Quite a few years ago, my husband and I went to watch a middle school softball game. Two of our coworkers had daughters on opposing teams. We enjoy baseball and softball, no matter who is playing. But this was a bonus to see these girls in action.
There was an incident from this game that I still giggle about to this day. For those of you who don’t know a lot about the game, when a particular team is at bat, two coaches from the team (often times they are assistant coaches) stand at first base and third base. They are called first base coach and third base coach. The purpose is that they can help watch where the ball goes, and let the runners know if it is safe to proceed to the next base or not.
During one part of the game, there was a girl on first base. The head coach was also the third base coach. (Since this was middle school, I imagine some schools don’t have assistant coaches in their budget.) While another girl was at bat, the head coach was trying to get the first base runner’s attention. As you likely know, in baseball and softball, teams have different hand signals that they use to relay different plays. So in this case, he was trying to signal for her to steal second base. However, the girl was not paying him any attention at all. So finally, the coach shouted across the field for all to hear, “Rebecca! Steal!” And finally Rebecca knew what she was supposed to do, and she stole second base. I am giggling as I write this, because the whole incident was quite comical.
I was thinking about this recently and it made me think of God and how He attempts to communicate with us. Sometimes He will give us gentle nudges, like when a coach uses hand signals. I love the story in the Bible when the Lord whispers to Elijah. This is a beautiful reminder that we should always keep our ears open.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13
Unfortunately, I fear that often times, we are not paying attention to Him. We are doing our own thing, distracted by life and the things around us, and we miss God’s whispers. So there are other times when the Lord has to seemingly shout at us to get our attention. He might use a big incident to finally make us tune into His voice. Unfortunately, this still isn’t a guarantee that we will listen. Some of us can be too stubborn to open our ears and hearts to Him.
I would much rather hear God’s quiet voice the first time, instead of waiting for Him to shout. And I certainly don’t want to be too stubborn to obey when I do know He is speaking to me. Sometimes there could be dire consequences of not listening to God.
A good example is Jonah. In Jonah 1:2, the Lord told him to “go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah did not want to do what God commanded of him. This is because he knew the people of Nineveh were evil, and he felt they didn’t deserve the Lord’s mercy. So Jonah ran the other way. Well, Jonah got into a bit of a pickle. Long story short, he spent three days and three nights in the belly of a whale. Finally when he prayed, the Lord rescued him. The Lord once again commanded him to go to Nineveh, and this time Jonah obeyed.
This is a good lesson for us to listen to the Lord’s leading at all times. But I admit in today’s world, it is more difficult than ever. We have many things vying for our attention, and the Lord’s whispers can easily be drowned out.
So how can we learn to hear from God?
1 – From my experience, reading the Bible and praying daily are important steps that help us to better distinguish His voice amongst all the other voices we hear. As Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.“
2 – Also, for me to better hear God’s voice, I need to eliminate distractions. We live in a world full of devices that are constantly dinging and pinging. It is easy to get sucked into a vortex where we are constantly checking our email, texts, social media, and more. We can and should create boundaries in our technical world. This helps to clear the clutter in our heads and leaves room for God’s presence.
3 – Practice listening. Too often our prayer life consists of us doing all the talking. We don’t stop to listen to see if God has something to say. So during your prayer time, try to create space for God to speak.
Those tips have helped me to better hear God’s voice. If you have any tips, feel free to share in the comments. If we are consistent, we will continue to grow in this area. When we are intentional about seeking God and listening to Him, we will be amazed at how much He shows up in our lives.
© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas