Did you know that September 14 was Hearing Voices Day? Living in a world that labels those who “hear voices” as schizophrenic, it was interesting to discover an international movement committed to“Working across the world to spread positive and hopeful messages about the experience of hearing voices.”
The Bible unabashedly speaks about non-audible voices that can influence our lives in powerful ways. As a Biblical Counselor I must affirm that helping people sort through problems involves much more than uncovering the bare-bones details of what may have started the problem. Over time I have learned that those “inner-voices/beliefs” we listen to can either help resolve or complicate the problems we face.
The Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Ephesus, warning that problems are part of an ongoing spiritual battle. In Ephesians 6 he wrote,
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Verses 10-12)
Those “spiritual forces of evil” represent some of the voices that trip us up and seek to rob us of the joy and peace Christ has for us. That is why it is so important to be able to recognize His voice as the Shepherd of our hearts. Jesus taught in John 10:
“My sheep recognize My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of My hand.” (Verses 27,28– from The Message, 2001)
Recognition of the Shepherd’s voice is essential to our being able to navigate through the myriad of other voices that bombard us--fear, anger, doubt, guilt, pride and self-sufficiency are but a few. Such voices can distract and take us off course, usually speaking when we are most vulnerable. They have a way of slipping in when we least expect it.
In the Counseling Room we often refer to Isaiah 30:15-22 to help distinguish between God’s voice and the other voices. I love the dynamic way the passage establishes the importance of staying close to God. It begins with what I refer to as “God’s Rx” for growing through the challenges of life:
I will never forget the day“God’s Rx” got my attention for the first time. I was running scared. I was sick and unsure about what the future held for me. I remember feeling my heart beating crazily as my mind was scrambling for anything to hold onto. When I hit the calming wisdom of God’s voice in Isaiah it was as if everything stopped. After a moment, the voice of my Shepherd spoke through my fear and uncertainty as I reflected on His gentle call to repentance, rest, quietness and trust. As I followed His prescription I began to see the world around me in a whole different light. I had discovered rest for my soul.
However, as I continued to read the passage I had to laugh at the painful truth of what follows:
“In repentance and rest . . . in quietness and trust . . . but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
Feeling lonely? Misunderstood? Running scared? Perhaps you have done some things that you regret (or did not do that thing you were convicted about doing?) “Life” lived in our own strength, as we listen to those other voices, often leads to that hollow, tasteless place where we find ourselves wondering, “Is this all there is?”
Looking for encouragement? Then consider this next bit that speaks to the reality of God’s voice as the Shepherd of our hearts, offering hope and a future to all who trust in Him:
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
If you are feeling beat-up by guilt then you are very likely listening to the wrong voice. God convicts our hearts in order to free us, not to destroy us! Maybe you are discouraged because you started something that is not going as well as you planned; it is too late to turn back but you don’t know how to move forward? “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.” Go to Him- repent, rest, be still, PRAY!
The last verses of the Isaiah passage offers hope and direction as it speaks to the realities of life:
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”
Life can be so very hard . . . but as we listen for His voice He will keep us on the right path. He is totally worthy of our trust!
All to His Glory!