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I longed for God to talk to me. Desperately. I wanted a relationship with Him—a real relationship. But I found God lousy at conversations. What good was it if I did all the talking while He stayed up there in the night sky, silent as the stars that blinked down? How could I live a Christian life in misery and loneliness? How would I even recognize His voice?

You might also struggle with this issue, and maybe you’ve given up on hearing God. I wanted to give up, but God had me cornered. He’d revealed Himself to me enough that I dared not live without Him. I needed Him in my life. But I didn’t know how I could truly be close to Him or know His love for me unless He took a moment to speak directly to me.

My determination to hear God’s voice spiked the summer I turned 19. During a Bible study at our house, I heard a story about a man who fasted and prayed in the woods for three days until God spoke to him out loud. I’d do that, I thought. If that’s what it took, I would simply go for a walk and I’d keep walking until God said, “Yes, Amy? How can I help you?”

My mother lived deep in the mountains of northern Idaho, about 17 miles from the interstate. So one dark evening I started off, ignoring fears about mountain lions or bears. I walked and shouted. I walked and praised. I walked and prayed. I walked and listened. I listened hard, because that’s what people had told me to do. “In order to hear God, you have to listen,” they all said. So, I listened.

I heard lots of things-crickets, the river gushing. I imagined voices that spoke nonsense. None of it was God. So I renewed my cycle of shouting, praising, and praying into the dark country night.

Then, about two o’clock in the morning, it happened.

God told me to go home.

He didn’t boom in my ear. He didn’t make the slightest rumble of noise. He didn’t even warm my heart. I didn’t feel anything! I just knew that my heavenly Father had ordered me to go home. It was as if He had spoken directly to my spirit, and my spirit heard.

Man, was I angry! “No!” I bellowed into the night air. “I want You to talk to me!” I swung my legs and kept marching down the road. After ten yards I stopped, and my shoulders drooped. It was no good. I had to go home.

I’d walked eight and a half miles—exactly halfway to the freeway. This meant that I had to hike eight and a half miles back. I turned and started moving. My legs cramped and one knee complained the last four miles, but I made it.

When I reached the house, Mom ordered me to go to bed. I gladly obeyed. Later, when she found out why I’d turned around and come home, she got excited. “Girl, that’s when we prayed that God would send you home! We said, ‘Lord, it’s two in the morning. Will You send her home?’ ” Mom shook her head at me. “I just thought you were out behind the barn or something. What were you thinking?”

Thanks a lot, God, I thought. Disappointment wrung my heart like a damp washrag. “Go home” was not what I’d wanted to hear from Him.

On a side note, it’s important to understand my background. I’m the second of eight children. My parents divorced when I was young, and right after I turned 11 Mom relocated us 300 miles away from my father. My older brother left home when I was 9, and he never came back. We moved often, and by the time I reached high school I was on my eighth school. I got tired of even trying to make friends.

Mom was overworked and overstressed, and I had to look after my younger brothers and sisters three to four nights a week. For years I had no one to care for me or make sure that my basic needs were met. Hard as Mom tried, we all experienced different levels of neglect and abandonment. I desperately, painfully, needed for God to say, “You’re important,” but He wouldn’t even talk to me! At least, that’s what I thought.

The summer ended, and I returned to college in the Seattle area. I hadn’t yet settled on a church home, so I decided to try the church my favorite professor attended. After one service I went forward for prayer, still seeking a breath from God. I wanted a touch that said, “I love you. You’re valuable to Me.”

A lady prayed for me, but I sensed nothing, heard nothing. I felt dropped and broken again, like a jumbo-sized grade “F” egg.

Alone, I slumped to the gymnasium and began to shoot baskets. I started bawling. At one point I punted a volleyball across the room in tearful frustration—just as some man and his family entered.

Oh great, I thought. I can’t stand it when people see me cry.

But instead of passing by like a normal, polite person, the man surprised me by walking right up to me. Then he reached out and put his arms around me. He just held me in a firm embrace while his wife and children stood around. I didn’t fight him.

“Jesus loves you,” the strange man said while I dripped on him. “Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you.”

Yeah, I know, I thought bitterly. For the Bible tells me so. I’ve heard it. I didn’t say anything, though.

“Jesus loves you,” he said again. “Jesus loves you.”

Then, although I didn’t feel even the slightest emotional rush, the man spoke right to my heart.

“Things aren’t always going to make sense,” he said. “And God’s not always going to talk to you the way you want, but He loves you. He wants you to read the Bible because it’s His Word to you.” Then he continued to say, “Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you.”

I nodded and thanked him. Then he and his family walked on. I knew that what he said was true and that God had just spoken to me.

“Thank You, Lord,” I said. “Thanks for that.”

Since that day I’ve learned better how to hear God. Sometimes He speaks to me in that still, small voice that says, “Go home.” Sometimes He speaks to me through other people. Praise God that His Holy Spirit moves in the people of God!

Mostly, though, God speaks to me through His Word. At different times He’s told me, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3).* “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (Psalm 32:8, 9). “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

On occasion the same passage or verse will come up again and again—in my daily reading, at church, on the radio—until I say, “Oh. Maybe God’s trying to get this through to me.” Sometimes verses I know will come to my mind even before I finish a question. While I’m reading my Bible every day, the Holy Spirit points out things I never noticed before. And, on rare occasions, I open the Bible right to a passage that speaks directly to my life (though, I don’t recommend the open-and-point method).

As Hebrews 4:12 says, the Word of God is alive and powerful, and the more I know His Word, the better I am able to know the heart of God. Now it’s where I go first when I want God to talk to me.

* All Bible quotations in this article are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When God Spoke to Me

by Amy Joy Hess
From the May 2016 Signs