I hate to burst your bubble, but sometimes that pipeline to Jesus, that others expect that I have, feels more like a dried up ditch than the river of life that I long for. Instead of loud and clear, immediate and relevant – His response to my prayers can, at times, feel distant, rather late and much like He’s answering someone else’s question.
Yes, it’s how it feels. I know it’s not reality. I know it’s the opportunity to walk in faith. But I’ve still had to wrestle with what to do with those feelings. Let’s walk together through my wrestling.
Sometimes I think I feel this because I’ve bought into some wrong expectations. And it’s a bummer that I’ve contributed to the Church’s perpetuating of those expectations, but it’s true. Using words like “hearing from God,” or “Jesus spoke to me” created an expectation from when I was a young believer that God’s audible voice was something that should pretty much be happening everyday, especially as I grew to know God better. But what happens when that audible -or otherwise “obvious” voice isn’t regular?
What happens when God shows up and leads me in many other, more everyday ways, more often than through a voice or a “leading”?
What happens when that “conversation with God” (that people told me prayer was) turns out to look way different from any other “conversation” I’ve ever been a part of?
And finally, am I willing to be real with others about how God shows up in my life, on this side of the glass (see 1 Cor. 13:12) even when it might be disappointing?
Will I share it so that they can encounter the Living God on His terms and not their own?
Will I share it so that they can begin looking out for Him to show up in the unexpected, un-asked-for ways that they have been missing?
Here are some of the most common questions I get about hearing “God’s voice” and my (hopefully more real, and more Biblical) responses:
- What does it mean to “hear God’s voice”?
When Scripture talks about hearing God’s voice, two passages come to mind:
- God’s quiet whisper to Elijah in 1 Kings
- The sheep knowing their master’s voice (Jesus’) in John 10
Sometimes God’s voice is audible, whether as a whisper or a shout, but the bible makes it clear that an audible voice is not the only way God communicates. Whether through His written Word, through other people or through his sovereign control of circumstances, God guides us in many ways. What’s interesting is that many mature Christians use the phrase, “God’s voice” to refer to all the different ways God guides…which can be confusing for newer believers. They hear “God’s voice” and assume we mean an audible voice when what we’re actually talking about is God’s guiding presence.
And let’s be honest: we can confuse ourselves, too, can’t we? We know that God doesn’t have to speak audibly to be with us, guiding us, but when we talk about “hearing God’s voice”, it can subtly create an expectation about the kind of guiding we’re looking for. And if we don’t get that kind, then God can feel distant.
When we are too focused on God showing up in one particular way, we often miss His presence in others. Similarly, when we are only listening for the answer to one particular prayer, we miss His leading in other places in our lives.
- Is God ever silent with you?
Yes. But far less than I think. I often feel like God is silent because I’m only listening for what I want to hear. There are a couple of other things that get in the way of me sensing God’s leading:
- Holding onto sin in my life – like the right to be angry or bitter
- Having no space for listening – allowing my schedule to crowd out space for Him to move
- Expecting God to move on my timeline – yes, often He is saying “wait”. Am I willing to wait well? Or will I become grumbly and whiney? (for more on the difference between whining and godly complaint, see “The Importance of Godly Grief for Pastors’/Ministry Wives as well as the companion resource Lament Worksheet)
- How do you continue to walk in faith when God is (or feels) silent?
For me, more times than not, it’s the feeling of God being distant that is harder than God being silent. Silence, I understand, is usually what happens on the surface when God is at work behind the curtain. I usually understand that He is asking me to wait well, to walk in obedience to what He’s already shown me, and to watch expectantly for Him to move. But sometimes this season of silence breeds loneliness in me because I feel like God is distant. It’s at these times when I need to keep a watchful eye for the ways God is moving and leading around me. Maybe they aren’t directly related to the problem or heartache that I’m longing for Him to resolve. But they are a reminder of His continuing, passionate pursuit and movement in my life and the lives around me. These reminders cause me to wait well and continue celebrating His Kingdom coming around me.
And anyone who has little kids knows that silence is not always a sign of inactivity. Just as often, it’s a sign that they’re up to something they just don’t want me to find out about yet!
Sometimes God’s silence isn’t a sign of His absence or inactivity…sometimes what sounds like silence to me is actually the sound of God inhaling for a big shout.
Wow. Deep waters.
Lord, help us as ministry wives to seek Your face. To not be afraid of disappointment if you seem silent. But to boldly approach the throne of grace, yielding our wills to Yours alone. Holy Spirit, empower us to be content in the waiting – expectant in the longing – and confident that You are at work in those hidden places we cannot see. Lord, let us rest in your presence, knowing that you will never, never, no never, leave us. That you are here in the midst of our aloneness. And that you are at work in all things for our good and Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen