When I was about 20 or 21 years old, I was troubled and asked God one day, "You said that your sheep hear your voice. (John 10:27 KJV) I'm one of your sheep. How can I hear your voice?" I was so busy at the time. I was working full time, had taken on a 19 credit course load in college and was the youth leader/minister at my church. I was stressed. I loved the Lord and was giving him everything I had and doing my best to please him. However, I was so stressed and though normally an A student, I got a D in my economics class. That's when I said, "Lord, I need to hear from you. Something is wrong." I was having a minor nervous breakdown. I'd get alone at school sometimes and just stare out the window and up at the sky wondering what I was doing. Why were my thoughts not lucid? I'd even started stuttering when trying to communicate.
It was January in Massachusetts. I decided to take the next semester off and slow down the pace a little. I needed to hear from God for direction and because I believed God's Word, I set out to hear God's voice. A friend of mine had a cabin up on a tree farm in Maine and he said I could go there for a little retreat. So I set off to find this cabin in Maine in 0 degree temperature. I was desperate. I was going away for three days to fast and pray and hear from the Lord.
It was quite an adventure. I got lost. The temperature dropped to below zero and I had to sleep in my car that night or get stuck in the 2 foot snow banks that lined the road. (This was before cell phones :-) The Lord was with me, however and kept me safe. The next morning I saw that where I'd slept was just a stone's throw away from the cabin, but there were no street lights up there and one wrong move and I'd have been stuck in the snow. Thankfully, he had a couple that stayed on the property to maintain it and I stayed with them for the weekend.
I fasted and prayed that weekend, but I didn't hear anything. I would have stayed longer but a snow storm was expected and they told me I'd be stuck there for 2-3 weeks if I didn't leave before it came. So I headed back home a little frustrated. "I need to hear from you, Lord," I cried.
The next week I heard a radio program about hearing from God. I don't remember any more what they said, but I filed it away mentally. That Saturday evening I decided to go shopping for a dress for my brother's upcoming wedding. I'd been unsuccessful so far and the wedding was in two weeks. I'd checked everywhere locally, so I decided to go to the neighboring state to a mall that I visited every now and then. On the way to the mall something interesting happened. I heard a voice say, "Turn around and go home." It wasn't an audible voice, it was in my head. Now, I had my mind set on shopping for this dress in Enfield, CT. Where was this "thought" coming from to turn around and go home? So I turned on the radio to distract me. The voice got louder. "Turn around and go home." I didn't want to "hear" that, so I turned the radio up louder. One more time I heard the voice insistently, "Beverly, turn around and go home." I cranked the music in the car at this point and the voice went away.
I went about my shopping, but did not find a dress. I was frustrated. I went all that way for nothing. On returning home that evening, I saw my mom sitting on the front stairs in the freezing cold weather in her nurses uniform. I was very concerned. It was the 1st week of February in Massachusetts. Need I say any more about how cold it was outside and it was night time. As I got out the car, my mom almost cried. She said, "Beverly, I've been sitting here praying, Lord please send Beverly home to open the door." She was locked out of the house. My mom worked two sometimes three jobs. She'd come home to get a couple hours sleep before going to her next job. I was mortified! The Lord had been speaking to me in answer to her prayers trying to get me to turn around and go home to let my mom into the house. I heard his voice, I just didn't want to at that time. I didn't like the message. It didn't fit in with my plans for the day.
That was a life changing experience for me. What if it had been more serious? What if it had been a life threatening situation and I didn't listen? I learned from that experience to hear God's voice and to obey it. That was almost 25 years ago.
I think of Samuel when he first heard the voice of the Lord. God called his name three times and on the third time, Eli realized it was God speaking to Samuel and told him, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'" There's a big difference between hearing and listening. I'd heard God's voice that day in the car, but I didn't want to listen or pay attention to it.
Recently during a conversation with a friend of mine, in response to something I must have said, he asked me, "How do you hear God's voice?" I shared the above story with him. Then he said, "A guy in my Sunday School class asked me how do I know God's voice and I didn't know what to tell him." I said, "If someone calls you for the first time on the phone, you won't recognize their voice, right? But after speaking with them repeatedly over time on the phone, after a while, soon as you hear the first word out of their mouth, you recognize who they are right?" "Right," he said. "I got it."
God speaks to those who are willing to listen. The more you listen, the more he speaks. Just as you can recognize your own mother or father's voice in a crowded room of people because of your relationship with them and the many discussions over time with them, develop your relationship with God. Instead of speaking all the time when you pray, making prayer a monologue, after you worship him, be quiet. Learn to listen. Get into his Word so that you recognize how he speaks. Satan speaks, you speak to yourself, there are so many voices in your mind. That's why it's important to get by yourself in a quiet place and seek the Lord and learn his voice. The Lover of your soul wants to speak with you.
"Come near to God and he will come near to you." James 4:8
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jer. 29:13
"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deut. 4:29
God wants you to seek him. Are you listening?