February 13, 2016

God who listens

Hannah pleaded with God for a child and promised to give him to the Lord when he was born. God heard and answered her prayer. When little Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple to serve the Lord.

When the boy was sleeping, he heard his name being called. He thought it was Eli the priest, but Eli told him it was the Lord, and told him how he should respond.

And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

Listening to God is an important part of my relationship with Him, just as it is with my family and friends. I try to be a good listener yet feel wounded if it seems that others are not listening to me. I also tend to gauge whether or not someone is listening by their responses (or lack thereof).

Today, I realize how much I do that with God. I listen for His Spirit speaking to me, but often feel that He is not listening when I speak, particularly if my prayers seem unanswered. I know that “no” or “wait” are answers, but I easily confuse that with an uncertainty that He even hears me.

Jesus didn’t suffer from that uncertainty. He knew that His Father always listened. He said so, not that He needed to affirm it. He wanted those who heard Him realize the reason why He came.

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42)

My struggle has been with reasoning why people don’t listen. I wonder if I am boring, or they don’t believe what I say. Any indifference makes me feel that I don’t matter to them.

When I start thinking that way about God, my faith takes a nosedive. If He isn’t listening, then I don’t matter to Him and that conclusion is too terrible for words. I’ve sometimes reacted like a child who says, ‘If I don’t matter, then you don’t either’ and don’t want to listen to Him either.

All of this is comes from a lie about God. He does listen, is listening. The psalmist said, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:4) He even hears what I say before I even say it!

This week, an answered prayer smacked me in the face about my foolishness. A dear family member is approaching the end of his life. He is a Christian, but has been estranged from someone in his family. I prayed for this relationship to be resolved before it is too late. God listened and brought the two of them together. They held hands and restored their relationship. I’m not able to give more details except that this kindness of the God who listens has been emotionally overwhelming.

Why should I need affirmation that He listens? Faith is not the same as sight. He says He listens and faith believes that. Also, I am in Christ and united to Him. Therefore, God always hears me just as He always hears His Son. Unlike me, God is never distracted by other things nor does He simply ignore me. In my sinful self, I might do that, but He never does.

Samuel had the child attitude of “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” I can cultivate my hearing ability by remembering that God is always speaking, but I can also deepen my relationship with Him by remembering that He is also always listening. 

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