A Stranger's Voice
"When he has brought out his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:4-5 (NIV)
How well do you know the voice of God in your life? Yes, I am jumping into the deep end of the spiritual pool today, but for good reason. Life is hard and there are so many voices clamoring for our attention on a daily basis – work, friends, family, internal desires, critics, etc. How do we know which ones to listen to, and which ones to respond to? How do we know if the voice inside us is God calling us to do something or our own ego? I’ll be the first to admit that I’d love to believe all my motives are pure and led by God, but I have more than enough lessons learned to prove otherwise. So, how do we know what God’s voice sounds like in our life? There are many avenues I could go down, as this topic is much bigger than a simple devotional post, but here are two basic principles... First, God’s voice will NEVER contradict Scripture… NEVER. I could give many examples, but our words are the easiest. When you feel that thing welling up inside of you to defend yourself or to give your co-worker or family member a piece of your mind, that’s not God, that’s you. There are too many verses in Scripture that talk about our words and how we can tear down or build up with them. I’m not saying we don’t have hard conversations, but if there’s an “I’ll teach them a lesson” thought anywhere in your mind, that’s not God. Second, God’s voice will come in a familiar way you can understand. I can honestly say that I didn’t always understand God’s voice early on in my spiritual journey, but over time, my familiarity with the way he speaks to me through books, music, nature, and life has grown. This makes it a whole lot easier to be obedient even when what he is asking is hard because I know his voice. The reason I bring this up today is because I’m finding that sometimes life has a way of making me doubt this voice that I know so well. Especially when I’m in a confusing season, maybe you can relate. It’s almost like stress has a way of muffling God’s voice making it muddled and hard to understand. Or worse yet, even when I do comprehend what I’m hearing I doubt it’s him and become fearful because it sounds so distorted. In these moments, what I am finding is that I have to get away from the chaos and noise and just listen. Yes, I know that this can be hard in our culture, but here’s what I know - God is a gentleman and he will not yell. His voice comes to us as a gentle whisper in the stillness. He IS always speaking, even when life and its situations appear to be drowning out his voice, we just have to find a place to quiet our souls and trust that we know his voice. A few years ago, I was home alone on a Saturday evening after having dinner with a friend. My husband was out of town fishing with his brother, and not due back until the next evening, so I settled in the recliner to watch a movie. All snuggled in with my heated blanket, all toasty and drawn into the story, I began to hear the metal mail slot on the front of our house flapping. “Hmmm,” I thought,“ it only does that when it’s windy out, but I don’t remember it being windy when I came home from dinner?” Oh well, back to the movie. A few moments later the metal flapping continued, but now louder and more consistently than I’d ever heard it before. Staring at the TV, I paused the movie and slowly turned the volume down… 12-10-8-6-4, and then stopped to listen. The flapping had stopped but it was an odd happening. I returned my gaze to the TV and unpaused the movie but before returning the volume to normal, I heard behind me through the front door, a deep ominous voice say, “Let me in.” I immediately froze and panic filled my body. I’ve always wondered if I was a fight, flight, or freeze gal. Well, apparently in situations like this one I freeze. I literally could not move, terrified to look over my shoulder for fear of a face peering back through the window in the door. So I just sat there, motionless, theorizing in my head, “Maybe that was just my imagination since I’d watched a scary movie the night before.” All intentions to rationalize immediately disappeared when the voice spoke again, “I saw you turn down the volume. I know you are there, let me in.” My heart was on the verge of jumping out of my chest. What should I do? Slowly, I swiped up on my phone that had been sitting in my lap and glanced down to FaceTime my husband. It occurred to me in that moment that he has a history of scaring me so maybe this was him, except the voice sounded nothing like his. I silently prayed that when his face popped up it would not be with his parent’s condo in the background. If that happened I was in serious trouble! So, I dialed and waited. When he answered, there was a slight lag in the image appearing, but I could hear a distinct whisper outside the front door, very low saying, “Hello”. You’ve got to be kidding me! It was him outside the door, flapping the mail slot the whole time, scaring me to death! I was NOT happy. So what’s the point? I know my husband’s voice. It’s been part of my life for 36 years now. Even when muffled or disguised I know it and yet I let fear initially deter me from recognizing it. I let the clanging of the mail slot, the TV, the dark, all of it confuse me and make me paralyzed. How often do we do this with God? Life can get so noisy and dark. Are we hearing his voice or is it a stranger? Scripture is really clear, we can know and be confident in our Lord’s voice. The question is, are we truly listening or letting life muffle what he is trying to say to us? Unlike my sneaky spouse, Jesus will never try to trick us or scare us with his voice. We may not always like what he has to say or how he directs us, but we can know that his voice can be trusted and that whatever he asks us to do is for our good and His highest glory.
For Your Reflection… What is God trying to say to you these days? Is his voice muffled or clear? What is making you doubt or believe what you hear? Let your familiarity with his voice guide you.