Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Face to face with God

Learning to listen to God speak

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up not knowing Jesus.

Scratch that—what I mean is, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up not hearing about Jesus.

I was born into a missionary family. By the time I could understand words, my parents were singing to me Jesus songs. Some families talk about baseball or movies at their dinner table. Our family talked about Jesus. During family vacation, on long car rides while drifting between groggy naps, I half-listened to my parents talk about Jesus. Sometimes at night, I would awaken to my father stretching outside after long hours of sermon prepping, and as he cracked his back, cry out in Korean, “Ju yeo!” Or “Lord Jesus!”

There’s a special grace in such an upbringing. Every step in life, my parents sprinkled armfuls of God’s Word over me to guide my path. But even the most fragrant and beautiful petals, torn and thrown at somebody’s feet, eventually shrivel and die because they’ve been plucked out of living soil. My parents shone on me flickers of the God they knew, but they couldn’t make me know and love God on an intimate, heart-to-heart level.

How much time do we spend drawing direct insight and revelation from the primary source?

That’s the risk of an upbringing that’s so rich in church services, prayer meetings, and family devotions: It’s easy to fill your head with so much knowledge of Christ and train your body to follow Christian customs, yet never fully develop a relationship with Him because your daily life already feels stuffed with Christianity.

There’s a verse that never fails to stop my breath: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). My heart does a little tight hop of envy and longing: To talk to God, face to face ... as though to a friend! Oh, the questions I’d ask Him! How eagerly I’d cling to His every word, tattooing each word to my brain.

But isn’t that what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross? He tore the veil of the temple that separates man from God and made available to us the indwelling of His Spirit. Why then does Moses’ experience feel like a privilege that’s out of reach for me?

I noticed something in myself and a lot of my Christian friends. We all have our own list of favorite pastors and theologians, depending on our theological, cultural, and political leanings. Some adore Tim Keller and John Piper. Some follow Eric Mason and Charlie Dates. Some admire Kevin DeYoung and John MacArthur. Others read everything by John Mark Comer. We read and share their articles, tweets, and books. We listen to their podcasts and sermons. All these resources are helpful, edifying, and at times prophetic to our era. But how much time do we spend drawing direct insight and revelation from the primary source, compared with the hours we spend absorbing and debating the thoughts of others?

I noticed my tendency to lean on others to interpret for God when I would come across a passage of Scripture that makes me scratch my head and immediately google my favorite pastor’s name to read what he has to say about that passage. Instead of wrestling directly with God, leaving room and time for His Spirit to teach and convict and change me, I wanted somebody else to pitch me the answers, perhaps because that’s quicker, easier, or clearer. Or perhaps I lack trust and experience in the Wonderful Counselor who lives in me, whom Jesus promised would “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

So I’m trying something new. I still love my books and podcasts, but I’m also embracing moments of silence, so I can hear God speak instead of only hearing others speak about God. I want my face-to-face time with God, even if at times I don’t get the immediate, clear-cut answers I want. Even if sometimes, what I get in response to my cries of “Ju yeo! Lord Jesus!” is more the quiet stillness of God’s presence, because that is enough.so

Sophia Lee

Sophia is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Southern California graduate. Sophia resides in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband.



Please wait while we load the latest comments...


Please register or subscribe to comment on this article.


Thanks you, Sophia, for this transparent testimony that I can certainly relate to. Most of my 50+ years as a Christian, I have also leaned on others to help me learn about and hear God. It is hard for me to be silent, but you have challenged me to try this "better way."


Several decades ago and after having been a Christian for decades before that, when reading through Psalm 18:1 for the umpteenth time, "I love you, O Lord, my strength", I finally recognized that I had never owned it and said it for myself. So my prayer immediately was, "Do I love you, Lord? Help me to love you." It wasn’t too long before I could say (and still do), "I love you, Lord, help me to love you more!"


I have a theory… okay, not really a theory, but an idea based on scripture. How about 1 John 5:2-3,

"By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."

And John 14:21 – I like the YLT present continuous tense,

"'He who is having my commands, and is keeping them, that one it is who is loving me, and he who is loving me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.'"

Does it follow that the more we love him and understand and follow/keep/obey his commands, the more Jesus will show himself to us, personally?

A little essay, if you will bear with me:

Dave Waldrup

Be still and know... To Elijah, God was in the whisper... The heavens are telling...with no voice. Very good article and observations. Thank you.


Great reminder. The Spirit used a corny kid joke to convict me of the same in 1998. “You want some A-B-C gum?” “Yes?” Take gum out of my mouth and give it to you. ABC = Already Been Chewed

Timothy McCarthy



Good point. God does speak to us, but we must pay attention.
I was tasked with teaching the David C. Cook lesson, last week. I had Hebrews 11, the “Faith” chapter, but cut off at verse 16. I now look for context of the scriptures, and read the whole chapter, paused and God spoke. Rahab was not a Jew.
We have wonderful tools, like word search or concordances, just like the commentators. From word search, for “Rahab”, I found that Rahab did not speak with God and her son married another gentile who did not speak to God. You can see several threads where this leads, without a commentator's opinion. The Scriptures are the gateway to meditation, which allows God to speak.

David Wallover