up behind her ear and stuck to other parts of her clothing). She was very content eating her rice all the while enjoying the Thai art and surrounding customers while mom and I chatted.

After some time catching up on life I asked Claire if she hears God’s voice. Following a short pause she said, “Yes!” She said that she hears God’s voice audibly. I had to stop myself from showing too much excitement (it’s a quiet and serene environment and I wanted to shout, “REALLY?!!”). I needed to find out what God’s voice sounded like to her. She explained that God speaks to her through people. His voice is the sound of other believers and mentors speaking into her life. “How can you expect to hear the still small voice of God when you’re not listening to the audible voice of God through someone else?” I had to sit back for a moment to fully digest what she said. So it’s possible that God’s voice sounds like the people around me. It makes sense! She continued, “God’s voice is all around us. It can be heard in the voices of others.” She explained that since we are made in the image of God, and each person is wired up differently (some people are intellectual thinkers while others are emotional feelers), and God uses our unique personality to speak to others. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 NLT

I asked Claire if she could explain a specific occasion where God spoke to her audibly. This question evoked a slightly longer pause than the first question. I quietly waited, and joined her daughter by having some more steamed rice (except my rice was paired with cashew chicken and Pad Thai). In a serious but very compassionate tone Claire began to tell me of a time when she was in college and was asked to love an individual that was incredibly difficult to love. She heard God’s still small voice say to her, “Please love this girl. Please, please love her!” The first time she heard, “Please love this girl” her response was, “No way! This girl is way too difficult to love.” …but she kept hearing God say to her, “Please, please love this girl!” I thought to myself, isn’t it weird for God to sound as if He is begging? Why would God need to beg? Begging is surely not a sign of a powerful God, although it is a sign of a loving and relational God. God is not so powerful that He doesn’t need us. He lovingly partners with us to show His love to others and to develop selflessness in us. God asks us to see each other (no matter how difficult someone may be to love) through a lens of love. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12 NIV

stepsAfter numerous times hearing God say to her, “Please, please love this girl” Claire embarks on a very bumpy journey of loving this very troubled teenage girl from her local church…and when I say bumpy I mean rough. So rough that on one occasion punches were thrown. I know! I can’t for the life of me imagine this sensitive, kind, new-mother throwing a punch. I needed to hear this story in full. It all started after a lovely day at the beach – ice cream included. (Who doesn’t love a day that includes ice cream?). While Claire was driving the teenage girl home, she sensed the girl’s mood change from happy to angry (which was quite common for her). Claire turned to her and said, “I know you want to punch me right now. You can but I’ll punch you right back.” How did Claire know that the girl wanted to punch her? Sometimes you can just sense these things! I get it! Without hesitation the girl punched her hard right in the arm, and Claire without flinching punches her back. I know this doesn’t sound like the kind of mentoring strategies you’d hear about through a church-mentoring course, but for them it worked.

Claire spent her college years mentoring the young girl, and suspended judgment that opened the door for a very honest relationship with this girl. She was the only one who knew the girl was self-harming and engaging in unhealthy relationships. Claire also had the difficult job of talking to the girl’s parents about her toxic lifestyle. Throughout Claire’s college life she mentored the girl she wanted nothing to do with, even after hearing God’s voice say “Please love her!” It was an incredibly bumpy road of learning to love someone when it wasn’t easy. Even after graduating college, getting married and moving away, Claire stayed in touch with her. The teenage girl is now a young woman and Claire and her talk regularly over social media. When the girl’s father was very sick and on his death-bed Claire returned to the family’s home. The girl’s father’s last words to Claire were, “Take care of my girls” (meaning his wife and daughter).

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Be the shelter that ‘the difficult’ retreat to when the downpour of pain becomes too overwhelming for them, all the while knowing that the torrential rain will test your shelter’s strength and may knock you down. – MB

It all began with “Please, please, love this girl!” To Claire, God’s voice was a desperate call to love someone very difficult. God’s voice is the still small voice that is heard in her spirit and begs her to love others even when it’s difficult. His voice is also heard audibly through God’s people (God’s image bearers) and especially through her mentors.

I left my lunch date with much more than just a full belly – I also left with the question: If God’s voice told me to love ‘the difficult’ would I, like Claire, make a commitment to a bumpy journey of loving someone? Loving someone difficult isn’t easy but it is what Jesus asks us to do.

Only weeks after the interview I found myself challenged to love when it wasn’t easy, and to understand that in certain circumstances I may be ‘the difficult’ one needing love.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34