Do you have a decision to make today? Do you need wisdom? Are you unsure of your next step? Do you have a goal in front of you that you’re just not sure how you’re going to achieve it? Are you at a fork in the road? Do you need help with a task that has been assigned to you?
This past weekend at Dani Johnson’s advanced leadership training Creating A Dynasty, she told a room of 700 people the story of how she has taught me to ask God for answers concerning my work, instead of asking her. For the rest of the weekend, I can’t count how many people came up to me and asked me how to ask God. They said, “But what if He doesn’t answer? What if I can’t hear His voice? How do I know what His answer is?”
I immediately knew I had to share more of the story…so here goes! Please understand that I am certainly no expert. This is simply my experience, and if my experience can help anyone, then I am more than willing to lay my reputation on the line to share this with you.
This one thing has completely REVOLUTIONIZED the way I think, talk, and work. It has built my faith, my endurance, my tenacity, and my level of understanding. It has taught me how to TRUST GOD in a way that kinda scares me sometimes. It has taught me how to take risks and believe that God will work all things out for good. It has taught me to hear and discern God’s voice.
When I started working for DaniJohnson.com four years ago, the only thing I had ever actually written in my entire life was papers for school. (And don’t tell anyone, but I actually cheated on most of them. I wasn’t very good at the whole school thing…) I was NOT a writer, by any stretch of the imagination. (I actually got hired because of a few Facebook posts I had written, but that’s a story for another time.)
When I first started with the company, I had this standard of perfection that was completely unrealistic – especially considering I had never done anything even remotely similar to what I was hired to do. But I was scared to ask questions. I tried to do it all on my own, and I failed miserably quite a few times.
Finally, my boss, Dani, came to me and told me to ask questions. She told me, “Mary, don’t be afraid to ask! You’re just learning, and I don’t expect you to have it all down perfectly right away! Call, text, email, chase me down if you have to! Do whatever you need to do to get the answers. You can ask me anything!”
So I did. I asked her a million questions. “What do you want to do about this? How should I do that? What do you want me to do here? When should I schedule that? Who, what, when, where, why, how???” I asked questions about EVERYTHING. Until one day, she said, “Okay, that’s enough! You know how to do your job now. I will not answer any more questions. Now it’s up to you – just ask God!”
That was TERRIFYING! (And to be honest, it kinda pissed me off.) I didn’t believe God would give me the answer. I believed the answer had to come from Dani. After all, I was sure she had some kind of direct line to the Big Guy, so why couldn’t she ask Him and then let me know? It was Dani’s content, Dani’s radio show, Dani’s projects. She knew what she wanted it to say!
But since I knew I wouldn’t get any more answers out of Dani, I started asking God. “God, what should I write? God, what do you want to say to your people? God, how do I do this? God, I need wisdom. God, what’s the most effective and efficient way to do this? God, where should this go? God, when do you want this to be done? God, is there a better way to do this?”
And you’ll never guess what happened! He gave me the answers! It became my standard practice. Every time I sat down to write, I asked God what He wanted to say, and He gave it to me. The words just started to flow out of me.
My boss has always been very gracious with me, reminding me all the time that she doesn’t expect me to bat at 100%, 100% of the time. That’s impossible. But the funny thing is, as I learned to ask God and to listen to His instructions, my accuracy actually increased. As I practiced listening to His voice, I was able to hear Him more clearly. I was able to discern more accurately. There was no stress or striving or pressure. The more I asked, the easier it was to hear the answer. And my faith was strengthened every time.
I went from asking Dani 100% of the time, and being terrified of asking God, to asking God about 90% of the time. That other 10%, though? That was rough…
I remember one day a couple of years ago, I was under a lot of pressure as I was nearing a deadline. I desperately needed an answer to a very important question. I texted Dani the question and waited for an answer. There was nothing else I could do until I had the answer. I was stuck, waiting on her answer before I could move on.
I saw the little “…” appear on my screen, indicating that Dani was typing her answer. “Thank God,” I said as I breathed a sigh of relief.
As the text message came through, a massive wave of disappointment washed over me. “Ask God.” That was her answer.
Tears instantly streamed down my face. I sat at my desk, bawling my eyes out – partly due to exhaustion, disappointment, anger, and a whole mess of emotions. There I was, totally defeated. There’s no way I was going to meet my deadline. There’s no way I could finish this project now.
“Dammit, Dani,” I screamed. “It’s not fair! You know how you want this to be done, so why can’t you just tell me?! Tell me what to do! I can’t do this!!!” I was no longer just disappointed. I was angry. I have never been more angry at my boss before. (She has never heard this story, by the way…)
As my tears dried up after about 15 minutes, I just sat at my desk staring blankly at the wall in front of me. There, on a piece of black paper, I saw the reminder I’d made for myself a few months before.
I forced the words out of my mouth: “God, tell me what to do!
In that moment, I did not believe He would talk to me. After all, the way I just acted for the last 20 minutes…my unbelief…my anger… I certainly didn’t deserve to get an answer from God now.
But as I sat in that quiet room with my head in my hands, I heard that still, small voice speak to me, just as I’d heard a hundred times before. I was able to complete the project before my deadline. (And then I had to go through some major forgiveness…)
I have a series of questions I ask myself when I experience situations such as that one. They are:
- What went right?
- What did I improve from last time?
- How could I have handled this better?
- What should I do differently next time?
As I asked these questions and reflected on this situation later that evening, I found myself in tears once again. I discovered some specific situations that actually cause me to run away from God instead of to Him. I discovered that there are times when it is easier to trust a human than it is to trust God.
But the most amazing thing came out of that horrible experience. I learned to trust God, even in the hard times; even when I’m under pressure; even when I don’t think He will answer me. I have that little black piece of paper posted right in front of my desk, at eye level, as a constant reminder to ask God.
There are times when I strike out. I forget to ask. Or even when I do ask, I sometimes forget to listen. And even when I do ask and listen, I sometimes think, for some reason, that I know better, and I simply don’t obey. I create a big mess that I then have to clean up.
But when I ask, listen, and obey, it’s clear that God is in control. I could not do my job without asking God. I am so grateful to have a boss who not only encourages me to ask God, but insists that I do.
It can seem like a huge risk to ask God and trust that He will give you the answer you need. But let me assure you, it’s the safest thing you could possibly do. It is a bigger risk not to trust God.
There are some audio teachings Dani did a few year ago that have helped me tremendously in this area, and I want to share them with you. It is a 3-part series entitled “How Do I Know I’m Hearing From God?” This will teach you to discern His voice, the enemy’s voice, and your own voice. In my opinion, these audios are some of the most important, valuable pieces of content Dani has ever produced.
So whatever you’re facing today – whatever decisions, assignments, goals, or plans are in front of you – let me encourage you to ask God for the answer. “God, what do you want me to do? How should I go about this? What is the best way to accomplish this?”
If He will talk to me – a nobody writer, from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, who has messed up so bad, so many times, who has run from God more than I have run to Him, who was completely terrified at the thought of depending on God instead of man – then He will talk to you. All you have to do is ask.