It is a conversation that takes place more often than you may think . . . talking in the Counseling Room about how to distinguish between God’s voice and those “other voices” we hear in our heads. You know–those destructive voices that fan our fears and encourage us to run from God (believing the worst of Him); those lying voices (and sometimes even, “well-meaning” voices) that rob us of wisdom and hope in how we view ourselves, our circumstances as well as our relationships with God and with others. Why is this important? Because living in a world filled with so much “chatter” bombarding us from every direction, we are too easily taken off track. Too often, I have had to help a Client pick up the shredded remains of their faith, because that Client listened to voices that lead them astray.
To be able to recognize the voice of the Shepherd on good days and in bad,
is critical to navigating through the challenges we face in uncertain times.
This is not new. That is why Jesus encouraged His own to stay close to Him:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;
and no one will snatch them out of My hand.…”
There are many reasons people seek Counseling: ALL need clarity in discerning God’s voice, because All are vulnerable to the unrelenting accusatory voices that seek to weaken our faith. That is why I encourage every Client to connect with God through the Journey Notes process:
- Logging their praises and concerns to God with every entry,
- Prayerfully investing personal time reading Scripture (becoming familiar with God’s voice),
- Writing at the top of the page in red, the Scripture that stands out to them in their reading,
- Responding prayerfully to what God has said as they log their thoughts and feelings in their Journey Notebook.
In the Counseling Room, we talk about the way God speaks to us–to convict and bring us to repentance in order to free us. (Galatians 5:1) We also talk about how the voices of evil seek to distract or cause us to doubt God’s goodness. We find James extremely helpful, as he makes a clear distinction between being tested by God (in order to strengthen our faith) and when we are tempted by our sinful desires:
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone;
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”
James 1:13, 14
James makes clear: we are not victims when it comes to sin. We are challenged to confess our sin when we go our own way and receive God’s forgiveness in repentant faith..
We spend quite a bit of time in the Old Testament, finding that God’s voice is the same in both the Old and the New Testaments. Two passages that are especially helpful are:
Genesis 4:1-7 When Cain got angry because God was not pleased with his offering (displaying a bad attitude), God’s response was interesting. God sought Cain out, not in anger but to offer the first Counsel to the rebellious heart recorded in Scripture,
“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must master/rule over it.”
(verses 6b & 7)
Of course, we know what Cain’s response was . . . but that same voice of a caring Shepherd speaks to you and I in our struggles. The only way we can “know what is right” is to become familiar with His voice as we follow Him.
Isaiah 30:15-21 God offers the prescription we need when it comes to facing up to our sinful propensities:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength . . .
and follows up with a challenge to resist going our own way:
. . . 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.”
Can you relate to that image of feeling abandoned and without hope? When you realize you have nothing left to give? The passage continues with this encouragement:
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 . . . .
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction . . .
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.’”
Isn’t that amazing?! As our voices are raised to Him in repentance and rest, God rises to the occasion with GRACE. Instead of anger and wrath, He responds with compassion and justice, directing our every step.
As we listen to the voice of the One who saves and obey Him, His Grace begins to fill in the gaps as our faith is strengthen.
Of course it does not stop there, does it? In my next post I will write about how to reduce some of the incessant “chatter” of those other voices that rob us of the joy, hope and peace that are meant to be ours in Christ.
All to His Glory!