Voices . . . .

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.…”

John 10:27-28

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:

"Come to me all . . . . "
“Come to me all . . . . “
  • 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!

Voices . . . .

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?”

The Bible unabashedly speaks about non-audible voices that can influence our lives in powerful ways.  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)

To recognize 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.

So how can we battle against those other voices? In the Counseling Room we often refer to Isaiah 30:15-22 to help distinguish between God’s voice and the other voices.  It begins with what I like to refer to as “God’s Rx”* for growing through the challenges of life:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength . . .” 

I will never forget the day this passage 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 scrambled 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 confessed my sinful thoughts and actions,
  • I found rest in His merciful forgiveness,
  • He quieted my soul with His salvation
  • As I trusted in Him to lead me out of the “noise” of the world.

It was then that I saw 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.”

Are you feeling overwhelmed by loneliness? Trapped by circumstances but not sure where to turn? Perhaps you’re looking for encouragement?  Then consider the following insight into to God’s willingness to extend grace to all who seek after 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!”

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! 

*God’s prescription,