Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hearing the Voice of God

This is not a blog to provide great and practical insight into how to hear or discern the voice of God. Rather, these are some thoughts that I have been pondering this past month as I desire to draw closer to the Lord and hear His voice.

One of the most powerful longings of human beings is to be known by God and to hear His voice – to hear the voice of our Creator speak to us. Yet, it seems that this can be a great struggle for so many of us. At least it can be for me.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” If we want to speak with our Father, Jesus gives us clear instructions that we must “pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

So how does that work in a world as noisy as ours? Can we just turn off our distractions – our smartphones, tablets, computers, etc. –  for 30 minutes a day, spend time with the Lord and hope to hear His voice and then go back to our daily living with a constant bombardment of messages via texting, Facebook, Twitter, and TV? To be honest, that has been my approach the past few years. There have been times when I have certainly cut back on my media. I hardly watch any TV now; I used to be consumed with watching sporting events. But my phone is constantly with me. At any break in my day, the urge to pull it out and check my feed on Facebook and Twitter often win out instead of focusing inward and directing my focus and attention to the presence of God.  

I tried to take intentional breaks in the day to pray and spend concentrated time with the Lord, but it seemed like my focus kept being drawn back to distractions.

For someone like me who has ADHD tendencies, I found that my smartphone is like a drug for my mind. It’s an easy fix and something to give attention to my many thoughts. What’s more, being an extremely social person, I love the networking on Facebook. I love seeing what my friends are doing and staying in touch that way. But I can’t deny the inner distractions I feel.

I always start the year with some extended fasting from food, but I also decided to do a month-long fast from media. For me, this meant no reading about sports and no checking my social media. I wondered how it would pan out and if I would miss it. After the first few days, I realized I didn’t miss it at all. In fact, I enjoyed the break. Did I hear the voice of God more? I don’t think so. Or at least, not in ways I hope to in the future. However, I did find that my mind was less distracted and consumed by countless trivial things. I found my desires for the Lord increasing.

As this month came to a close, I decided I wanted to continue this fast in some ways. It would be too easy for me to go back to how I was. So I am going to put some boundaries on myself. For now I am going to check sports once a week on Saturday nights. I haven’t decided how I will engage social media yet – perhaps just checking it once a week or once daily. I don’t feel like this is something I am to do forever, but something I desire to do in this season as I listen to the Lord and learn how to hear His voice in a deeper way.

I am starting to read The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus. This book was written for monks in in AD 600 and is a classic in Eastern Christianity on the ascetic life. St. Basil is quoted in the intro: “When the intellect is no longer dissipated among eternal things or dispersed across the world through the senses, it returns to itself, and by means of itself it ascents to the thought of God.”
I believe this thought applies to my life. My mind so easily wanders to the external things around me, but I need to be disciplined in those things so I can think more deeply of the Lord.

The intro also says, “It is a great thing says John, to achieve stillness in the isolation of a hermit’s cell; but ‘it is incomparably great to have no fear of turmoil, and to remain steadfast under its assault with a fearless heart, living outwardly with men but inwardly with God.’” 

So that’s my desire – to be clear in my inner man, to have my thoughts and affections constantly on the Lord Jesus, to live in a busy, loud, and distracted world, but live inwardly with God. Perhaps as I grow in this, I will be able in engage more in media, but for now I know that it limits my inward silence.

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