My wife’s work schedule and mine don’t really get along. She works most nights, and I work during the day. This means that we only get a few precious nights together, and we try to make each moment meaningful during the nights we do have together. Last Friday night, we got to spend the evening at Bonefish Grill. It’s one of our favorite places to visit, not only because of the food, but also because of the quiet, intimate atmosphere we’ve always experienced there. As we were sitting there enjoying our dynamite swordfish and shrimp scampi, while discussing the latest dealings in the Ross household, an explosion of noise came from the table behind us. A couple, who had made their way over from the bar, was now chatting at a volume that would cause even the slight of hearing to be annoyed. To make matters worse? The topic of conversation…. her earlier trip to the doctors for the fungus growing on her right foot…. All I wanted was a night to enjoy time and conversation with my wife, but instead I get to hear about toe fungus??
My church, Faith Family, is in the middle of a church wide fast. For 21 days, we are all committing ourselves to a time of fasting, prayer, and devotion in an attempt to draw closer to God. Why are we fasting? Really, the heart of our fast is longing. We are putting our stomach (or social media accounts, or tv time, or whatever else someone is fasting) where our heart is to give added intensity and expressiveness to our ache for Jesus. We fast to express our longing or our ache for all the implications of Jesus’s power in the present moment that isn’t completely realized. We want to see people healed. We want to see people saved. We want to see marriages redeemed. We ache, and we long for this to happen; therefore, we ask Jesus to come by putting this proclamation of longing at the end of our desires. I’m fasting for all of these things, but more than anything, I’m fasting to be able to more clearly hear His voice.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one of those extremely sanctified people who hears God’s voice daily. In fact, I can maybe count on both hands the number of times I have been certain that it was God’s voice I was hearing and not that of my own subconscious. I’m not saying that He isn’t speaking to me, I’m probably just not hearing it. Maybe it’s how I listen, or how I pray. Or maybe I need to change the way that I meditate. Perhaps my ADD is the culprit and as soon as He goes to speak I see a squirrel…. Speaking of which, my 140lb German Shepherd was being chased by this squirrel the other day and…. see what I mean?
Back to the point. Maybe you’re right there with me and understand how frustrating, and even discouraging it can be. You’re praying more than ever before. You’re fasting. You’ve given up social media. You’ve increased your devotional time. You’ve increased your time serving at church. You’re trying to fix your attention in His direction but you still can’t hear anything… the perceived silence can be deafening.
This is where I have been for the past few months, and as I’ve been fasting and trying to listen even more carefully I was reminded of how God spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:6-13
” So He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by, and a great and powerful wind was tearing out the mountains and breaking the rocks in pieces before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind, [there was] an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, [there was] a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, [there was] the sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard the sound, he wrapped his face in his mantle (cloak) and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ” 1 Kings 19:6-13 (AMP)
I love what we read here in 1 Kings because it reminds me that God won’t always speak to me in the ways that I think He should. The wind and earthquake were powerful, just like our God, yet, He wasn’t in them. Instead, He was in the gentle breeze. The whisper. I think that the stories of Moses and the burning bush, or the voice from Heaven that said “this is my Son in whom I am well pleased” skew our perception of how God should speak to us. We see these examples of moments where there was no mistaking what God was saying and then we desire that God would speak to us in the same way. More dangerously, we expect God to speak to us in the same way.
It is somewhat of a Christian cliche to say that you need to “listen to the still, small voice” to hear God, but it’s the truth! He speaks in hushed tones. He whispers to us. We want God to send us a burning bush,or to yell like the couple seated by us at the restaurant. We want a hand that writes on the wall, or even for him to part the clouds and place a dove on our shoulder to communicate His message with us.. but the reality is that these things are unlikely to happen. And if these things don’t happen, we feel as if God is distant. That He doesn’t care to speak to us. Or, that we need to work harder, strain harder to hear his voice. Fortunately for us, I don’t believe those presumptions to be true.
When I was sitting next to my wife at Bonefish I was speaking at a level barely more than a whisper. The night was intimate, our relationship is intimate. There was no need for me to yell, or speak loudly, as her face was only a few feet from mine (take notes couple in the back). Let me ask you this. What if the reason God speaks in a whisper is not to make us strain to hear Him, but He speaks in a whisper because He is close? He doesn’t speak in a whisper to make sure you can decipher which voice is His, but He whispers because He’s in close proximity.
God is near to you, and He promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him (see James 4:8). I want to encourage you that God is speaking to you. He’s not yelling from a distance, His Spirit lives inside of you. He’s speaking in the silence. And if you’re struggling to hear His voice, be comforted in the fact that He IS near.