My pastor has a phrase that I’ve heard him say a thousand times: “God will let you have your way until you don’t want it anymore.” Hashtag Truth.
My life certainly has been proof of that idiom’s veracity – in some seasons more than others. But I believe that as we grow in Christ, that statement should become less and less of a description of our current reality. As we pursue the heart of Christ and plumb the depths of His love, we actually don’t want to be the stubborn children that have to be ‘let go’ in order for the hard cold realities of disobedience to bring us into alignment.
Additionally, as we grow in our relationship with Jesus and discover His true personhood, we begin to recognize His voice and also recognize when His Holy Spirit inside of us is grieved or trying to change our course. We always have the free will to choose whether or not we tune in to what the Holy Spirit is trying to convey, but I believe that the more in love with Jesus we become, the more His voice is our delight. We eventually have so much history with God that it’s near to impossible to doubt His goodness and care for us. It gets harder and harder to convince our soul that our way is best when we sense deep inside that the Lord is leading us in a way we may not understand at the time. Between having a history with God and practicing hearing His voice, we can save ourselves from pain, regret, and outcomes that the Lord never intended.
Let me explain using an example from my life that happened recently. Before I tell you the recent situation, though, I need to give you some backstory. A little over a year ago, I stepped out of my corporate job to write a book and pursue full-time ministry and speaking. When I quit my job, I had a pretty nice income, along with corporate perks and an annual bonus. I also carried the health benefits for my husband and me. Therefore, when my husband agreed that I needed to do this in order to obey what the Lord had put on my heart, it was as much a leap of faith for him as it was for me – if not more!
Flash forward to now. I have written the book and am now in the throes of planning the Book Launch events that I need to execute when the book comes on the market. Research shows that if a book is launched properly, it has a greater chance of rising to the top of search engine algorithms and being ordered by bookstore chains. But book launches cost money – which would not have been a concern if I still had my income. But asking my husband to take on one more thing seems like throwing a 100 pound backpack on someone who has already trekked 1,000 miles uphill and still has 1,000 to go! I felt so guilty and conflicted as I told him all of the expenses we will incur for the Book Launch.
Then I got a brilliant idea! I recalled how a friend of mine caters for a local catering company to make some extra money tp ay for recording studio time for her album. I got the contact information from her and made the call. The hiring manager seemed very interested in me and asked for an interview at my earliest convenience. That evening, I mentioned this brilliant idea to my husband and offered the hiring manager’s enthusiasm about me as proof that I hit a bull’s eye with this solution. I was shocked when my husband told me that he really didn’t want me to do this. He explained that he felt we needed to trust God for the money not only for the Book Launch but also for anything I would need for ministry going forward. I was stunned. I assumed that I had not done a good enough job explaining the extent of the costs that I was about to hit him with OR the obvious shoo-in I was for this job. And because I was so convinced that this job was going to be a game-changer for us, I heard what I wanted to hear in the conversation and blocked out the parts that I didn’t want to acknowledge.
A week later, I was having a face-to-face interview and being offered the job. I took home the paperwork and immediately began to fill it out. I had some questions on one part of the paperwork, so I left it by my husband’s Bible and journal for his review. Again, I was surprised that he didn’t demonstrate excitement that we were moving forward with this new income stream. The evening got busy, and we didn’t discuss it.
Cue my quiet time with the Lord the following morning. I opened my journal after reading some Scripture and asked the Lord if there was anything He wanted to talk to me about. Without hesitation, I heard the Lord clearly tell me, “Your husband is not in agreement with you taking the job.” I knew immediately that if John and I were not in agreement, whatever I did would not be blessed. If I was not in submission to my husband, even if I was convinced that this job was going to make a difference in our finances and relieve stress from John – ultimately I would not prosper. I heard the Lord tell me that I could push forward with this catering gig, but if I did, I would be forfeiting God’s best for me and for John. Jesus explained that choosing my own way – especially when John had clearly said that he didn’t have peace about it – would pull me out from under His covering of blessing. I may make a little money, but it would be nothing compared to what God could and would provide if I stayed the course and trusted both my husband and My God.
