Hearing From God by Positioning Yourself Rightly

There are times when I think God is quiet towards me when, in fact, he is speaking but I’m unable to hear. Why?  I’ve discovered several reasons, but one of the biggies is how I position myself spiritually. The way that we listen to God and others is important. Deficit listening skills affect every relationship. I didn’t comprehend that for years because, well…………..I didn’t listen well. Clear communication with God and others around me is crucial for healthy relationships, so it’s a good idea to think about what kind of receiver I am, on the listening end.

In our early years of marriage, I didn’t understand that my husband is a thinking-first, internal processor while I am a feeling-first external processor. When we disagreed, I started throwing a lot of words and ideas at him, wanting him to toss the same back to me. Sometimes he did holler back, mainly to  defend himself, but eventually he’d exit the premises, so he could think. Alone. Quietly. I misinterpreted that as a lack of caring, which I usually shouted at his retreating back. We needed to learn to communicate more productively when we disagreed.

In the book of Habakkuk, chapter two, the prophet has finished quite a list of complaints to God about the unpunished evil in the world around him. God replies and Habakkuk complains more. Then, a marvelous change occurs in his attitude, and he re-positions himself completely towards God.  Instead of shaking his fist at the heavens, he takes a humbler posture.

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post.  There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint “Habakkuk 2:1.

Commentator, Matthew Henry’s wisdom about this verse is powerful.

“When tossed and perplexed with doubt about the methods of Providence, we must watch against temptations to be impatient.  When we have poured out complaints and requests before God, we must observe the answers God gives by his word, his Spirit, and providences; what the Lord will say to our case.  God will not disappoint the believing expectations of those who wait to hear what he will say unto them.”

In the past, I used the same poor listening skills with God that I used with Ken, expecting him to fit through my narrow funnel of hearing.  When Habakkuk positioned himself rightly, God told him profound things and inspired him to write a few of the most beautiful verses in the Old Testament. (See the bottom of the post for my favorites.) God wants to speak weighty things to me today. I don’t want to miss any more than I already have in the past. What can we learn from this prophet to improve our God-listening skills?

  • Designate quiet times and spaces in each day.

Most of us live in a crazy, loud world compared to ancient times. Media, traffic, families, workplaces and such create a lot of noise.  Whether Habakkuk went to a literal watchtower or a figurative one, there is an implied quiet there. Ancient watchtowers were often manned by one or two people, high in the sky, away from the bustle of their communities. Whether it’s a quiet room in your home, walking trail or even your bathroom with the vent fan running, (my mom used to do this for quiet) it’s so important to carve out physical quiet in your day, specifically to talk with God and listen.

  • Be prepared to wait.

God does not move on our timetable.  That’s an important fact to wrap our 21st century minds around. He may take days, weeks, months and even years to respond to a prayer request or complaint. Think about the lapse of time between all the Old Testament prophecies about Christ and his date of birth. Being impatient with him demonstrates a lack of trust. We are implying that he is doing nothing, simply because we can’t see his movements.

 

  • Accept that the answer you receive may not be the outcome you expect.

Notice that Habakkuk says, “how he will answer my complaint,” in verse one.  In the first chapter, the prophet implies that God is not doing what Habakkuk thinks he should do concerning the evil Chaldeans, who are oppressing the Israelites, but here I see a change in his attitude. There used to be times when I looked for that one right answer from God. When it didn’t come the way I imagined, I felt disappointed. I missed entirely the other things he did instead in those situations.  He is Alpha and Omega who sees the entire picture and knows what is ultimately best. We see a limited viewpoint of any set of circumstances, colored by our own perceptions, experiences and prejudices.  God is not limited by any of that junk.

I want to position myself in a spiritual watchtower where I hear and discern the words and movements of God in my world and the world around me. I long to pray effectively, lined up with the will of God. Wherever you are in your God-listening skills, are you ready to come up to the next level?

