Patience: Waiting for Him to Speak

“How do you know when God is speaking to you?”

I’ve been asked this question more than any other.

We know that we were intended for conversational intimacy with God. We believe that He desires to lead us with His voice.

And yet we can become paralyzed with fear and insecurity.

We are afraid of “hearing Him wrong,” which at its root is a fear that we can make a mistake that sends us beyond the boundary of His faithfulness and favor.

On top of that, we are insecure in our abilities, thinking we don’t know how to discern His voice.

I remember my erratic attempts to discern God’s voice in my college years. I resolved to listen for God’s voice leading me every moment of every day, which led to me moving my car across the parking lot or skipping class to pray about dropping out of college to become a full time missionary (Sigh. I really did these things!).

Many of the leadings I thought I heard in my college years were most likely my own imagination. But here’s what I believe to be true: Jesus honored the good desire behind all that crazy.

He saw a pure heart, with a pure motive, and feet that were willing to move if He so led. I am so thankful that we serve a God who looks at the heart.

As I look back on those formative years, one truth surfaces:
God’s faithfulness to us is not contingent upon on our ability to discern His voice.

Never will I leave you, He says. And He means that without condition.

It’s true that I feel more “in touch” with God’s leading now than I did then, but I still sometimes battle the same insecurities and fears of getting it wrong.

One principle I remind myself as I listen for His leading is this: if I feel unsure about what He’s saying, it’s probably because He hasn’t spoken yet.

And even when I sense He is whispering me in a certain direction, He always gives a strong confirmation after I begin to move down that path.

Often, the greatest challenge I face is not knowing if He has spoken but instead resolving to be patient as I wait for Him to speak.

If you’re anything like me, I want God to speak and act by a certain time.

I carve out a date on my calendar and tell Him that He needs to speak by this certain time in order for me to get everything done or make a certain decision that needs to be made.

More often than not, God doesn’t speak on command.

He speaks at a precise moment He has planned.

What makes the difference is whether I’m listening for Him in that moment or not.

You see, Jesus is confident in our ability to recognize His voice.

He makes this clear in a parable He tells: His sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4, NIV).

The sheep know His voice.

So maybe, just maybe, what Jesus is saying to us today is this:

We needn’t question our ability to discern His voice. Instead, we must keep our hearts available, patiently waiting for Him to speak.

One story sets the precedent for waiting on God to speak: the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19:10-13).

God promised Elijah that His presence was about to pass by. He told Elijah to go out and stand on the mountain.

Elijah remained on that mountain through a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire before he heard the gentle whisper of the Lord.

Elijah didn’t misconstrue the wind, the earthquake, or the fire as God’s presence simply because the storms provided a powerful experience.

He didn't give up on the presence of God, concluding that he couldn’t wait any longer.

Instead, he waited, remaining expectant for God to come because He said that He would.

When God uttered the gentlest of whispers, Elijah immediately knew His voice.

It was a gentle whisper but it was unmistakably marked with deity.

God could have come immediately to Elijah, but He chose to send the wind, earthquake, and fire ahead of His whisper. Perhaps this was a test of Elijah’s willingness to wait.

Sometimes, like Elijah, we must brave a wind, an earthquake, and a fire before His whisper comes.

Our waiting authenticates His presence as our deepest longing.

Patience isn’t a fruit of the Spirit which is only demonstrated by waiting for God to act in our lives.

Sometimes, patience is exhibited by waiting for Him to speak.

And if we are willing to wait, expectantly looking and listening for His leading, His whisper will come. It will come in clarity and will give direction to our lives.

Often, we must only be willing to wait.

Teach me the way in which I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul (Psalm 143:8 NASB).