Listening for God's voice

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

For a long time I thought I couldn't hear God.

I listened for Him constantly. I didn't expect thunder and lightning or a booming voice from the sky. I knew God's messages would come as thoughts. Good thoughts. Ideas that I probably couldn't or wouldn't have thought of myself. And they'd be reassuring. I'd know God's messages by the feeling of peace they'd leave with me.

But even when I was quiet, it seemed I couldn't hear Him. I could think of a few definite examples from the past, when answers or intuitions had come that had opened doors I never could have opened on my own. But I hit a point when it seemed that God just wasn't speaking anymore. Or rather, that He was speaking, but that I'd somehow become incapable of hearing Him.

There's no shortage of biblical evidence that hearing God is possible. I know because I scoured both the Old and New Testaments trying to understand what it takes. And that was what perplexed me. People just heard Him.

Moses, for example, wasn't even specifically listening for God's voice. He was simply out and about his daily business - tending sheep - when "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush" and "God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses" (Ex. 3:2, 4).

It didn't seem fair.

One day I mentioned my despair to a friend. Her response was disbelief. "But you do hear Him," she said. "All the time. I can think of countless examples." When I tried to contradict her, she wouldn't listen. "Keep a list," she suggested. "You'll see that He is speaking and that you are getting the message."

Her comments woke me up, and I started asking myself different questions. Rather than wonder why I couldn't hear God, I decided to ask why I could. And why, at least according to my friend, I could hear Him all the time.

I realized that if I was starting from the standpoint that I was a child of God, then it must be in my nature to respond to His messages. I couldn't be missing some fundamental capacity to hear my divine Parent. That was inconsistent with God's nature as a perfect Creator, and my identity as His perfect, complete creation.

I also realized that God wanted me to hear Him. Certainly a God who was wholly good would never withhold anything good from His children. That meant that what I needed to hear, I could hear.

The issue, as I began to see it, was less that I couldn't hear God and more that I was so occupied with what I thought I should be or wasn't hearing that I'd convinced myself that I wasn't a good listener.

In one of her books, Mary Baker Eddy wrote of "angels," or God's messages, "...we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts," ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 306).

That struck a chord with me. And so I decided to hear - and acknowledge - God's messages in virtually everything good. A smile from a friend created love in my heart, so that had to be a message from God. What about the snow falling outside my window? A beautifully played piano? The words from one of my favorite psalms.

The more I began to recognize the many and varied ways in which divine Love, or God, was assuring me of His presence, the more I began to hear Him in other ways, too. There was the line from a hymn that came unexpectedly to mind and assured me God was holding me up when I started to slip on an icy sidewalk. There were ideas for projects, daily guidance on how to live a better, more unselfish life. And there were answers, too, to my questions. Maybe not always when I wanted or expected them, but they came.

As I discovered, the biblically recorded instances of God speaking weren't just assurances for those particular people at that particular moment. They were evidence of something greater: a promise for all time. For everyone. A promise that says that because Love loves us, we can hear God's voice always. Whether or not we're specifically listening for it.

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