When our children were younger, Debbie and I didn’t have much money. We lived in a tiny house with one tiny bathroom. But we did have one luxury—a hot tub on our back porch.
The hot tub wasn’t very big. Only two people could fit in it. It was so unsophisticated that to heat it up you simply plugged it into a regular wall socket. Every night after we put the kids to bed, Debbie and I would sit in our hot tub and talk. The stores had just come out with baby monitors back then (that’s how long ago it was), and we’d place one end of our baby monitor in the baby’s room and the other end near the hot tub so we could hear if the baby cried. One time the monitor actually fell into the hot tub. But it was amazing because after that, the baby never cried again.
One evening during our hot tub talk, Debbie turned very serious and said to me, “Robert, I want to ask you something.”
I nodded. I’d just been teaching some Bible classes on hearing God’s voice, and she said, “Would you personally teach me how to hear God?” “Sure,” I said. We went through some general principles from the Bible, and then I added, “You know, you can hear God right now, did you know that? Let’s just stop for a moment and focus on the Lord and pray and ask God to speak to you. He’ll speak; I promise. It’ll be like a thought coming into your mind that aligns with the character and goodness of God. Ready?” So Debbie nodded, and we closed our eyes, and I prayed. Then we opened our eyes, and I watched her face. She looked like she was listening really intently. Then she kind of tilted her head, smiled, and shrugged all at the same time, as if to say, “Oh well.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “What did you just hear?” “Well, it wasn’t God,” she said. “I know that.”
“How do you know?” I asked. “Tell me what you just heard.”
She paused, as if searching for the right words, then began. “Well, right before I put the kids to bed, I read them that old children’s story, The Little Engine That Could. You remember it? It’s about a little blue train engine that was designed to pull small things, like one or two cars around a rail yard. There was a long train that needed to be pulled over a mountain. So the long train asked several big engines if they could pull it over the hill, but all of the big engines said no. So finally the long train went to the little engine and asked him. The little engine said yes, and the whole time it worked at the job, it kept repeating this phrase over and over and over again, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’ And finally it got over the hill. And then it said, ‘I know I can, I know I can, I know I can.’1 That’s what I heard just now. I heard that phrase. But that couldn’t be from God, could it?”
As I listened to my wife, I was praying simultaneously, and when she said that, the Holy Spirit immediately impressed upon my heart that this was indeed the voice of God for her.
“You just heard God,” I said. “You see yourself as the little engine and me as the big engine, and the Lord is trying to tell you that you can hear from the Lord yourself. It’s not ‘I think I can, I think I can,’ but ‘I know I can, I know I can.’”
Years have passed since then, and my wife has developed her personal relationship with God over time and grown deeper in her faith. These days, whenever she comes to me and says, “Robert, I have a word from the Lord for you,” I’m all ears because she regularly hears from the Lord today.
Maybe you’re at that same stage in your spiritual journey where you don’t know whether or not you can hear from the Lord. You’ve read this far in this book, and you’re saying, “Well, I think I can do this.” I want to encourage you that you can indeed hear from the Lord. It’s not “I think I can, I think I can,” but “I know I can, I know I can.”
The key to hearing the Lord regularly is to grow in our relationship with the Lord. We never need to hide from God or be distant from God. Jesus paid for all our sins, and so those sins are no longer blocking our access. We can learn to recognize God’s voice when we spend a lot of time with God. Hebrews 4:16 offers us a wonderful invitation: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”