 

Treasures from Habakkuk

(all from NLT)

“For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.” 2:14

“But the Lord is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.” 2:20

“I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works.” 3:2

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren…yet I will rejoice in the Lord!” 3:17-18

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” 3:19

 

What To Do When It Feels Like God Isn’t Listening

In the past, I dabbled with the thought that God was ignoring me. I knew this was false, yet I use to agonize during God’s silent seasons with me. For example, he seemed quiet on the matter of me finding a teaching job for many years, although he faithfully opened other career doors of opportunity for me. When fraudulent behavior and unethical corporate practices decimated my husband’s business like a tsunami, some days, I only heard the roar of the waves.

When you are a leader, these types of experiences are unsettling since people under you often expect you to be a God-hearing vision caster 24/7. Parents can feel the pressure from children, spouses from their mates and so on. Every true God-follower will experience deserts and dry seasons in their faith and just as Satan pounced on Jesus in the wilderness, he waits to attack us in the same places. Starting with Adam and Eve, our enemy tries to trick humans into doubting God’s character, particularly his love and power.

I remember praying faithfully and fervently for a couple’s broken marriage relationship that still ended in a bitter divorce. I know God does not override our free will to choose sin, which is what one partner did. Although I hurt deeply for this couple, I also struggled that through the whole, agonizing process, I couldn’t seem to see God’s hand moving in their situation. By faith, I know he is always active on behalf of his children but at that time, I felt like my prayers hit a wall and then slid back down.

Nowadays, I’ve learned to trust God’s heart when I can’t see his activity, and it seems like evil is winning. It’s a faith stretcher.  I’ve met many Christians who experience that struggle of feeling like they are faithfully conversing with God, but he isn’t talking back. These are not new, 21st century feelings.  The ancient prophet Habakkuk cried out to God with similar emotions.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save. Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:1-4).

God answers the prophet and reveals his plans for judgement on the wicked. Instead of finding comfort in that, Habakkuk is in despair. He rails on God some more concerning the activities of evil. I remember times when I landed in similar valleys where I struggled to believe the truth of God’s word because it seemed so far removed from present, painful circumstances.

God doesn’t scold Habakkuk in his brokenness and despair. Instead, he says, “Okay, I’m going to share more of my plan with you and I want you to write it down and then see that the message is spread around your country.” In the next post, we’ll dive more deeply into what God said and Habakkuk’s change of heart. For now, may I share a couple ideas on what to do when you find yourself feeling disconnected from God, in a valley of doubt and discouragement?

  • Feed your spirit man rich food. The old saying is true; whatever you feed grows and whatever you starve dies. Even though devotions and Bible study might feel like a chore, don’t forsake them; they will strengthen the best part of you and help take your emotions out of the driver’s seat. Storing up God’s word in your heart and mind gives the Holy Spirit the materials he needs to help you climb up out of your valley.  
  • Read Stories of Other’s Successful Journeys through the valleys of despair.

There are hundreds of books and websites available where brothers and sisters in Christ share their narratives on overcoming debilitating circumstances. I’ll list a few below.  Also, there’s a great website I worked with for awhile entitled, “Why Is This Happening?” (whyisthishappening.org) Great stories from overcomers are available on the site.

  • Spend your prayer time on others needs more than your own.

My prayer times used to become myopic during valley times, until I learned the discipline of casting my cares on God and then moving on to intercede for someone else’s situation. God wants to know that we trust him with our stuff.  Jesus set the perfect example of caring more for the tragedies of others rather than his own, many times. Dying on the cross, he spoke to John about caring for his mother, Mary, and also taught salvation to the lost soul crucified next to him.

  • Continue in the last clear direction God gave you until he gives you a new one. My former pastor, M. Wayne Benson used to say, “If you’re not hearing from God right now, then keep doing the last thing he told you to do.”  Don’t equate God’s temporary silence towards you, with indifference. Whatever Satan may be screaming at you, remember, as the Newsboys song says, “The cross has the final word.”

One of the beautiful things about seasons is that they change. You may think that impossible right now, during your winter, but spring will come to your life again.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3 ESV).

Recommended books:

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Turbulent Times,” by Max Lucado.

“It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,” Lisa Ter Keurst