“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.” Psalm 86:11-12 (NKJV)
“There are no ‘if’s” in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety.” Corrie ten Boom
We often wonder, “Why is it sometimes so difficult, if not impossible, to hear God?” Yes, this question is familiar to all, myself included, especially lately I might add. We strain mightily to hear Him, yet His voice sometimes seems faint or nonexistent. In those times, it’s as if we’re in the uncomfortable, disquieting soundless vacuum of space. And make no mistake, as we all know it’s a tough spot to find oneself.
To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 28:1 (NKJV)
Before we dive in, please understand we’re approaching this issue solely from the perspective of a believer and not that of a non-believer. The Bible is crystal-clear in its distinction between the two in this regard.
He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” John 8:47 (NKJV)
As believers, we expect to hear from God, so it’s particularly alarming and disquieting when we don’t. In these situations, typically, the next question out of our mouths is, “God, where are You?” It’s a heartfelt, emotional inquiry often stemming from our circumstances but one that is not rooted in Biblical truth. How I wish I had recognized this error in my thinking much earlier in my life.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26 (NKJV)
When searching for the truth, we shouldn’t rely on our feelings, especially during difficult situations. Instead, we should look to the scriptures for the clarity we seek because God’s Word is trustworthy, and as we all know, our emotions resemble the ever-changing weather at times.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
Where hope is concerned, our negative emotions are a dead-end street, and we must not allow them to bind us in chains, no matter how loudly they demand our attention. The hope we seek exists when we stand on The Rock of Age’s promises and nowhere else.
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV)
Putting aside the supposed truths your emotions are trying to get you to buy, what does the Bible say about where we stand with God?
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)
If reading Paul’s heartfelt conviction about God’s presence and intentions towards us isn’t enough, Jesus, our Savior, assures us we are by no means alone, now and forever.
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)
Rest assured, sister and brother, God is indeed present with His children, even if our feelings vigorously proclaim otherwise. Do not fall for the enemy’s lie that God has abandoned you leaving you all alone.
Friends, it’s time for those tempted to think they’re no longer on our Father’s radar to change their understanding and perspective by knowing God more deeply through His Word. Embrace that He sees you and trust that He loves you and is with you!
“Never interpret God’s love by your circumstances, but always interpret your circumstances by His love.” C.H. Mackintosh
The Lord gave me this memorable quote a few years ago. I’m just now beginning to appreciate the refreshing, hope-filled perspective it offers. Here’s the thing, it’s taken a while, but I’ve finally accepted that I tend to be more emotional than most guys. I don’t work as hard to hide it as I used to, which is a good thing, but now that I know this about myself, I’m more aware that I’m particularly vulnerable to my emotions putting a bit in my mouth and controlling me. In the past, whenever they spoke, I listened with a mindset already pre-conditioned to give them the lead. That’s been my MO for about as long as I can remember, and it’s no easy ride, I can tell you, as they’ve taken me over some pretty rough terrain.
Being carried away by your negative emotions is a perilous place for any believer to be. Why? Because nothing less than your relationship with God is at stake. The loudest voice in the pit is often our emotions: “Woe is me! God has abandoned me!” As I’ve already said, listening solely to your feelings is a quick way to find yourself unmercifully bound and gagged in the pit with hope nowhere to be found.
Employing the wisdom in CHM’s quote, flip-flops one’s thinking in all the right ways so that when you find yourself in a dark hole, you are no longer the easy pickings for the enemy you once were via your emotional state. In wonderfully stark, hope-filled contrast, the Bible promises that He is still present, loves me, and has only the best intentions for me.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NKJV)
So, we can rest knowing God is with us, but given this truth, why is He sometimes silent? Remarkably, who other than God has so much to say, even through silence? His silence speaks volumes at times and grabs our attention. When He is silent, we know something is amiss. Indeed, how we long to hear our Heavenly Father’s voice, for we are as though dead without it.
To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, Lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 28:1 (NKJV)
Could God be speaking, but for some reason, we don’t hear Him? Perhaps there are times He is not as silent as we perceive. Maybe the problems we experience hearing from the Lord sometimes result from our whereabouts relative to Him. Or, as realtors like to remind both buyers and sellers alike when it comes to property values, “Location, location, location!”
If you look closely just to the left of the center in the photo, you’ll see a woman walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk. Admittedly she’s hard to see, but even from this distance, I could still hear the music she was listening to on her cell phone when I took the photo. “Hmmmm. That’s odd,” I thought, “I could barely hear the music when she had passed me by only steps away a few minutes earlier, but now I hear it quite well from way up the street.”
Why, do you suppose I could hear her music more plainly some distance away as opposed to barely being able to discern it when she was mere feet away from me?
The science of sound waves tells us the difference maker was the wind. The volume level I heard depended upon whether I was upwind or downwind of the source of the music. I could easily hear the music playing when I was downwind from a considerable distance away. Yet when I was upwind, even though only a few feet away, the volume of the music was noticeably lower and, therefore, much harder to hear.
How well we hear the Lord’s voice depends upon our location relative to Him. Are you downwind, or are you upwind of our Father? Are you in His will, or are you not?
