Does a Hard Heart Keep Us From Hearing God?
By Stephanie Dehani
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Stephanie's Story
The whisper vacuums breath from my lungs. Warmth spreads through my chest. What I have longed for, and known that others experience, shatters so much more than the distance. It answers a prayer I have offered for ages.
I didn’t grow up hearing God speak to me aside from reading His words in the Bible. I’m not sure I even fully believed it really; I have always been quite skeptical of such possibilities.
Yet, I yearned for more communication. Prayer was my way to speak to Him, and the Bible was how He spoke to me. But then I began to hear stories of how Jesus appeared to people in other nations, converting their hearts to know Him. I read testimonies of vulnerable, secret stories with dangerous choices, and I wondered why do they have this intimate, speaking Jesus, while my Jesus feels formulaic and prescribed? Why would He speak to some and not others?
I wanted His closeness. I blamed the distance on my faith or my depth in the Word or my knowledge of theology.
Back when I was 21, I thought I was the ‘ideal’ Christian. I felt nostalgic for that younger ‘me’ who was untried and innocent of the world’s brokenness. But in the decade since, I’d been tried in excruciating ways, broken by both my own sorrows and those of others. Even as I lived overseas ministering in a closed, struggling country, driven by my desire for others to know Jesus, deep inside, I still felt a distance.
I missed that woman who had the innocent, inexperienced faith and unadulterated love for a Savior. I was hurting.
In 2019 I began meeting with a spiritual director (something I had never heard of in my younger years). I wanted to learn how to look for God in my everyday moments. In our second meeting, I shared some of the pain I felt, exposing my heart and soul. That’s when I shared my desire to be that young woman with the bold and certain love for Him again. And I voiced my longing to hear Him.
I recall saying, “I keep missing that woman I used to be. I want to be her again, the one who walks closely with Him. The one with the soft heart. Who I am now I just don’t like very much.”
But I was comparing myself with a girl whose heart had never been broken. A girl who hadn’t yet traveled solo around the world, encountering pain and danger and threat. The pain of experience had made my heart so tough, my soul’s desire for more Jesus fought with the fact that I didn’t feel loveable anymore, not with these fractures.
I confessed, “I need him to change my heart. It feels so callused and hardened with cynicism. I don’t feel like anything gets in anymore. I either want to hear Jesus speak to me or I want to know why he won’t.”
Vulnerable, ugly tears leaked the pressure in my chest.
Why was he so far?
My spiritual director gently guided through her own tears, “Why don’t we stop and sit in silence? Ask him. Ask him to soften your heart.”
Those moments of silence did not last long before I heard words that pushed through the hard exterior of my heart.
I am with you. I always have been. I never left.
With my eyes closed, I saw a glass heart shatter, like a windshield hit by a baseball bat. It held together, but was compromised, weak, broken. Then a tender hand began to pick the shards out, one by one revealing a soft, beating heart underneath.
I remember feeling release. He released the woman I thought I had to be to feel Jesus. He releasing the burden of hiding from pain and experience. I took the deepest breath, as if I’d been waiting to breathe for years. Warmth, light, peace filled me, a gift beyond my understanding.
In those mere minutes, as I whispered these pains and desires, He stepped right in.
I am with you. I always have been. I never left.
Here he was, just as real as he sounded in the Gospels, speaking to me in his own loving way, changing – softening – my heart. And then He reminded me that sometimes we need to hear from Him what we know has been written:
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9, ESV)
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10, ESV)
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV)
"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)
"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20, ESV)
What I longed for, to hear Him speak in the everyday moments, now happens most when things are quiet. Now I anticipate His voice. And I feel Him at work, plucking away the shards, making way for softness and vulnerability. I have felt Him as the rushing wind and as the peaceful quiet. I do not fear, for He promises: I am with you. I always have been. I never left.
My constant prayer: Tell me more, dear Jesus. Tell me more.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE prayer resource that will guide you through meeting with God in prayer, called, “Closer: Five Postures to Hear Him Louder."
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens in January and June. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Stephanie Dehani lives with her Baloch husband in West Asia. She is an anthropologist and linguist working in language preservation and oral Bible storying with minoritized language groups.
Writing gives her joy and you can find her writing frequently on Instagram and occasionally on her website, www.stephaniedehani.com.