Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond.
Bill Hybels (Zondervan, 978-0310318224)
I’ve long been fascinated by the subject of hearing God. In my twenties I edited Leanne Payne’s book on the subject, Listening Prayer. Engaging with her manuscript set me on a path of seeking God’s voice fervently. I felt awe the first time his whisper reverberated in my spirit: “I love you, beloved. You are mine.” But eventually my unbridled excitement that the God of the universe would actually speak to me led me to ignore the practice of testing what I was hearing (even though Leanne Payne counsels against this). For instance, I believed I heard God tell me to move cities to work with a Christian ministry, a place that conveniently was home to the man that I believed God was telling me to marry.
You can probably guess that none of that happened – the move or the marriage. My hopes and faith splattered when my plans came to naught. I didn’t know what to think or believe.
And yet I couldn’t give up listening to God. I tried, but I couldn’t cut the lifeline that had been giving me hope and love and affirmation – even though I had messed up in the interpretation. That major crash helped me to mature as I learned to wait before God, asking him to clarify and affirm what I was hearing – through the Bible, through his still, small voice, through trusted friends and family.
I still gobble up books on this topic, always learning something new about our mysterious relationship with our Creator. When I heard about Bill Hybels’, I was surprised. I thought of him as a high-powered pastor and founder of the massive Willow Creek empire. My husband, also a pastor, has enjoyed his books, but I haven’t read any closely. Yet when I picked up The Power of a Whisper, I didn’t want to put it down. He tells the story of how God’s whispers have changed the course of his life, including creating Willow, learning how to parent, aching for the poor and so on. God has continually shaped him through these sometimes gentle, sometimes persistent communications from above. This book has mellowed my perception of him as an author.
I thought his book could have been reduced by about a third – it started to feel a bit too long and unwieldy towards the end – but would recommend it as an introduction to hearing God. It’s especially suitable for any type-A guys in your life (I passed along my copy to the vicar with whom I sleep, and he’s loving it).
What words will God have for you today?
This review originally appeared in the March 2013 Woman Alive Book Club.