Hearing from God is best accomplished downwind, which places us securely in His wake instead of the lonely, harsh silence experienced from being upwind, running ahead of Him, and plowing new ground the Lord has not trod. Let us always be mindful that He, not us, is the One supremely qualified to carve and craft new pathways.
Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)
Construction zones are usually noisy and busy with activity. If you’re hacking your way through the wilderness with a chainsaw, is it any wonder you can’t hear the Lord when He’s speaking? Or how about the noise of the backhoe you’re operating while digging the new river’s course? Furthermore, even if you do manage to excavate the river channel, where will you get the water to fill it? It is a desert, after all. It’s worth saying again, “He is well qualified for this task, and we are not.”
Where exactly are God’s construction zones located? Where is this wilderness and desert the Lord intends to make both accessible and livable? To be sure, He has many construction projects in the works, but one, in particular, is pivotal to His plans.
Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about here because it is the wilderness of our untamed hearts and the parched, inhospitable deserts of our minds He seeks to repurpose.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
To be sure, we are no small transformation project, but our Heavenly Father is more than able to accomplish the task at hand. Simply put, “The Lord is unwilling to leave us as He found us.” Now that is something all of us “works in progress” should all be excitedly shouting about from the rooftops with a hearty “Amen, praise God!”
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)
For these dramatic changes to take place within us, He must lead…
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NKJV)
…and we must follow in His footsteps…
If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. John 12:26 (NKJV)
…trusting He is directing our steps for His good purposes…
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
…even in the face of evil.
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)
Buoyed by our lack of comprehension and swept away by our unbridled enthusiasm, we are prone to impetuously run ahead of the Lord, which interferes with our ability to hear and understand Him clearly, even if we’re only a few steps away.
The famous saying from the vintage TV series, Get Smart comes to mind when agent Maxwell Smart says as he’s holding up his thumb and finger to help emphasize the point, “Missed it by THAT much!” Continuing this thinking, it’s also worth mentioning another famous expression, “An inch is as good as a mile,” regarding the importance of being on target. In other words, close to the bullseye is still a miss. The bottom line is if we desire to hear what the Lord is saying, the place to be is downwind in His wake and not upwind, even in the slightest, running ahead of Him.
Running ahead of God, now there’s a subject I can speak about with some authority of late. For the past month or so, I’ve given much thought and prayer to the differences between “audacious faith” and “presumptuous faith” and how they have impacted my life over the past five years. I’ll not get into the details here, as that will be the subject of a later post. I only mention it because this tendency to take the reigns (purposeful misspelling, think about it) from God is, I fear, not something uniquely “me” but something many, if not all, struggle with in our lives at various times.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
However, lest we become discouraged by our shortcomings, it’s noteworthy to recognize that even the Apostle Peter was guilty of getting out in front of the Lord, supposing he knew Jesus’s destination. Here’s how that all played out:
“You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God.” “Jesus answered him and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16:16-18 (NKJV)
Boom! Peter nailed it, culminating with Jesus lauding his audacious faith. And just like that, Peter finds himself in cotton so tall it’s easy to become lost if he isn’t careful to check his ego at the door. Let’s see how Peter handles things following Jesus’s uplifting commendation.
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:21-23 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
As it turns out, Peter became lost in the tall cotton of his vanity, exchanging his audacious faith for presumptuous faith that egotistically dared to presume to know God’s will and intended destination. In a short period, Peter experiences Jesus’s affirmation only to be followed up by a stern rebuke in which he’s associated with Satan and his evil plans. Wow, talk about extreme high and low bookends!
Yet, as we all know, all was not lost with Peter despite such failings. He was not cast aside and abandoned as worthless in Jesus’s eyes. No, far from it; Jesus’s steadfast love and godly plans for Peter remained.
And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Mark 5:37 (NKJV)
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. John 21:15-17 (NKJV)
Let’s be encouraged that there is a way forward upon realizing we are upwind of the Lord’s will. Though they may seem impossible to overcome, even the giant monkey wrenches we’ve managed to throw into the works from our self-appointed leadership role are incapable of derailing God’s plans. How small would you have to believe God is if our mistakes could do that?
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)
Thankfully, He is graciously willing and more than able to overcome our failings and even use them for His glory when we approach Him in a posture of genuine humility and repentance.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
My fellow “Lead Dogs,” it’s time to get back in line downwind and in the wake of God Almighty where we belong so that when He speaks to us through the Bible, we hear His voice loudly and clearly. He has much to teach us, lest we think otherwise.
“We do not so much search the Word of God as the Word of God searches us.” Barry Black, US Senate Chaplain
Paradoxically, a life continually laid bare before the Lord for His name’s sake devoted to following Jesus makes such a person a much-needed leader among God’s children and in His Kingdom.
So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” Matthew 20:16 (NKJV)
Indeed, what about David caused God to call him a “man after My own heart?” (1 Samuel 13:14)
And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ Acts 13:22 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
My friend, let this be His wake up call to His beloved children that we may live in the exceeding abundance of His will. As we take our place in the wake of the Lord’s glory, delighting in His presence, let’s begin this day anew, refreshed and filled with hope, eager to follow as He leads, for when we do, we’ll once again hear the sweet sound of His voice say, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21, NKJV)
“Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.” Oswald Chambers
Just imagine the possibilities!
He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:9 (NKJV)
“The Sound of Your Voice” by Third Day from the album “Move.”