Last week I described my friend’s amazement to find God speaking to her through journal entries written in her own hand. Far from being silent, Jesus was speaking; she just hadn’t had the ear to hear. This week Julie describes that continuing transformation in her own words–that change from not hearing God at all to actually understanding what He is saying to her.
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In Julie’s Own Words
For years, I watched others launch into a dynamic Christian walk while I stood by, along the sidelines. They were visibly transformed into thriving, joyful beings. God’s power was evident in their lives. Their prayers were answered. They responded to challenges in a proactive way. They seemed to have an “insider’s scoop” on how God worked. They seemed to know Him intimately, move with Him closely, and hear Him clearly.
That wasn’t my experience as a Christian.
Although I studied the Bible and prayed regularly, I didn’t feel like I had God’s attention. I didn’t see Him working powerfully in my life. While, at times, I experienced answered prayer, that wasn’t enough to sustain me. I wanted to see God active and present in my daily life. I figured the way to enter into a more intimate relationship was by being more diligent – being a “better” Christian, whatever that meant.
But “doing all the right things” left me unsatisfied. My walk with God was stagnant, bereft of the joy, peace, power, fullness, meaning and abundant life that He promises.
Everything changed when I learned that God is active and present, constantly sending His thoughts and speaking His Word into our lives.
When He began to address my deepest needs, it not only transformed my life and my relationship with Him, it transformed me. I began seeing a steady stream of messages coming through Scripture, being further supported in sermons, conversations and everyday occurrences… this linkage of His words and thoughts took place everywhere, even in my noticing a book cover in a store that matched the very message coming to me through the Scripture I had read that morning. These ongoing “coincidences” got my attention. More importantly, they provided insight into how God was working in my life– and how I needed to respond.
I first noticed God’s engagement when I expressed frustration about being spiritually parched, and He led me to Scripture about “living water.” After that, I received an overflow (no pun intended) of messages about “water” wherever I turned – water was in the news, in sermon topics, in my work assignments, in movies and books and visuals I came across, in seemingly random conversations. I couldn’t get away from “water.” The message was clear: I needed His “living water” – His Holy Spirit – for a thriving spiritual life.
Finally, I had heard from God. Not that this was the first time He had spoken to me, but it was the first time I had “seen” and “heard” Him. It wasn’t just about answered prayer – rather, it was an ongoing dialogue with God that made my connection to Him powerful and vibrant and real.
After my initial “aha!”, my quiet times took off. I would be struck by a Bible reading and the theme (the walls of Jericho, Jonah’s whale, Babylon) or specific words (“new creation“) would resonate in multiple ways. The Word always spoke directly to something I was wrestling with, or wanting to understand at that moment – always targeting my place of need. Once I was able to recognize His message, it was exciting and freeing to respond. Even when the message was hard to hear.
In the spring of 2001, I felt a “strong prompting” to read Genesis. Although I had read Genesis before, this time was different. Every chapter spoke to me more powerfully and revealed some truth that I hadn’t grasped before. During this time, I found a lump in my breast. I dismissed the thought of cancer, since I was young and healthy, and had good results from my annual checkup six months previously.
After a series of exams – and assurances from medical professionals that it was highly unlikely I had cancer — the day finally arrived when I would find out my biopsy results. My devotional reading that morning talked about being on a threshold of something new and having to leave behind our known world.
The words on the page hit me hard: “We go from threshold to threshold with something pulling us forward and something pulling us back…What is He wanting to tell us at those very insecure, very fearful times?” *
I reared back, frightened by the message of crossing a threshold. I turned to my Bible, seeking comfort, and came across the Scripture for that day:
Gen. 12: 1-2
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
I closed my Bible, stunned, as I sat on my front porch with tears streaming down my face. It was clear God was telling me that He was taking me to a new place, away from the safety of my known world. I knew I had cancer.
Hours later, my diagnosis of cancer was confirmed at the doctor’s office. Although it was a terrible blow to grasp this news, there was something very powerful about “hearing” it first from God. I knew He was there with me, taking me on this journey with Him to a place I didn’t know. But He was also telling me that it would be a place of blessing. Blessing that would only come through cancer. Blessing that was His way, not mine.
Over the months of cancer treatment, and the succeeding years of more cancer-related issues, I have seen clearly how God has used my experience to minister to others. My “foreign land” ended up being a blessing not only to me but to others.
Today, more than a decade later, my life offers both richness and challenges. I continue to turn to His Word and pay attention to what He is speaking into my life. Once I understand how I need to respond – Forgive someone? Step out on faith? Reach out to someone? Change my way of thinking? – I receive His power to do what He is directing me. I see Him at work in my circumstances. As He makes Himself real to me, I am transformed – and freed to live the life I once thought was out of reach.
* Ken Gire, “Windows of the Soul.