It seems that at some point in every believer’s life, something happens that causes us to be disappointed with God. Perhaps disappointment is too mild a word. Usually we get angry, hurt, frustrated, or disillusioned. Oftentimes, though not always, this disappointment is triggered by the death of a loved one. In what follows, I hope to share my experience in this area, and some insights that might help you out of these struggles if you are currently confronted by them.
My first and most serious disappointment with God came when I was 23 years old, after about 5 years as a committed believer. There was a man who I had come to know through a men’s prayer breakfast. I don’t know his age precisely, but I’d guess he was in his fifties, perhaps even late forties. I had come to admire him for his active faith, and looked up to him as a mentor. After I’d known him for a year or so, he was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t remember any more what kind of cancer (I think it was lung cancer), but in the early eighties a diagnosis of any kind of cancer was a very serious thing, because there were not that many successful treatments for any cancers, unlike today where there are high success rates with many kinds of cancer.
The good news about becoming a friend of God is that God already desires to be your friend!1 So you do not have to fear rejection, because He is already prepared to accept you whenever you decide that you want to be His friend.
The second piece of good news is that you do not have to change or clean up your act before becoming a friend of God.2 He already knows you even better than you know yourself,3 and even as you are, He is ready to welcome you. In fact, He knows that for many of us, it will seem an impossible task to clean up our act.
Once we become God’s friend, He promises a few things that will greatly help us. First of all, He promises us a new heart.4 What a new heart does for us is that it enables us to truly love God, and in many cases it frees us from things that we are ashamed of or unable to change apart from God’s help. Secondly, He promises to come and live in us.5 Talk about a close relationship! He loves us so much that He wants us to be free to share our hearts and lives with Him. And He wants us to know Him at a deep heart level, too.6
Key Point 1: Be reconciled to God.
The Bible teaches that there is only one way to be truly reconciled to God. Reconciliation comes through believing in Jesus, God’s one and only Son, who died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. The kind of belief referred to in the Bible is more than an intellectual agreement. It means that we believe so completely that we will love Him all the days of our lives, and follow Him in loving obedience in every area of our lives.
- John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18,20 (NIV) God… reconciled us to himself through Christ… We implore you…: Be reconciled to God!
Key Point 2: Seek out and be open to receiving God’s revelations of His personal love for you.
When we start to grasp the depth of love God has for us, then we are able to respond with a deeper love for Him than we thought possible. This is the amazing secret of being filled with God to overflowing. To paraphrase Mike Bickle, our love for God cannot rise above what our heart-level understanding of His love for us is. People that are confident in God’s love for them are able to soar above their circumstances and live lives that reflect the heart and power of God, radiating His glory to all around.
I’ve been putting off writing this for a long time. I feel like there are many others out there who hear from God so much better than I and are more capable of writing this. Throughout the ages, a number of saints have written on this topic — all more capable than I of hearing God’s voice.
So why am I writing this article on how to hear God’s voice? I spent this past year reading what others have written about hearing from God. One thing I discovered is that each person seems to approach hearing from God differently. I think this is because we all have different personalities, and the approaches reflect the personalities. Furthermore, most were not very specific about what God sounds like. At a very minimum, this article reflects the input from one more personality. But my reason for writing is more than that. My hope is that I will also have some useful suggestions in discerning God’s voice that may not be presented elsewhere, and that I might reach some people that might not be reached by anyone else.
God wants you to be His friend
I am convinced that God’s heart’s desire is to have an intimate friendship with each one of His followers. The most frequently missing major component of intimate friendship is hearing God’s voice. God wants you to hear Him! You cannot claim to have an intimate friendship with someone you don’t ever hear from. You can read old letters from someone that point to a relationship you once had, but you can’t claim that the relationship is intimate if all of the letters are old.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV).
Ephesians 3:17-19 is one of the most important passages in the Bible, and verse 19 is perhaps the most important verse in the whole Bible. Beginning in the second part of verse 17 there is a clear transition in the prayer. Paul focuses on God’s love for us. He points out that when we came to faith in Jesus (i.e., when we were “rooted and established”), it was in love and because of love. One of the first verses most of us hear is John 3:16, which says that because God so loved the world, “He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). Even though I did not know this Scripture when I put my faith in Jesus, I put my faith in Him because I believed that He was really God, and that He loved me very much. Over the years as I “matured ” in the Christian faith, however, I somehow got away from the primacy of God’s love, until I effectively had a “work to please God” mentality. But Paul’s prayer here takes us back to the primacy of God’s love for us.
Paul prays in verse 18 that we could have power to grasp the dimensions of God’s love for us. He emphasizes that this is something that all believers — Paul uses the word “saints” here to refer to all followers of Jesus — might gain this knowledge. He makes it very plain that he is praying for each believer. God’s love for me (and you!) is so magnificently huge that we cannot ever hope to really grasp its full dimensions. Even so, Paul prays that at least we begin to grasp and expand the boundaries of what we understand as God’s love for us.