I went downstairs and asked John, “Are you theoretically against me working for this company – as in, you prefer that I don’t, but you could be OK with it if I felt strongly about it? Or are you concretely opposed to me working for this company and feel very strongly that it’s a mistake? I need to know because I have a phone call with the hiring manager this morning and if I can’t take this job, I need to tell her today. I’m going to feel like an idiot, but if this is your decision, I will abide by it.” (Did you notice the hint of guilt in my comment about being embarrassed to rescind my job acceptance?…And whose fault is that??)
John looked right at me and without blinking he said, “I was as clear as I know how to be. I told you from the start that I was against this idea. While I’m not the sort of husband who is going to FORBID you to take the job, I was clear that I don’t want you to, and I don’t have peace about it.”
Ay caramba! My stubborn short-sightedness was brilliantly clear in the light of day. As I walked back upstairs to my office, I knew what I had to do. I texted the manager and asked if we could push the call up by an hour so I could get it over with. I was so thankful that she was kind and understanding – although who knows what she said about me after she hung up! I learned a valuable lesson that day. First, I need to be a better listener when John is trying to communicate his heart. I have often felt that he is the one who doesn’t listen to me completely, especially once he thinks he’s heard everything he needs to hear or when he thinks he knows what I’m saying without listening to the whole thought. But this time, it was me who practiced shoddy listening skills. I had to ask John to forgive me and then go ask the Lord to forgive me as well.
But the big takeaway from this experience was actually not anything negative. I was so relieved to see how the Lord saved me from making a mistake and being robbed of a blessing by speaking truth to my heart. What would have happened if I didn’t give the Holy Spirit the airtime to speak to my heart? What if I hadn’t asked the Lord that morning if there was anything He wanted to say to me? How much farther down the wrong road would I have traveled before I realized that I forked left when I should have kept going straight?
Now hear me: I am not in some elevated class of Christian. God doesn’t love me more than anyone else. I don’t have a special ‘gift’ for hearing the voice of the Lord. As God’s children, we all have the ability to hear His voice and be protected by His direction – IF we allow Him to speak! But I feel that most Christians’ prayer life is a one-way monologue – if it exists at all. Or, if they are truly trying to engage in a dialogue, it’s a frustrated foray into what seems like silence on God’s side.
This is NOT what Jesus died to purchase. He offered Himself to death in order to purchase sons and daughters back to the Father. The relationship of intimacy and tenderness was lost when sin became our master, and it is the loving voice of a perfect Father that has been won for us. If you are not hearing that voice, then you are living FAR below your identity. I don’t intend in this blog to teach you how to hear the voice of God. There are wonderful books, a few of which I will mention at the bottom of the post that go into much more depth than I can here. I simply want to inspire you to try to hear the voice of God if you aren’t connecting with the Lord in that way right now. And if you are, be encouraged by the fact that as you tune your heart to listen, He will draw you in closer and make His presence even more irresistible than He is today. Don’t give up. Open up the lines of communication as I did the other day. The Lord has important and cherished words to say to you that you will not hear unless you give Him your quiet heart and are ready to receive Him.
And for the love of God, don’t make the mistake with God that I made with John in assuming I understood his message when I was in reality kicking my own agenda down the road! I found that recording what I hear the Lord say reduces the chance of me misinterpreting his words or putting words in His mouth that He didn’t ever say. May you be blessed in your pursuit of the Lord for there is nothing in this life or the next that matters more!
- Dialogue with God, by Drs. Mark and Patty Virkler
- Hearing God: Getting to Know the Voice of God, by Kathy Campbell
- Hosting the Presence, by Bill Johnson
- Knowing God, by J. I. Packer