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Listen, Look Up, and Love

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Words by Chelsea Vaughn // Image by Candice Hackett

There's this scary realization that happens when you're dependent on God. It's a realization that makes you feel like a reckless kid that just got bruised up on the playground. Dependence reminds you that there's no hope in convincing yourself you're strong. Even more, there's no hope in trying to convince others of your strength, or even in helping yourself.

I haven't been very strong during the past several months. I have spent one too many nights lying on my bedroom floor with eyes full of tears and messy mascara. My heart has been tied in confusion about why I can't just be "happy" again.

Recently, I spent three months living adventurously in Australia, and expected to stay for a semester abroad to gain a fresh perspective on life. But with just one unexpected phone call, finances forced my return to my all-too-comfortable home in Texas. The disappointment and resentment that I felt weighed heavy on my soul. As a result, my mind seemed desolate when I read, but congested when I prayed. My ears were open, my heart eager, but the voice that I was so used to hearing wasn't reaching me. I knew God was listening to my cries for answers, but there was a disconnect in hearing him. I was stuck in limbo. I wasn't mad at God, but I was mad at myself. I felt like I didn't know him, and I didn't know myself. I wasn't sure of anything. My heart was broken because I missed him, and in that, I missed myself. It was the first time for me to walk in a long season of dependence, but complete lack of understanding.

I learned how to endure. He taught me how to believe in who he says that he is, despite what I felt, because he knew what I felt was not of substance.

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” (Psalm 119:50)

From this, I remained in prayer that God would just listen to me. But I didn't realize that it was his voice that I was missing. All I heard was my own voice.

I believed I was failing. If I couldn't understand God, then I had nothing to show for my relationship with him. I didn't accept that his voice was my source of understanding. I can obsess all day over what my life would be like if I were still following the path I had set out for myself, but only God can impart understanding (John 6:63). His word means nothing if it's not being delivered by him. Prayer lacks all purpose if it isn't a means of communication. The voice of God is the only assured source of understanding (2 Tim. 1:7).

You can ask God to hear you all day long. Good. Are you also asking that he would speak to you?

God hears his children. And we ask for things endlessly. We send requests up with crossed fingers and hopeful hearts. It's a good thing that we rejoice when we see that he has listened. We may believe that he inclines his ear to listen. We may even be delighted when we see that he does. But do we realize that it is more than our voice that needs to be heard?

You may be pleading that God would hear you, but are you pleading to hear him?

No amount of willful obedience is satisfying if we're not answering a call. Jesus and the Holy Spirit create a direct line of communication with the Father. Communication is not a constant sending process. We have access to God's voice, and I don't believe we ask for it nearly enough.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)

God doesn't promise that this exchange will be instant. It can't be based on our concept of time. It won't overflow from our attempt to understand. God's voice isn't heard in the moment that we better understand who he is; instead, we better understand who God is in the moment that we hear his voice.

This is what I have learned in the growth of my dependence on God. I have endured in my reading, prayer, and strength, because I believe in who God is. I have known why I can depend on him, even when I haven't understood my circumstances, or myself, or my God (Jer. 15:19–20). My purpose is being fulfilled exactly where he has placed me in this season, but I have to faithfully seek his assurance and direction.

During my desperation for answers, I have learned that praying over the Scripture I read is more fulfilling when I believe he speaks through his inherent Word. My spirit takes refuge in God’s presence, not in answers to my confusion. I finally hear his voice again, and I have been reminded how sweet that communication is. Thinking is a delight again because I can hear him. Reading is challenging again because I can learn from him. Prayer is intimate again because I can wait for his response. This reveals to me the significance of asking for him to speak to me, and quieting my soul. This surrender to the Holy Spirit reminds me that peace is a choice, and I need to trust and accept God’s peace.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Since this difficult time in my life, I have dedicated time in the morning to surrender my heart to him. By doing this, I free myself from the weight of my personal expectations. I can’t expect to know all the answers, and this surrender helps me consciously lay myself down. It opens my heart to walk by the Spirit—the Spirit of God that leads with confidence in his provision, that loves others with humility, and that delights in the day ahead. I know hearing from God can be simple, but it can also be the most intimate encounter you have all day.

He knows me by name, and he cares for me. This abundant love is what overflows into my life. It has taught me that my understanding is not dependent on my own effort. My understanding is dependent on the presence of God.