Suppose you want to hear some music. You turn on your radio and a talk station comes on. You don’t want talk, you want music. Here is where you might say, “This radio is dumb. It doesn’t play any music.” Yet is this a correct conclusion? No. Your radio’s antenna is receiving all kinds of music transmissions, but before you can enjoy certain ones, you have to tune in to the right station. It works the same with God’s Voice. He is always talking to you, but He broadcasts His messages on many different stations. Most Christians refuse to acknowledge more than one or two stations. They want God to speak to them through emotional experiences or in the form of some clear thought voice. God does speak in these ways, but He also speaks in a variety of other ways. God is constantly changing which station He’s broadcasting on. If we’re going to hear Him, we need to learn how to listen to multiple stations at the same time. This is what the Holy Spirit will teach you to do if you are willing to submit to His education process.
Learning to recognize God’s Voice begins with realizing two critical facts. First, that He is always talking to you personally. Second, that His communications come in a wide variety of forms. As long as you are refusing to accept one or both of these facts, you simply aren’t going to get very far in your relationship with God.
As humans, the greatest obstacle we face in our relationships with God is accepting how alien He is without then concluding that He is impossible to relate to. All Christians struggle with this many times along the way. Struggling isn’t what kills us—it’s when we fully embrace this despairing idea and refuse to be talked out of it. The number one reason we give up in our pursuit of God is a lack of submission. We simply can’t stand the fact that God is not a human and that He refuses to act like one just to suit us. Not willing to accept our lack of control over Him, we turn our backs on Him and pretend that we’ve gained some great victory by refusing to pursue the God who we depend on for absolutely everything. It’s really idiotic reasoning on our part, but it’s what we do.
Humans build relationships on identity. Identity is a matter of finding common ground between us and the person we’re trying to relate to. When we first start out with God, we naturally assume He is much more like us than He actually is. As long as we think that God thinks like we do, we find Him easy to relate to. Look around the Church today and you’ll find scores of Christians who are treating God like He’s a human being. When they really want Him to do something, they keep nagging Him, because nagging works with humans. When they think He’s not listening, they get their friends together and gang up against Him with some relentless group nagging, because peer pressure is very effective in getting other humans to do what we want. Christians bribe God with money. They try to flatter Him with insincere worship. They try to impress Him with good deeds. They put on phony acts to try and deceive Him about what their true intentions are. All of these things are a result of over-humanizing God. Because humans are creatures of limited power, most Christians believe God is limited as well. Oh sure, they say He created the universe, but then they constantly talk as if demons, sin, and evil people are messing up His good plans. Instead of viewing God as the unique and foreign Being that He is, Christians view Him as a kind of dense Superhuman who relies on them for advice, help, and news updates. And once we decide that God is human, we naturally expect Him to communicate like a human. When He doesn’t, we decide that He is ignoring us, that He’s left us, and/or that He doesn’t love us.
The non-Christian who intensely hates God is playing the same game as the Christian prayer warrior who boasts about how critical her prayers are to making sure God’s will happens down here. Both of these folks are projecting human qualities onto God. The prayer warrior thinks she loves God, but she really just loves the illusion of having a powerful Servant who will carry out her orders. Meanwhile, the non-Christian hates God for not behaving as a human God should. In both of these cases, there is a serious lack of education and submission. Both of these souls need to realize that by treating an alien God like a human being, they have massively confused and deluded themselves. The prayer warrior has turned into a pompous little braggart who is trying to dominate her Creator, while the God hater is foolishly shoving away love which is readily available to him simply because he doesn’t like the form it is coming in.
God isn’t human, and He isn’t going to act like a human. Because we are human, God uses a lot of human metaphors to help us understand how He thinks and how He operates. But though we can call God our “Father”, He is vastly different than the human fathers we know on earth. And though we can say God is “love”, His love is vastly different than our own. A critical step in getting closer to God is to knock down all of the limitations you have previously constructed in your mind regarding Him and realize that you are dealing with a totally alien kind of Being. This is a different game with different rules. Relating to God requires the use of a whole new approach.
If you try to relate to God like you do another human, you’ll end up frustrated and despaired. If you try to relate to another human the way you should relate to God, you’ll end up in a very abusive relationship. You can’t mix human and God stuff—they belong in two different camps. Boundaries are a vital part of maintaining healthy human relationships—you have to keep building them, shifting them, and maintaining them. But in your relationship with God, there can’t be any boundaries. You have to be wide open to Him totally blowing your mind with some completely crazy maneuver that contradicts every rule in the book (see Present Convictions vs. Past Commands). Demands are appropriate and often necessary in human relationships. If we don’t insist on a certain degree of respect, even our loved ones will take advantage of us and mistreat us because this is the human way. But demands are totally inappropriate in our relationship with God. When dealing with Him, we are always the ones receiving the orders, we never get to give any. Of course we all start off bossing God about all the time. This is what we’re taught to do by the Church, because the Church is steeped in rebellion. But as we progress with God, He teaches us to unlearn many wrong approaches that we are using with Him—and they’re all approaches that we’ve learned in our relationships with other humans.
God is always talking to you. But He’s an alien Being who speaks in alien ways, so you shouldn’t be surprised that you’re missing many of His communications right now. What you don’t want to do is toss up your hands and decide that you can’t ever learn to recognize God’s Voice. That is total rubbish. Of course you can learn to recognize God’s Voice because He will teach you how.
Relating to God isn’t like trying to strike up a conversation with some Martian who just landed in your backyard. The Martian doesn’t understand you and you don’t understand him, so your efforts to communicate are unproductive and tedious as you both stand around misinterpreting each other’s efforts to find common ground. But God is not a confused Martian. God created you. He knows you inside and out. He understands humans far better than you do, even though you’re one of them. In your relationship with God, there’s only mystery, questions and confusion on one side: your side. God is never confused and He never misunderstands you. This is a huge advantage, because the fact that God knows you so well plus the fact that He can do anything means that there is no limit to how close you can be to Him. Your ignorance, confusion and frustration simply aren’t show-stoppers because He can obliterate any obstacle between the two of you.
There’s nothing that God can’t teach you, and nothing that He can’t give you the ability to understand. He’s God Almighty, not some lame superhuman. He has infinite options and infinite power. So don’t ever buy this lie that you just don’t have the chops to get close to a Being as strange and mysterious as your alien Creator. God is the One who defines the possibilities in your relationship with Him, and He says that if you sincerely want a close relationship with Him, He’ll give you one that far surpasses your greatest hopes.
It’s critical to remember that you aren’t some creature who God randomly stumbled upon one day and decided to take an interest in. God created you for the specific purpose of having a personal relationship with Him. He is all for the two of you developing some sweet, intimate communion. Sure, His methods for getting you there will seem bizarre and nonsensical and downright wrong at times. But He’s not a human, so you have to leave room for Him to act in non-human ways. God is a totally different kind of Being, and your relationship with Him will be quite different than the relationships you have with other people. But if you stick with His program, you’ll eventually conclude that relating to God is infinitely more satisfying than relating to created things. You just can’t beat communing with the One who created you—it’s the whole reason you exist.