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For the first 25 years of my life, I never met a devotional I liked. I wanted to. I tried to. But I’d get bored. Some of them were too cheesy. Some too juvenile. Some were too basic, others too deep. Too many read like textbooks, and I’d zone out and then feel guilty.
I like reading anything that has a conversational tone. No need to impress me with big words or mind-blowing theories; just tell it like it is and tell me in a way that’s easy to understand. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m never going to love any book that seemingly requires a translator.
If my mom hadn’t gifted a copy of Jesus Calling to me five years ago, I probably never would have read it. But it was a gift, and I believe the polite thing to do with gifts is to actually use them, so I started reading.
I didn’t expect to love this little book so much. Its unassuming cover looks like something you’d find in a gift shop – simple, inoffensive, fairly universally-appealing – but it’s so much more than that. This book is a gem.
Not only is it short, sweet, and encouraging, but I said I like conversational, and conversational is exactly what I got in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
The book is meant to be a conversation-starter between you and God. Each day’s entry is a message from Jesus to you, a paragraph or two written by Young but based in Scripture. (There are a handful of Bible verses that go with each devotional for you to read along with it.)
In the introduction of the book, Young explains that for several years she never heard from God but knew others did. She writes:
I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication; I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.
My journaling had changed from monologue to dialogue. Soon, messages began to flow more freely, and I bought a special notebook to record these words.
Before reading Jesus Calling, I felt the exact same way as Sarah Young did. I didn’t hear from God on a regular basis – or at least I didn’t think I did – and I certainly couldn’t just pick up a pen and begin journaling two-way conversations between God and me.
But then I just…tried it. And it worked.
I sat down to write, the words flowed instantly, and they’ve never stopped. If anything, I need to allow myself more time to write them down, because I hear God speaking so often that I sometimes take it for granted and miss my window to jot down what he’s saying.
I never, ever thought I would be like this. Never even thought I could!
I did not have any experiences like this for the first quarter-century of my life. The few times I’d heard from God before, it was in the form of a “knowing” or occasionally a feeling. And I’d had a few dreams and visions that seemed like they could be from God, but I wasn’t 100% sure.
Jesus Calling changed my life, because not only is it a devotional that I actually enjoy reading, but it taught me how to hear from God.
Ever since, I’ve always kept a designated note on my phone and Word doc on my laptop for my conversations with God. (They look like screenplays: “B: God, what do you want from me?! G: Obedience.”) Sometimes I intentionally sit down to ask him questions or ask him what he’s saying to me that day. Other times I’m running around like a crazy person and his voice just starts speaking inside my head, so I stop what I’m doing to record what I hear him saying (That’s how it went down the day I got healed).
It has been a huge blessing to know that when I’m having a rough day, or when I’m struggling to make a decision that I don’t have clear direction for, or when I’m just feeling unloved, I can sit down, ask God what I should do or what his perspective is, and hear a reply. I can’t tell you all the insights that have come from these conversations over the past several years!
I didn’t realize this was possible for me before reading the Jesus Calling devotional. I’m still a little shocked that the method I tried actually worked!
I know it can work for you, too. Turn off any noise around you, sit down with God, ask questions, and just listen. And then be prepared to write it down. Maybe he’ll bring a Bible verse to mind, maybe his voice will sound a lot like yours, and maybe it’ll sound like the entries from Jesus Calling. All three of those things are often true for me.
Don’t doubt what you hear at first; just write it down. You can always go back and cross things out if you decide you heard something wrong (or if you realize it conflicts with the Bible, which is the ultimate Word of God that he will not contradict if he is truly speaking to you). Most of the time I’m pretty confident about what I hear, but if there are parts that seem a little iffy to me, I’ll put them in parentheses so I can remember I was less certain about them. I do like to write down as much as possible, especially if I think God is telling me things about future events, because I want to be able to go back and judge whether they were accurate by whether they come to pass.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jesus Calling completely revolutionized my relationship with God. I went from very, very rarely hearing from God to hearing from him all the time. I used to wait around for him to maybe, hopefully speak and now I actively engage him in conversation at any time.
I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me. But it has, and I do, and my relationship with God is forever changed.
If you are looking for more in your relationship with Jesus – more depth, more answers, more personal messages in addition to everything he’s already written to you in The Bible – sit down with a pen or a keyboard, and listen. And get yourself a copy of Jesus Calling if you don’t already have it and are on the hunt for a new devotional.
Like I said, it’s changed my life.