My family recently took a brief trip to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to escape the cold weather for a few days. Our main goal was simply to exhale, relax and reconnect. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been a crazy, stressful year, so it was much-needed — even if it was just a quick jaunt. My in-laws own a condo in Nuevo Vallarta with sweeping views of the Banderas Bay surrounded by beautiful mountains. The property is private, tucked among miles of all-inclusive resorts and condo developments, a perfect vacation spot.
As I write this, I’m reading my journal notes that I jotted down on a gorgeous, sunny day while sitting by the pool overlooking the beach. I’m back in Texas now, and it’s been raining all day. I’m back to my job as Head Manager of Homework and CEO of the Kitchen and Laundry Room…grateful for the break, but wishing it was a bit longer and finding myself still waiting on God to give us direction on the best course of treatment for a family member’s illness. I’ve thought a lot about the times I’ve so clearly heard God’s voice and the maddening times He’s just silent. I do believe He speaks to us through His Word, other people, circumstances or a still, small voice in our soul.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 is one of my favorite verses: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (NIV) My experience has been that when I am most desperate, completely and utterly at the end of myself, and most need it, those are the times I have heard from the Lord. Right now he’s just quiet. So I wait.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, there were a few times that I clearly heard from God. I remember each incident as though it was yesterday. The day of my diagnosis I was understandably shaken to my core. Upon the prompting of my sister, I went in my back yard to get alone with the Lord to ask Him if I was going to die. When I prayed that prayer, I heard a very loud, resounding, “NO!” in my spirit. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.
A few weeks later a well-meaning holistic practitioner said something weirdly disturbing to me, implying that I had some kind of curse placed on me or my family. Needless to say, it really freaked me out. I felt so invaded, violated and traumatized. A few days later, I was leaving another doctor’s office, and as I walked down the steps, God whispered to me, “what man intended for harm, I will use for good.” I was not exactly sure what it meant, but I knew God was with me and that was good enough.
That was not my first time to hear God. The first time I heard his voice was early in my marriage. My husband and I had a terrible argument one day. As I was changing clothes in my closet, I felt strongly that I was to go for a walk in the park and stop at a specific place. I had never experienced anything like this but sensed it was the Lord. So, I obediently put on my tennis shoes and ran to a little tree-lined spot where water was slowly trickling downstream. When I stopped, God very clearly said to me, “I will never leave you.” And that was it. I was like, “okay; that was cool.” I didn’t know what to think about the encounter except that I felt encouraged and empowered on my journey knowing God was with me.
For some reason, even though I know I was loved immensely as a child, I struggled with self-worth and feeling loved in my teens and as an adult. Throughout the breast cancer diagnosis ordeal, I felt God saying to me repeatedly that He loved me and would never leave me. I ran across many scriptures on love; I heard sermons and songs on love. I was shown overwhelming love and support from family members and friends. I saw the deep concern in my husband ‘s eyes. After my reconstructive surgery the next year, I attended a women’s conference in California with my sister. The last night when we were having prayer and worship time, a woman whom I did not know came over and sat beside me. She said, “I don’t know you, but I’m just being obedient. The Lord told me to tell you that He loves you and He will never leave you. He also said that He will use your hands to heal others.” It was such a powerful experience. To this day I can’t tell or write that story with tearing up…especially because I am typing this story to share with you today.
(UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2019: I had no idea at the time that four years later I would become a Christ-centered yoga instructor, encouraging and challenging other women. God would use my pain for good!)
My experience hearing God’s voice is not some unique, mystical, holy roller kind of thing. I’ve not always walked with God in the past, and I’ve certainly made a mess of things at times. I am not a Bible scholar; I didn’t go to seminary. I quite honestly struggle with memorizing verses. But faith is not just about knowing God’s Word, as important as that is, and it’s not about being perfect. Faith, as Hebrews 11 says, is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see. Although I don’t fully understand why things happen, I am sure that God is with us and can and will use trials to draw us closer to Him, mature us in our faith and even use us to encourage others. I can waste time demanding to understand and dissect every little part of the Bible and cling to the unfair things that have happened in my life. But doing so would prevent me from moving forward and distract me from God’s real purpose for my life. I choose to trust that the Lord is with me, even when it’s most difficult. Right now He’s quiet, so I trust and I wait…
Joshua 1:9 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.