Guest post by Joni Leimgruber
Having a conversation with God involves more than just talking. It involves listening and the ability to understand His voice, just like we would if we were talking to another person. It’s an informal interchange of thoughts and information. Interesting, that we’d be able to do this – casually interchange thoughts and information – with the God of the universe. Slightly intimidating, right?
I’m a writer, so words are among my very favourite things. Long words and short words, all fitting neatly into sentences. But God’s words? The ones He (apparently) speaks to us every day? I’ve always struggled with those words, to hear them, know them and trust them. How do I even know if it’s Him? What if I’m wrong? And what does He actually mean? By the time I get to this point I’m in a jumble of confusion and the original words are lost.
A Desire to Learn
I’ve always spoken to God – about my problems, my ideas, my questions and as you can imagine, it got pretty me-centric. 2018 began with the decision to consciously learn how to communicate with God better. More specifically, how to hear from Him. I’d heard Tania Harris speak at a conference and her simplified approach to communicating with God resonated with me – and so I embarked on the six week God Conversations eCourse.
A single friend of mine used to “go on a date with Jesus”. She would mark the event in her diary, set the table for two, light a candle and pray for the evening. I understood the sentiment, but still found it a little cringeworthy. Jesus doesn’t sit opposite you at a restaurant and compliment you on your outfit. He doesn’t tenderly hold your hand over dinner and he certainly doesn’t kiss you goodnight. Even the well-worn phrase “I love you Jesus” can sit oddly from an outsider’s perspective. Sociologists describe Christians as having an ‘imaginary friend’ and I can understand why. How do you envisage a relationship with an invisible deity?
Our Metaphorical Groom
I think this is why metaphors are used so often in the Scriptures to make sense of our relationship with God. They’re an effective way to aid our understanding of a phenomena that can be difficult to describe. Each metaphor acts to highlight a different element of the relationship. For example, the metaphor of father-child (Matthew 7:11) reminds us of God’s protective and nurturing nature and our trusting responsive heart, the metaphor of king-servant (1 Corinthians 4:1) reminds us of God’s sovereignty and power and our need to reverence him as beneficiary, the metaphor of a shepherd-sheep (John 10:27) reminds us of the God who personally leads and guides and our role to follow.
Start the year by making hearing God’s voice a priority. Here are some of our best podcasts that will set you up for a year of favour and blessing!
The Summer Podcast Playlist
Hearing God for a New Year: Three Tough Questions
“It’s essential to remember that communication happens
in the context of a relationship.”
Is God’s Will a Narrow Path or a Freeway?
“How much influence does God have or should he have in our decision making?”
Hearing God in the Global Chaos
“We are just humans who cry out to God when we hear the stories. So what is God saying to us?”
Hearing God in the Big Decisions
“One of the most difficult times to hear God’s voice is when we’re in the throes of making a big decision…to the point where some say you shouldn’t even try to hear from God…”
What to Do When God Speaks: An Interview with Ps. Melinda Dwight
“Our response to God’s voice is critical – both in terms of the consequences of our decision-making as well as our ongoing conversations with God.”
How to Live Your Dream
“God has a purpose for each one of us, but it’s not a product of wishful thinking or misplaced illusions.”
Have you noticed that God does a lot of talking at Christmas time? The first God-conversation with Mary was the one that started it all (Luke 1:26-33). But then God spoke a second time – to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-21), then a third time to the wise men (Matthew 2:12) and a fourth (Matthew 2:19-21) and fifth time to Joseph (Matthew 2:22). He also spoke to Elizabeth, Anna and Simeon. God speaks repeatedly throughout the Christmas story.
But what if the people hadn’t listened? What if they hadn’t followed? What if Joseph had merely written his dream off as the spicy pizza (or lentils), if the wise men dismissed their dream as a paranoid nightmare or if Mary had rejected the words of the angel?
Because people heard God speak and because they did what he said, our Christmas cards show Jesus alive in Mary’s arms and we sing songs heralding his birth. Christmas pans out the way it was supposed to.
In this podcast, we talk about the five conversations of Christmas and how they shaped the event we celebrate every December. That first Christmas was unique, but God’s pattern of working hasn’t changed. He still speaks to initiate his plan. He still looks for willing people to receive his promise and carry it by faith. He still speaks to see protect his word and he still speaks to announce the time when it will come to pass. The God who spoke then is still speaking today. What is God talking to you about this Christmas?
What do we do when God is silent? When we’re praying for answers and there’s no response from the heavens?
Experiencing God’s silence is not uncommon. The Bible characters experienced it (eg.Psalm 22:2) and it’s still one of the most common questions I hear in my ministry. Why isn’t God speaking to me? Why isn’t he giving me answers I need?
Of course every situation is different so it’s impossible to provide one answer that fits all. But here are three possibilities to consider as to why you’re experiencing God’s silence and what to do about them:
1. God has already spoken, but you haven’t recognised it.
The first reason why God is silent is that he may have already spoken, but we didn’t recognise it. We need to remember that by nature God is a talker (Psalm 115:4-5,7), that he’s promised to speak to us (John 14:26, 16:13-14) and that he gave us his Spirit for that very purpose (Acts 2:16,17). Therefore our default position should not be to question God’s ability to speak, but rather our ability to listen. The problem may not be that God isn’t speaking – it’s that we haven’t recognised it.
It seems this scenario was also common in the ancient world: In one of the oldest books of the Bible, we read; “Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words? For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it” (Job 33:13-14). God was trying to get his message through “now one way, now another” but people weren’t noticing.