“Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.” 1 Samuel 3:4-8
My husband Jackson has been my best friend since we met, I'll always
go to him when I'm discerning God's voice. Here's an old car selfie of us!
Communication with People vs. Communication with God:
A crucial part of any relationship is open communication. Our relationships wouldn’t work if we just talked to people but we never heard back from them. Most of us have had that “one friend” who we consistently reach out to, but they never seem to initiate with us. It can be really hurtful. It feels like we are always the one sending out texts or calls first, and they could go on without caring to think of reaching out to us. The result is often feeling rejected, not needed, and maybe not even worthy of that friendship.
I think when it comes to our relationships with other people, we often have a high standard for communication. We expect to hear back from people in a timely manner, and when we don’t it leads to frustration. Anyone who knows me knows I’m notorious for reading messages and forgetting to respond. (Sorry, I know it’s kind of the worst...we’re all a work in progress, right?)
But here’s my question for you—why don’t we expect to hear from God?
Many Christians have given up on hearing from God completely. Some people write it off as something mystical and strange, others insist they just don’t experience God in that way. Maybe that’s true, but here’s some blunt honesty for your Monday: I don’t believe it’s possible to have a healthy relationship without communication going both ways. I think we could all agree on this when it comes to human relationships, so I’m going to challenge you today to think that way about God too.
Sharing a vulnerable experience or being open with our emotions and thoughts and not getting a response can make us feel unseen. This is true of God too. It makes God seem as if He is a distant Father, who doesn’t hear His kids or bother to listen and respond when they ask things of Him. This isn’t true. God is always eager to speak to us when we give Him the space and time, and when we develop the awareness to listen for His voice.
Whose Voice is Most Familiar to You?
Samuel was being called by the Lord, but he didn’t recognize God’s voice. The passage shows us Samuel heard the voice of the Lord but wrongly assumed the voice belonged to Eli. Samuel was familiar with hearing the voice of Eli call him, so he assumed the voice belonged to who he was accustomed to hearing from the most. Eli was his mentor, and he was obedient to answer Eli’s call. I think this shows us that if we want to hear from God, we first have to become familiar with His voice.
When I was interning at a ministry, we did a demonstration about this concept. One student left the room, and came back in with a blindfold on. She sat in front of a room of students. While she was out of the room, we were all told to pick an action phrase like, “Sit down,” and we all chose a different phrase to say. When she came back in, we were all told to repeatedly shout the phrase we had picked out at her at the same time. Our pastor had chosen her for this demonstration because her best friend was also in the room. She stood closest to her and while everyone else was instructing her to do other actions, her best friend stood beside her saying, “follow my voice, follow my voice.”
I always remember this demonstration because although a room of people shouted other actions at her, this student chose to follow the voice of her best friend instead. I am reminded of this truth: we listen to the voice we know the best and trust the most. Samuel heard a voice and assumed it belonged to who he knew and was used to following and obeying.
If we want to be faithful followers of Jesus, we need to become most familiar and attuned to His voice.
How To Recognize God's Voice:
It’s difficult to recognize a voice when we don’t know who the voice is coming from. The best way to become familiar with God’s voice is to get to know Him through His word. His voice is clearly defined throughout scripture in many forms. As we come to understand and know His character, we can recognize His voice more easily when He calls us.
We can be confident it belongs to Him because we know it is consistent, unchanging throughout all time and He will never speak anything that isn’t in line with the Word.
I also love how Samuel goes to Eli three times before Eli recognizes Samuel is being called by the Lord. Samuel isn’t even the one who eventually realizes the voice of God is what he’s hearing. It’s Eli. This encourages me to be cautious and to surround myself with people who both know God and recognize His voice.
What if I Don't Know if it's God?
Sometimes, we might miss what God is saying to us. We might be too focused on all the other voices we hear throughout the day. Maybe we aren’t able to follow those gentle instructions given by our best friend but what if we lived in close community, so much so that we have other people listening with us?
I love when God chooses to confirm something I’ve been praying for with another person in my life. It encourages me that I have heard His voice, and it also invites someone else to be a part of the testimony. Sometimes, if I feel uncertain about a decision I’m making or something I’ve been praying about, after seeking the Father’s heart, I’ll go to my “Eli.”
When learning to hear the voice of God, He has to become our best friend, our most trusted source for instruction, and the voice we are most attuned to and aware of. We can also surround ourselves with people who know His voice, and can affirm the questions we may have and say, “yep, that sounds like God.”
Our world is filled with distractions and other voices to listen to, but to have a deep abiding relationship with God, we need to eagerly wait to hear His voice and spend time getting to know Him so we won’t miss it when He calls.
One last word of encouragement…
If this feels scary or intimidating to you, notice how many times God calls before Eli tells Samuel who is calling Him. I am so grateful for a Father whose patience is abundant and who will continue to call out to us repeatedly until we sit at His feet and are prepared to listen.
-Reflect on the voices that fill your life. Think of who and what are your most trusted voices, and the ones you hear most eagerly. How can you reposition God to put His voice above all others?
-How has God spoken to you in the past? Write about how He has spoken to you before, and how you can use these experiences to allow you to listen more closely in the future.
-What voices distract you from God’s Voice? What voices lead you to hear God’s voice?
Hey God, thank you for being a God who is eager to communicate to us openly. Thank you for giving us your Word to show us who you are, and to teach us your ways. Holy Spirit help us to become more aware of what you’re speaking to us from the Father. Help us to hear your voice, to recognize it, and to trust it above all others. Increase a confidence within us to understand how we have full access to communicate with you. Thank you for being our best friend. Amen.