“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you…” James 4:8
God has blessed me with some amazing friends. I’ve spent so much time with each of them that we’re at the point where we can finish each other’s sentences. They get me and I get them. Through the mundane and monumental moments, they have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of me. And yet knowing these things, they still love me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been through rough patches with each friend I have, but we try to work through them with honesty, forgiveness, and grace. Even though distance starts to physically separate us as the years go by, we still give each other time, whether through phone calls, e-mails, or letters. I know in my friends, I have someone to listen to me, encourage me, laugh and cry with me, comfort me, and challenge me.
It took me awhile to fully grasp it, but this is the kind of relationship God desires to have with us. For the longest time, I would tell myself and other people that I had a relationship with God. I guess I did, but looking back on it now, that was one shallow relationship!
You see, there was a disconnect. I remember struggling with the concept of hearing God. First of all I thought, who even has the time or patience to “be still” and listen? But more than that, how in the world do I hear Him? Is it a booming voice or an obvious sign? I had heard Him before, but quite honestly, I didn’t know how to get to that same place or state again to hear Him.
I don’t remember when it fully registered with me, but one day I realized that this “relationship” that I had with God really wasn’t much of a relationship at all. Sure, I believed, went to church, and even read my Bible some by myself, but other than that, it wasn’t very personal.
My parents had introduced the concept of a “quiet time” to me awhile back, but I was on and off the fence a good bit of how into it I was. I mean, that’s a lot of time out of my day to spend with God, I thought. Plus, my parents are so much older than me! I’ll have a quiet time when I’m older like them. I’ve got time to kill!
The day did come however when I just couldn’t take it any more. I wanted to hear God. I needed to. There was only one thing I could think of to do: try to talk to Him. So I got up a little earlier than I would’ve before school and read my Bible with a devotional. After reading, I would say a little prayer about what I had read and then one for my family.
A little further down the road, having watched both my parents do this every morning, I started to journal about what I had read, trying to make sense of it from the mind and heart of a twelve-year-old. Over time, my little prayers exclusively said after reading the Bible began to scatter throughout the day. Whether I was nervous before a volleyball game or needed help on a test, my anxious thoughts would trigger the need to pray. My quiet times, although sometimes initially dreaded for the loss of an extra 30 minutes of sleep, began to interest me more and my journal entries became increasingly longer.
And do you know what happened? I saw my little prayers being answered. If I prayed for strength in a volleyball game, He gave it to me. Or if I was nervous about a test and sent up a prayer really quickly before, He gave me peace. If I had huge butterflies about singing a solo in church on Sunday and prayed that I would get through it, he helped me use the nerves for extra energy. I was praying to God throughout my day, He was hearing me and answering, and I was recognizing it.
As I recognized that, “Wow, God is listening to me and answering my prayers,” I began to approach Him with the bigger decisions in my life. And this time, I didn’t feel the same distance that I felt before with God. I didn’t think that what I was asking was impossible to hear from Him. I had been talking to Him everyday and seeing Him show up in my life everyday. I knew His voice. It was like He was my friend.
I’m not saying that I’ve got it all down pat now. Not at all! But I completely stand by this truth: the more time that you spend with God, talking and listening to Him, the better you will get to know Him, and the more you will be able to detect His voice.
There will be some things that you’ll have to pray over for days upon days, even years! Then some decisions will become clear so quickly. The world would call it your “gut feeling.” If you spend enough time with God, then you’ll know that it’s the Holy Spirit giving you that sense of peace or direction.
So, I challenge you and myself with this: spend more time with God. Because how great would it be if we get to the point when we’re finishing His sentences?