God, Am I Hearing You Right?
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
Sometimes it is just surprising how God answers our prayers. We expect one answer; He gives a completely different one. And it can throw us for a loop.
This happened to me recently, and I almost wanted to whisper incredulously, “Really, God?” because I had it tagged as being answer (A) and not answer (B). But it was so plain, it was truly undeniable what God was saying. And it became clearer as the week went on. Oh that God would always be that plain! (But that’s another story for another time.)
For a couple of weeks, I had seriously been considering a three-day trip to Kansas City for an IHOP (International House of Prayer – not pancakes!) convention so that I could abandon myself to the Lord in worship and prayer and hear His voice more clearly. The topic related perfectly to what I believed were some of my spiritual giftings. And since I also felt like I was being called into a closer and more radical walk with the Lord, it seemed an obvious green light to take the trip. But, as it would turn out later, this was my answer (A).
Despite my desire, I just couldn’t seem to work it out. I knew that with a plane ticket, a hotel, and a car, this was going to be an expensive trip, and I was concerned about that, so I enlisted the help of a friend who had expressed interest in going. We sat down one night and prayed about going on the trip together, but she didn’t feel peace about the decision. She sensed that God was saying, “Be still.” We discussed the possibility of attending a different IHOP conference in September, but it became clear to me as the weeks progressed that there was much going on in the life of my friend and so perhaps I shouldn’t pursue that avenue with her.
I tried to do the “be still” tactic, but reasoned that perhaps God really just wanted me to go by myself. That way I could just be with Him without any distractions. Surely, God would honor this holy decision. I couldn’t imagine Him saying no to that request.
But I didn’t know the whole picture then.
Several times I got really close to booking that flight. I was inches away from closing the deal. But something always kept stopping me. A number of times I was frustrated with myself. Was I going to let money come between me and my Lord? I chided myself. So much for being radical! How do you expect to get closer to God when you can’t make this simple decision?
Only days later, my mother called to tell me her vacation plans had suddenly changed. My Aunt Pauline was coming from England to visit after all, which was a complete surprise in itself. Mom just wanted to know if I would like to join her and Dad and my aunt for a beach vacation. That was the second surprise.
Now, just guess when that beach vacation might be? Yep, same time as the IHOP conference. I knew I couldn’t do both trips. It had to be one or the other.
Could that be the reason why I couldn’t seem to decide about IHOP? I thought. But I quickly wiped that thought away. No, that’s not it.
Then on a Wednesday night, I went to church to hear a speaker from IHOP (ironic, isn’t it?) talk about that same desire to press in to the Lord. I definitely wanted to talk to this man who was so close to the Lord you could just sense it oozing out of his pores. So when I sat down to chat with him, he prophesied over me that God wanted to spend quality time with me. That got me motivated enough to rush home that night and talk with God in my prayer closet and search my Bible once again.
And shortly before bedtime, I recalled the conversation I had had with Mom just the day before. That’s right. I need to give Mom an answer by Saturday. I really wanted to make the best God-honoring decision, but I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. I don’t generally throw out fleeces on these matters, but I really needed clarity.
So I decided to get really specific. I told God if I could reserve that cheap on-campus housing for the three days and could get airfare under $225, I would go to Kansas City. That was the deal.
The next morning, I went to work as usual and suddenly realized around lunchtime that I needed to uphold my end of that prayer request. I briefly went online to the IHOP Web site, where the housing was listed. I could hardly believe what I discovered – all the rooms were booked solid for the three-day event! I didn’t even have to look into airfare. It was instantly clear that the Lord had spoken.
Whether or not you believe that laying out fleeces is proper theology for today, remember that Gideon did so in the Bible. And God answered Him just as simply and just as specifically then as I felt God did for me. Gideon gained what he was seeking: the peace that comes from having God’s reassurance that the Lord Most High was indeed guiding Him. And I gained a sense of peace in knowing that, yes, I truly can hear from God and that God really does want me to make the right decision.
But there was one more thing that had me thinking, so I spoke it out to God in prayer: Why, Lord?
That probably sounds like a really dumb question to many of you. And I know I can be really dense on certain subjects. But when you are thinking so much that God has one plan for your life and then suddenly you realize it’s another path entirely, you do tend to ask things like that, especially during seasons when hearing God has been particularly trying.
Maybe it’s because I am a journalist with an incredulous nature, but God knows there are times when I just need to understand what He is up to. Sometimes He lets me know right away; sometimes He waits years. I daresay, sometimes He will just decide not to tell me at all and have me walk completely by faith. Thankfully, He chose to be gracious to me and answer my inquisitiveness. I just had to wait until Sunday.
In the middle of the pastor’s sermon about a completely unrelated topic that I wasn’t really paying attention to – you know, one of those sermons that you think doesn’t really apply to you – I heard my pastor pinpoint his disgust of Christian ministers who are in the pulpit every Sunday preaching but whose families are falling apart. He said, “The answer isn’t somewhere out there. It’s right here,” meaning that it’s your family and relationships that are more important. We can often look to the big, flashy, eventful endeavors in far and distant lands outside the more unassuming, day-to-day walls of our homes to discover the pulse of God. In reality, His heartbeat is in our own backyard, too. And sometimes His heart beats stronger there.
I thought about all the times I had chosen to follow God by doing the things “out there” – ministry, missions, my job – to the exclusion of pouring my life into those things “right here”. It wasn’t that doing those ventures was wrong in and of themselves, but I started to see that perhaps my life was unbalanced and God was trying to show me how to shift the weight so I wouldn’t be spiritually and relationally lopsided.
The “right here” stuff about family and relationships often makes me feel insecure. I guess that’s because I recall all those times when I said or did or thought the wrong things and there is still a sense of lingering failure there. Plus, I have been more than a little unsure I could do the wife/mother thing like my older sister had done so well if I were to have a family of my own. Some days, it all seems so far removed from me and my current life as a single woman living independently.
So I often decide to put my energies toward what I believe I am successful at – the poetic “out there”. And it seems to work. I get the pat on the back from other Christians who deem my efforts “good and faithful servant” stuff. And I do see much fruit in those efforts, too.
But now I am being asked to change my focus and go deeper. I am being called to intimacy. And I think God is actually trying to show me that I am not just destined to be “out there” like I dream of being, traveling to foreign nations and doing exploits in the name of the Lord; I am also destined to be comfortable and content and influential in the “right here” hearth of the home, both now and in the future. It’s humbling but also encouraging. God obviously wants to stretch my view of Him and me at this juncture in my life. God wants to complete the picture, to fill in that circle.
Faithful ones, God has so much in store. We can’t imagine. He answers in ways that do take us off guard at times. But He has a plan in it all. He sees all the details and He orchestrates each step in our lives – even while we don’t have a clue of where He is ultimately taking us. We don’t always have to know the destination, only that we are safe on the path of His journey.
May He watch over each breath you take, each prayer you whisper, each act of faith you offer to Him.
How to Give Your Life to Christ:
1. Admit you are a sinner and need forgiveness.
2. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross and
rose from the grave.
3. Through prayer, confess that Jesus Christ is the only
way to God and commit to live for Him for the rest of your
What to Pray:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe
that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave
to give me life. I know You are the only way to God so now
I want to quit disobeying You and start living for You. Please
forgive me, change my life and show me how to know You. In
Jesus' name. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, please send
us an e-mail to let us know. Or you can call our CBN Prayer
Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk
with you and send you some resources to help you begin your
walk with the Lord.
Laura J. Bagby produces the Health and Finance channels. She writes inspirational, humor, singles, and health articles.
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