No matter how old you are or how strong your relationship with the Lord is, we all have gone through seasons where we feel like we cannot hear the voice of God or God just isn't speaking to us. Those seasons tend to be filled with questions and doubt and so many feelings of inadequacies.
I can still remember very specific seasons of my life where I felt like I couldn't hear the voice of the Lord or God just wasn't speaking to me right then. I thought He wasn't answering my prayers because my prayers weren't worth answering and I wasn't worth the trouble. I felt like I was no longer good enough or "saved" enough to hear Jesus answering my prayers. Those seasons were dark times that were spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. As if my feelings of inadequacy weren't enough, Satan knew the areas of my life that I felt especially vulnerable. I was broken (I'm still a broken sinner in need of a Savior but I was really really broken) and hurting deeply. I felt unheard and abandoned. I felt worthless. Despite my heartache towards the Lord in those moments, I continued to come back to His Word hoping, just hoping, He would speak to me. Give me something, anything.
Maybe you're in that season right now. You feel abandoned by Jesus and absolutely worthless. Maybe you're in a season of making big decisions and God's silence is deafening. No matter what season you're in, dear one, allow me to assure you that this season of silence is just that: a season.
Your relationship with God and your salvation is NOT invalid because you don't hear Him right now. You're not a terrible a Christian because you can't hear Him. You are NOT alone. You have not been abandoned. I can absolutely promise you that He will speak.
Last summer, I was the worship leader at an all-girl's Christian summer camp. Each week, we had missionaries come in and share their experiences as missionaries all over the world. The very last week of camp, the most amazing woman of God I have ever met in my entire life shared her life story with us. The majority of her sessions, however, she took the time to share with us how she hears the voice of the Lord. Before we get to all of that, let's see what Jesus says about hearing His voice in Scripture.
Now after you read each verse, take some time to reflect and write down your thoughts on what that particular verse or verses is saying about hearing His voice. There is some space below for those of you who have printed this bad boy out:
1. "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." 1 Chronicles 16:11
2. "So Eli told Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if he calls you say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."' So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, 'Samuel, Samuel!' Then Samuel said, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!;" 1 Samuel 3:9-10
3. "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, O Lord, I will seek." Psalm 27:8
4. "Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8
5. "My sheep listen to my voice: I know them and they follow me." John 10:27
What do all of these verses have in common: our relationship with the Lord and seeking His face and His will in our lives. God created us to glorify Him. One way we give Him glory is through our personal relationship with Him. Part of having a healthy relationship with Jesus, and anyone for that matter, is open communication. So often, we have our quiet times and our times of pray and we do a whole lot of talking. We say, "Amen," and move on with our day, closing off the other end of communication. We don't allow God to speak in our lives. It would be like a friend calling you and telling you all about their day and what's going on in their lives and then hanging up the phone before you could respond or tell them about your life. Imagine your frustration and that friend called you again upset because you aren't speaking to them. But how could you speak? Your friend hadn't left any space for you to communicate with him/her and he/she is upset with you for not saying anything?! It sounds pretty crazy right?
This is exactly what we do to God day after day. Now I will say that there are some times where God is on purpose not speaking because He wants us to trust Him. I have found that 9 times out of 10, when I'm upset at Jesus for not speaking, it's really because I'm not listening.
We don't have any trouble speaking. It's the listening thing that gets us.
So how can we work on hearing and listening to the voice of God? Well, here's where the missionary comes back in. Here are the steps she gave us:
1. Calm your mind.
2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
3. Listen to the voice of God.
4. Write down what you hear, starting with your name.
5. Test it:
Let's look at those steps a little more in-depth:
1. Calm your mind. Easier said than done, right? Calming our mind means erasing all distractions. Turn off your phone. Turn off the TV. Get quiet and get focused. Lay aside for a few moments your to-do list and everything you have going on and everything you're worried about or thinking about (even if it's one of those "in the back of your mind" things)..
2. Fix your eyes on Jesus. This isn't like yoga where you empty your mind. You are emptying your mind of distractions and worries and focusing on Jesus. Y'all, when we focus on Him, our minds will always be occupied. Think of His goodness and His love for you. Think of His perfect plan for your life. Praise Him for who is and what He's done in your life.
Turn your mind's eye on Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
3. Listen to the voice of God. He will speak. It may not be an audible voice but something that rises up in your spirit or in your gut. It might be a Bible verse that comes to mind or a song. He's speaking. Lean into Him, rest in His presence, and let His voice woo you once again.
4. Write down what you hear, starting with your name. Simple enough. Starting with your name allows you to take ownership of what God is saying to you. He's speaking to YOU, not Bob, YOU.
5. Test it. Paul reminds us so often throughout his writings to test everything he says with Scripture. When we do this, it remains the same. I've learned that a lot of times Satan will sneak in there, disguised as love, and speak shame, hurt, and insecurities into my life. Test what you hear with Scripture and if it doesn't match up with the inerrant Word of God and the characteristics of a good (good) father, it wasn't Jesus who spoke.
These 5 steps are a really great way to help you take time to listen for God's voice. This isn't the only way the Lord will speak to you. Sometimes, He'll put certain people in your path or have someone reach out to you and confirm something for you (and you have no earthly idea how they knew that was what you were struggling with). He'll use Scripture. He'll use music. He'll use dreams. You'll get that feeling in the pit of your stomach and know exactly what it's about.
Don't expect to be an expert at hearing the voice of the Lord in your life right off the bat. As your relationship with the Lord grows, your ability to discern God's voice from Satan's and the rest of the noise of life will also grow. You'll be able to look back and see where God was leading you, even though it didn't make sense at first. You'll see how those periods of silence strengthened your relationship with Him and shaped you into the person you are today. Even though we are not defined by our seasons of silence, we are shaped and changed by them.
So even if you're going through a valley or a season of silence right now, be thankful and rejoice because God is about to show up and show off in your life in ways that you never even imagined. Brace yourself.