Week 4 | JOY in Listening

I’m not going to lie. I had a really hard time writing the blog post this week. I thought about it everyday, trying to come up with something to write on, trying to come up with just one thing that would give me the inspiration I needed. Why couldn’t I just come up with one little blog post topic?

I came up with several ideas, but nothing really stood out to me. I even had an entire rough draft of an “almost” topic, but even though the words were physically typed out, they felt meaningless. I guess you could say I didn’t feel inspired to write anything. And it was frustrating to no end. Every other week had been no problem. And not only was my writing lacking, but so were my pictures. I was running out of time, and my stress levels were slowly creeping higher.

I prayed to God, asking if he could just show me or at least point me in the direction of what I could possibly write about. Silence. All week there was nothing. No sign, no inspiration, nothing.

I didn’t understand why though. Okay…I mean I guess I could understand why an idea never came to me during the week. I was busy. I barely had enough time to even think. It was just task after task after task, slowly marking off the seemingly millions of items on my never-ending to-do list. But I had the whole weekend. I had a full three days where my mind was rested and clear. I concentrated on God and what he was telling me to write about. But even with those restful, focused days I still couldn’t think of anything. Still nothing was shown to me.

God, I’m listening, okay? As my elementary school teachers would say, I had my listening ears on. But even though I said I was listening, Was I really? Was I really listening, or was I just saying that I was listening so that when I heard no answer, I had an excuse to get stressed?

It was after I reached the pinnacle of stress that Gavin said to me, “Anna, sweet girl, right now you are just wanting to stress because there really isn’t even a reason to be stressed.”

I wanted to immediately retaliate and say, “Um excuse me? How dare you tell me when I am correctly stressing or not. You don’t know me; you don’t know my life!” (I guess my early teenage sassiness momentarily made a comeback…13-year-old Anna was a handful.) But even though that is what I thought at first, I ultimately knew that he was right. And when Gavin said that to me, I also realized that maybe that is what God had been trying to tell me all along.

Anna, sweet girl, if you would just listen, you wouldn’t have to be stressing out right now.

 But because deep down I was searching for an answer on my own, I forgot to leave time and to clear my mind for listening.

 I wondered how often do we drown out God’s soft whisper with the noise of our own mind? How often do we focus so hard on trying to listen, that we forget to actually listen in the process? How often do we listen so intently for the answer that we want to hear that we become deaf to the answer that God wants us to hear?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

I’ve caught myself far too many times saying that I’m listening for God’s answer, but in reality, I’m listening for my own answer. God tells us that we aren’t supposed to go off of our own understanding, but instead, trust fully and completely in Him.

This can be rather hard to do though…especially when impatience takes over.

When God’s answers take longer than expected, we can start coming up with our own answers, claiming that that is what God wanted us to do. We become impatient and when we don’t get the answer we are expecting in a timely manner, we take matters into our own hands, but that…that is not trusting God completely. God always hears our request. In my case, it was hearing my request for guidance in this blog post. But just because God hears our request, doesn’t mean he will answer it when or how we are expecting Him to.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
— Psalm 5:3

See, this is where the listening comes in. We have to be actively listening for that quiet murmur, that loud scream, that unexpected word. We have to be listening for God’s answer whenever and however God may decide to give it.

As hard as it may be, we can’t jump the gun and forget to listen just because we are impatient. We can’t block out God’s answer because we are too busy trying to find our own. We can’t ignore his answer because it isn’t what we wanted to hear. We can’t grow angry at God just because He isn’t telling us what we want to hear when we want to hear it.

Surprisingly, there can actually be joy in this seemingly mundane, and at times uninteresting, listening. In listening you can find faith that God will provide, however that may be, and you can find patience that God will answer, whenever that might be. It can help show you that it's okay to be late for your standards because when you are waiting on God's timing, you aren't really late at all. 

For me, my answer finally came when I stopped looking and actually started listening. It came when I stopped avidly searching and actually sat back and waited, not worrying at all about the blog. It came while I was sitting in a bedroom illuminated by the last fading light of the day as I was eating Fruit Smile Gummies. I wasn’t expecting my answer then, but God always seems to have a way of giving us our answer in the most unexpected way, so if we aren’t allowing ourselves to sit back and listen, what are we going to miss? What unnecessary stress are we going to cause?

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rock before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went outside and stood at the entrance of a cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’
— 1 Kings 19:11-13