When my son is having a tough moment or I need him to follow some directions, I say to him “Noah, look at my eyes.” I get down on his level and make sure I have his eyes. When I have his eyes, I know he is listening. He is not distracted, he can hear the words I am saying, and he can recognize the directions I am giving. He is not always perfect, but he is more likely to listen when I have his eyes. A lot of times we ask God to speak to us, we beg him to, and we wonder why it’s not happening. And all God is saying to us is “Child, look at my eyes.”
God wants to speak to us. He’ll do it whatever way he can. In my experience, he’ll send it in a letter from my grandma, in words from our pastor at church, or from a thought I can’t stop having on every run I go on. He’ll speak to me through a verse I’ve read a thousand times, but never really heard. He’ll speak through a friend on Marco Polo, or through a conversation at a coffee shop. He’ll speak wherever and however he needs to in order for us to listen. He’ll kneel down to our level and speak in words that we can recognize, but he has to have our eyes.
God spoke in a myriad of different ways to his people because he was speaking to different people at different times, and for different reasons. He spoke in a burning bush, he spoke in dreams, he spoke through angels, and clouds, and stars. And sometimes he even spoke in a still small voice, in someones heart. He can literally use anything to speak, and yet, we want him to speak in specific ways so that we have control over the way it looks, and so that we don’t have to seek him in order to understand. We don’t want to have to stop and give him our eyes, but that’s the only way to hear him.
If we want to hear God speak, and we want to make sure it’s God and not ourselves, we need to, no, we have to be in the word. God’s word is “living and active” and yet we neglect to seek it because when we don’t seek it enough it doesn’t seem alive. In order for the word to mean anything to us we have to know it and read it. And not just once, over and over again, so that our own barriers break down and the Lord can get through. My son knows me, and knows my voice because he is constantly listening to me, and consistently in my presence. We need to consistently turn to him, so that when he speaks, he has our eyes. If we’re not in his word, we can’t recognize his voice.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
If we need help differentiating between the Lords voice, and the worlds voices, we need to look no further than his word. If what we’re hearing from the Lord doesn’t line up with the word of God, then it’s not the word of God. It’s that simple. There are two principles that I use to guide whether or not it’s the Lord I am hearing: loving God and loving people. If the decision I am about to make contradicts one or both of these principles, then it’s not what God would have me do. His word may not tell us whether or not to take a certain job, but if it makes us love God or love people less, than maybe it’s not right for us. If we’re asking God whether we should heal a relationship or not, or have a certain tough conversation, we need to ask ourselves, will it produce love for God and people? Because when it comes down to it, that’s what the word of God calls us to do.
God also spoke to people through circumstances and events in theirs and others lives. I think of the story of Daniel and the Lions Den and how that changed the course of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, and the life of his kingdom. God blinded Paul and lead him to a mans house to hear the word of the Lord. Jesus healed many people and their stories lead others to hear God and turn to him. Our stories, other peoples stories, can be stepping stones to us hearing God for ourselves. When I listen to someone tell a story of redemption, God speaks to me that I am redeemed. When someone tells a story of mercy, of grace, of love, God speaks to me of those things. And when I experience a trait of God in the life of another human, it speaks to me of God’s character. But my eyes have to be open to see and hear these stories, and to recognize them as the voice of God.
We can’t discount the unique ways God will choose to speak to us just because they are unorthodox, or not how we’ve ever heard of God speaking before. The Lord works in out-of-the-box ways, so that we have to continually know him in order to understand and hear his voice. But how often do we propose to God that he speak to us in a way that we expect and understand? Like “God I’m here waiting during this quiet time I’ve set aside for you, where you at?” Or in the middle of a prayer thinking that maybe he’ll audibly answer me, maybe just this once. What I should really be doing is seeking him without my agenda, and in that seeking I’ll find him.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…” Matthew 6:33
When we seek him first, when we turn our eyes to him before we ask, all these things will be given to us. All the things we need: the answers, the path, the comfort, the peace. God wants to speak, but he needs our eyes on him so we can recognize him. So if you need answers, if you want to hear God, turn your eyes to him without distractions, and you’ll begin to recognize his voice.