By Chad Rath
The day started out like any typical Monday morning. I had just arrived at work after dropping off my kids at school. I sat down at my computer and began working on some reports, when a member of my company’s board of directors suddenly popped his head in my office and asked, “Do you have a minute?” I responded, “Sure,” and he led me into the boardroom.
The next 10 minutes are still a bit of a blur in my mind, but when I emerged from the meeting I was, without warning, jobless. After seven years of loyal service, I was abruptly informed that the company was moving in a different direction and that my services were no longer needed. Shocked and numb, I grabbed my jacket and walked out the front door. As I headed toward my car, I uttered a simple prayer, almost rhetorically, “What am I gonna do now, God?”
Instantaneously and unexpectedly, I sensed a response: “Watch what I’m going to do.”
As those words crossed my mind, they didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and in my confused state I drove home and announced the bad news to my wife. Fear set in, and we embraced and prayed together, not knowing what else to do.
A Multitude of Ways
As a child, I was taught that God speaks to his people in a set of defined ways: through his Word, through prayer, and through the beauty and order of his physical creation. Occasionally God would speak to us through other people, but those situations had to be discerned properly to make sure they lined up with Scripture.
To this day I believe that God continues to speak in all of these ways. I have received a word from God through each of them at various times in my faith journey. But it’s only been in the last few years that my eyes have been opened to a multitude of other ways in which God speaks to us. In fact I now believe that the ways in which God speaks could be as numerous as the stars in the sky. The key to hearing what he has to say lies in my level of sensitivity to his voice and in my willingness to tune in to listen.
Many things in life compete for our time and attention, and if we are not careful we can crowd God right out of our lives. We can’t hear God speak if we don’t have intentional quiet time set aside with him on a consistent basis. For me, this time sometimes involves reading Scripture and praying, but oftentimes it is as simple as going for evening walks while listening to Scripture or music from my iPhone. I find that during my walks my spirit is calmed, my mind is set at ease, and I am ready to listen to the still, small voice of God.
God’s creativity in speaking to us may take us by surprise. I can be doing something as simple as randomly scrolling through family photos and suddenly be reminded of all of the blessings he has given me. These reminders always seem to be perfectly timed, because they often come when I am feeling down or depressed, convinced my life is not making much of a difference. Sometimes a simple comment from a family member or a coworker can bring the encouragement I need in that particular moment. But I can easily miss those moments if I am not sensitive to them, if my spirit is more consumed with my problems than with listening.
Times of Trial
As in any relationship, in order for us to hear God speak, we have to give him our attention. Perhaps it is for this reason that the times when I have heard God speak into my life most powerfully were times of suffering. When I needed God the most, and had nowhere else to turn for comfort and healing, he was there for me, still speaking through my pain.
When I suffered through the excruciating physical pain of a neck injury, God gently reminded me that no servant is greater than his master and that his Son was made perfect through suffering. So too must I be molded and shaped through the painful blade of suffering.
When I grieved the death of my mother, God reminded me that he too knew what it was like to lose a loved one, because when Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he as Father experienced the same type of painful loss that I was now feeling.
By walking with me through these experiences, God allowed me to relate to him in new and profound ways. That is the nature of suffering; we hear God the most and our faith grows the most as we press close to God during our times of trial. We can learn much from what God has to say to us during times of suffering.
I Was Not Alone
And that is what happened when I lost my job last year. My termination of employment was totally unexpected and couldn’t have happened at a worse time. My wife was seven months pregnant with our ninth child and Christmas was around the corner. Initially I wanted to get mad at God and blame him for not caring about me and my family. How could he allow something like this to happen to us? But instead we just prayed and left things in God’s hands.
Within a few hours of losing my job, God began to remind me that I was not alone and that he would take care of us. As word got out, I immediately began receiving emails and phone calls from friends and former coworkers asking what they could do to help. And within two days my connections landed me an interview with another company. Within two weeks of losing my job, I was hired at the new company and my career was back on track. God knew what was going to happen when I lost my job, and as I walked out of the office that difficult day he just wanted to tell me that he had things under control.
As a loving Father, God is always watching out for his children. He promised to never leave or forsake us, and he keeps his promises. He longs to speak to us so he can remind us of his great love for us and so he can continue to transform us and use us to advance his kingdom. He invites us to open our minds and hearts and be willing to listen for his voice in new and different ways. To hear him better, we have to strive to remove the obstacles in our lives, like busyness and sin, which prevent us from being able to hear him clearly. He has much to say to us; will we take the time to listen to him?
Chad Rath is a freelance writer in Greenville, Wisconsin.