by Katrina Volberding
A couple of years ago, my husband and I were in central Seoul doing some shopping in a very crowded district. It was the middle of the winter so I was all bundled up in my thick winter jacket, a hat, a fluffy scarf and gloves. After several hours of shopping, we decided to head home as the sun had gone down and the air had became frigid. As we were walking to the subway, a man sitting on the ground begging for money caught my eye. He was filthy and wearing only a ragged coat and no gloves. As I passed him, I noticed his hands were swollen, red, and exposed to the cold air. No gloves in sight. In passing, I thought, “Wow, that man looks so cold, but hopefully he has somewhere warm to sleep tonight!” Not thinking too much about the man, I continued walking and as I was nearing the subway station stairs, I heard, “Give him your gloves.” “What?” I thought, ignoring the voice, I kept walking. And then I heard it again, “Give him your gloves.” I thought, “I’m almost to the subway stairs. I don’t really want to go back. Plus, this voice is all in my head,” and then I heard, “If you walk down those stairs, you won’t go back.” I stopped. I knew this wasn’t my voice; this was the Spirit of God speaking. A clear, soft, yet firm audible voice speaking to me. I knew needed to listen. I stopped my husband and said, “I have to go back.” Without explaining, I turned around and began walking back with my husband trailing behind me. When I reached the man, I turned to my husband and said, “I need to give him my gloves. Can you help me put them on him.” Without hesitation, my husband took my gloves, knelt down, and began to tenderly put the gloves over the man’s swollen hands. After the gloves were on, we smiled at the man, walked around the corner, looked at each other and cried. I looked at my husband and said, “The spirit of God spoke to me and told me to give the man my gloves. I did’t want to go back, but I knew I needed to listen and obey.”
You see, I don’t know why the Holy Spirit spoke to me that night. It could have been because the man needed gloves, but, in some ways, I believe God needed me to listen to his voice in the midst of the busyness around me, when I’m the most consumed with my own desires and needs of going home to my cozy apartment. As I walked to the subway station that night in the dead of winter, I honestly didn’t want to retrace my steps to give the man my gloves. Doing so wasn’t comfortable for me. It’s painful to stare into the face of poverty knowing I have somewhere safe and warm to sleep at night. It’s uncomfortable to bend down on the ground in front of a busy crowd and do something countercultural like putting gloves on a man’s hands when people are staring. But, when the Holy Spirit speaks, we need to listen no matter how uncomfortable and countercultural.
In Psalms 51:10, David cries out to God after committing adultery saying, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” What kind of heart does David ask for? A pure heart. In Ezekiel 36:26, the prophet Ezekiel speaks God’s word to the disobedient Israelites saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” What kind of heart? A new heart, a heart of flesh. Could David or the Israelites receive this heart on their own? Nope. Only the Spirit of God could change their hearts. It’s the same for us! When we cry out to God and ask Him to change us, to give us His spirit, He gives us a spirit who softens our hearts and oftentimes changes our direction. In Galatians 5:16-17, Paul says “walk by the spirit” as “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Later in verse 25, Paul writes, “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” We live in a world urging us to follow our own heart and often times we might hear the phrase, “If it feels good, do it.” In contrast, as seen in Galatians, when the Spirit of God fills us, He might ask us to do something uncomfortable, something against our flesh which, in many cases, might be countercultural, but, when we set our eyes on God and become filled with His Spirit, our lives become about listening for His voice and leaning into Him even when His requests are uncomfortable.
Has the Holy Spirit ever stopped you in your tracks before? In other words, has He spoken to you in a way that made you stop and rethink your actions or the direction you were headed? OR has He ever asked you to do something in His name that was uncomfortable? If so, what happened and how did you feel?
- Ask God to reveal how you can better listen to the Holy Spirit and to give you strength and courage to answer His voice.
- Pray for those around you who do not yet know God and for those who have never experienced being filled by the Holy Spirit.
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