Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone during a really loud concert or party? The crowd noise, the band, the event all make it difficult to hear correctly. It seems like no matter how loud you shout there is just too much noise going on to communicate clearly and you eventually give up. This is how I feel sometimes with God. It feels like the noise all around my life is so loud and so demanding that no matter how close I try to lean into the voice of God I can’t hear clearly. I shout. I listen. I give up.
Can you relate? Have you felt like you are having trouble hearing God lately? Do you feel like your communication with God is way too distracted, noisy, confusing, and frustrating? I believe we all want to hear the voice of God and I believe that we long for a quiet communion with our Father in Heaven.
First, we have to approach this with a belief in two truths: God speaks, and we are able to hear Him. If we can start there with a firm belief in God’s active voice and our ability to listen then we can take the next step towards actually hearing Him.
To effectively hear God we need to take the time to peel back these 4 layers:
1 – Distractions – I can’t count how many times my family has tried to tell me something while I’m watching TV. I can’t count because I don’t remember half of them! It’s always later that day or the next when they claim that they told me something of which I don’t remember. It’s hard to pay attention to someone’s voice if you are distracted. Are you asking God to speak to you but you still have the TV on? One of our greatest obstacles to hearing the voice of God is the massive pile of distractions that we allow to clutter up our lives. What distractions might be keeping you from hearing God? Before you sit down to listen to God, turn off, put away, get rid of, or let go of anything that might distract you.
2 – Pressures of This World – The next layer comes in the form of stress and busyness. You might sit down to attempt quiet time with Jesus but running through your heart and head is your never-ending to-do list. Like a song on repeat your mind keeps going back to work, school, family, homework, housework, sports, bills, work, school, bills, family… While some of your pressures are normal parts of your life, some might be negotiable. Do you really need a house that big? Should your kids always play travel sports? Is it necessary to work so many hours? I love what Jesus teaches about this;
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6)
Before you can hear the voice of Heaven you have to lay the worries of this world down.
3 – Human Voices – Once we can remove the distractions and lay aside our worries we need to face the other voices that float through our heart and mind that aren’t God. We all grow up with parents, teachers, coaches, or bosses who speak words into our lives. Sometimes these voices can support God’s message for us but more often than not they are distracting us from hearing God clearly. Can you peel back the layer of voices trying to tell you what to do, how to feel, who to be? Can you push through the opinions, criticisms, accusations, and pressures of others to a place of openness for God’s voice?
“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” (Proverbs 29:25
4 – Self-Talk – Out of all the layers to peel back before we can accurately hear the voice of God is our own voice. We all have a constant self-talk going on inside our head. We speak to ourselves words of criticism and fear, pride and self-reliance, excuses and selfishness. We speak to ourselves daily about what we think of ourselves, how we feel about others, what we believe about God, and what we think we should do. Even if we can eliminate distractions, let go of the pressures, and ignore the voices of others we still often turn God’s voice into our voice. We think God told us to do something only because that’s what we wanted. We choose to believe a truth that we create with our own ideas.
The greatest danger in hearing God’s voice is twisting a movement of God into our own agenda. I’m not trying to make us paranoid. It’s the hard reality that our own voices are deceitful and often keep us from God’s best. (Jer. 17:9) We are blind to our own blindness.
So how do we peel back this final layer so that we can hear the pure and powerful voice of God?
We die to self. We recognize who we are in light of who God is and we choose utter humility and dependence upon God. Simply put, we bow at His throne. And at the throne of our King, there is no pretending or posturing. We are simply in silent awe of the majestic power and undeniable love of our Father. If we can boldly approach the throne of God to hear His voice nothing else matters in that moment. No distraction, pressure, or voice is more important than what the God of the Universe would have to say.
And in that moment I believe that God will always start his words not with a command or another thing to add to our to-do list but rather with words of grace. Words of love. Words of hope. Words of promise. Being before doing. Communion before command.
I hope in my own life that these times of hearing the pure and sweet voice of my savior are not rare but rather the rhythm of my daily walk. Like the common occurrence of breathing in, may the voice of God be my oxygen.