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Pathways of Listening: Focusing on God’s Presence

Imagine the closeness we have with our best friend, our significant other, family member, or even girlfriend or boyfriend. We all talk to them on a frequent basis, we spend time with them, and even when we’re away (as most of us know acutely right now), we long to be near them, to even hear their voice.

But what about God?

Does our relationship with Him fit that statement? It should–it fact it should exceed it–but in this life, that kind of relationship is easier said than had. Yet, we can’t just pick up the phone and call Him. We can’t get Him on FaceTime. We have prayer and Scripture, which are our first, best tools to connect to God and understand the revelation of His word in Christ. At the same time, I expect many of us are familiar with the idea of hearing God’s voice or feeling His presence.

What does hearing God’s voice entail? Am I talking about hearing God speaking in an audible voice? I haven’t personally experienced that, but who knows, right? Realistically, I’m not the one to define exactly what this does look like, but I can tell you my experience.

In a conversation I had with Kamal during this social distancing period, I brought up the idea that God might be hard to hear or might seem far away from us during this time, but in reality He is always near to us and we are the ones that are distant from Him.

I’m of course not trying to imply like some are that the virus is some sort of judgement or celestial reckoning. In fact, I believe exactly the contrary. Through all the pain and disarray of this life, whether it is particularly focused like this virus or mundane and everyday, God has come to be with us even before we fully know how to be with Him.

God is always working in our life and always trying to communicate with us, but I find it sometimes challenging to hear his voice amidst the noises in our life, especially during these uncertain times.

One of my favourite verses in Joshua reminds that God will always be with me wherever I go. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9) Likewise, in John 16:33, Jesus tells us “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In times of trouble like this, let us look to the overcomer, who is with us wherever we go.

I definitely think that these are the times we should try to draw closer to God even more, because it reminds us where our strength is found. I think hearing His voice often entails taking time to reflect, have patience and being open to hearing from Him whether it be through community, scripture reading, or prayer.

I’ve been fortunate to feel the presence of God many times throughout my life, but one moment that I remember vividly happened during REMIX 2016. It was probably because of this encounter that I took a dive into my faith and decided to really follow Christ.

During one of the evening sessions, I started crying, like the usual cryer I am. This time though, it felt different. It felt like I was crying a bucket of tears, and God was catching every one, letting none fall to the floor. I felt His presence and His hand on my shoulder. I felt with each tear, God was encouraging me, and that maybe God knew that was how I needed to be met. It was a cry for change, but also of change, with Christ as my shepherd, leading me to new pastures.

Hearing God’s voice impacted my life because, while I know we’re all broken and we’re all sinners, the perfect God is still speaking healing and comfort to me. It’s like getting advice and He knows me better than I know myself.

Oftentimes, I also hear His voice when listening to worship music. I start crying and getting emotional–not in the sense of sadness but rather because of joy. I know that’s not unique to my experience, but at those moments I really feel I can be vulnerable and open with God. Of course I know that we should always be vulnerable before Him, open to His understanding eyes; in those moments, I am reminded of how acutely the noise of my life gets in the way when I don’t have the focusing medium of music.

God is always looking to communicate with us but are we open to seeing that? When I became a Christian I didn’t really hear much of God’s voice and didn’t feel closeness to God. For a period of about a year, nothing changed in my life. I was the same person before I became a Christian–I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t reading my Bible–I felt my life hadn’t changed much. It took time to hear His voice, to understand what His presence feels like, and to develop pathways of listening.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, we all long to seek for community during these trying times. I think we should more importantly seek closeness and oneness with God during this time because our hope should only be in Him.

Periods of great change and struggle can be opportunities for us to rely on our own strength and burn out, or wait on God and grow closer to Him. This of course, isn’t easy, and can be very spiritually stretching. It should be our goal in this period to grow in our relationship with Him, but don’t be surprised if you feel strain in your spiritual muscles, especially if intentional listening is new to you. Like any good workout, the peace in the afterglow is enough to know the strain was worth it.

One of my favourite verses in the bible perfectly illustrated how I want to spend my time in quarantine. When the disciples of John the Baptist, who has signaled the coming of Jesus, came to him, concerned that Jesus was drawing away his fame, John said that “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). I want to use every situation of my life–the good and the bad, the same and the changing–to share the overwhelming love of God. I can’t stress this enough but we need to seek God even more during these desperate times because our hope can only be found in Jesus. This is not about fear, but about encouragement; we do not have to fear loneliness, sickness, division, or pain. We have hope because our hope is placed in Jesus, the prince of peace and lord over everything this world could throw at us..

Some questions to think about or discuss with your loved ones:

How do you hear God’s voice in the midst during these times?

When have you felt most close to God?


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Please be advised that this blog post may discuss topics related to suicidal ideation. If you feel that the content may affect your well-being, please proceed with caution. If you or someone you know

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