Learning to Listen Well

by Natalie Flake Ford @tearstojoy

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

Panic. Dread. Unprecedented Fear. These words describe the emotional turmoil in the car just moments before my daughter’s first driving lesson. After a quick prayer, I gently instructed her on keeping between the lines as well as knowing when to brake and when to speed up. As I did this, my anxious feelings slowly began to dissipate. Peace and calm gradually replaced my fear and anxiety.

In order for my daughter to drive well, we had to turn off distractions (cell phones and radio). As she listened intently to my voice and worked diligently to obey my commands, she gradually learned to drive.

God wants the same for us in our daily lives. Too often distractions drown out his still, quiet voice until we are consumed with doing what the world deems important. The result is becoming preoccupied with worry. Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and psychologist, wrote, “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”

If we want to walk in obedience to Christ, we have to remove distractions so that we can focus on His voice. This is easier said than done. Silence can be uncomfortable.

I don’t know about you, but when I get quiet, my mind starts to race. I obsess over my to-do list and struggle with the urge to “do something.” If I am quiet long enough, anxieties, fears, hurtful memories, anger, and pain threaten to consume me.

Uncomfortable with these feelings, I want to stop this “inner chat” and hide in busyness. But to do so would mean missing God’s voice and the peace He offers. When we are still before Him, the Holy Spirit does a healing work in the deep recesses of our heart and soul.

One of my seminary professors required that we spend three hours alone with the Lord. Honestly, I dreaded this assignment and thought it to be a waste of time. But out of obligation, I gathered my Bible, a hymnal, a journal, and my guitar and headed for a local state park.

In the beginning, it felt awkward. My mind wandered, and I continually fought to bring it back to the Word. But as I disciplined myself to be still, I experienced one of the sweetest, most intimate times with the Lord that I’ve ever had. I left that park different than when I arrived. I was filled with contentment, peace, and joy, even though my circumstances remained the same.

Spending three hours alone with God daily is not realistic for most of us. But we can make finding quiet moments a priority, whether it be the few minutes before we get out of bed, turning off the radio in the car, or meditating on the Word during our quiet times.

Consider scheduling time in your calendar for solitude and don’t let anything change that appointment. Get up early on Sundays and spend time preparing your heart for worship — maybe even go to the Church and find a quiet place to pray and listen.

Solitude is not easy. It is awkward at first, but it has the potential to radically sanctify us and make us more like Christ. If Jesus was always intently listening to the Father, how much more do we need to do the same?

TWEETABLE
Learning to Listen Well – insight from Natalie Flake Ford, @TearsToJoy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Natailie Ford headshotAbout the author: Natalie Flake Ford teaches counseling and psychology at Truett McConnell University.  She is also a licensed professional counselor. Dr. Ford is passionate about missions and lives to make Jesus known.

In her book, Tears to Joy, Natalie details the tribulations of dealing with mental illness. Debunking stigma and presenting practical advice, she offers hope to those who have dealt with a loved one’s mental illness or suicide, even to those who have struggled with it themselves.

Join the conversation: How do you manage to incorporate solitude into your life?

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