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