One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the calling of Samuel early in the book that bears his name. Samuel is the long-awaited first-born, promised son of a barren woman who prays so earnestly for him that the priest-on-duty thinks she's drunk. Then, once the child is born, she dedicates him to the Lord and gives him to the priest, where he begins to train to serve the Lord.
Late one night, while Samuel is lying down trying to get some sleep, he hears a voice. Thinking it is the priest calling him, he gets up and runs to the other room and asks the dozing priest what he wants. Confused, the priest denies calling the young man and sends him back to bed. This happens a few more times until the priest figures out what's going on, then he tells young Samuel, "That is the Lord speaking to you. The next time you hear that voice, ask Him what He wants."
And isn't this just the way God is?
Notice how this story doesn't go. God doesn't speak, then realize He isn't recognized, and get all upset about it. God doesn't speak, realize He isn't recognized, and start yelling. God never once calls the young man foolish or insults him or rails against him for not recognizing His voice.
Rather, God just continues to speak. The same statement. The same whisper. The same tone. The same patience. The same voice.
Until the young man recognizes who is speaking to Him.
So often, we think that God is quick to anger, that He's easily upset by us not getting it. The Bible tells us explicitly that that is not so, but I don't think we comprehend that verse - "the Lord is not quick to anger." I think the story of Samuel helps us to see it a little bit better.
This is the God who calls us. This is the God who speaks to us. This is the God who keeps coming for us, keeps asking us to come to Him. This is the God who wants us to recognize His voice - not a God who yells when we're slow to get it, but one who keeps calling our name until we do.
That still, small voice? It is real. And it is God's. And if it takes you a thousand times to recognize Him, He'll still be there calling out to you.
And when you finally answer? There's no judgment there. There's no God waiting to say, goodness, could it have taken you any longer? No. There is a God who is simply waiting to speak until He knows you're hearing Him and then, my friend, He has so much hope, promise, love, and goodness to speak over your life.
(Actually, you might be surprised to know this, but He's been speaking it all along. He was just waiting for you to hear.)