We live in a culture where there are so many voices. There are the voices of your parents. The voices of your teachers and coaches. There are the voices of the media. There is the voice of your doctor. There are the voices of your friends. There are the voices of the books you read. There are voices coming from every direction. Everybody has an opinion about what you should be doing. Everyone has an agenda for you and your family.
It can be so overwhelming and confusing!
The voices keep us full of fear of not getting it all done or not doing it all right. The voices burden us with guilt. The voices keep us striving to do the next thing. The voices keep us confused about what we should be doing.
I propose that we spend less time listening to the voices and more time listening to the ONE VOICE that really matters. Only One voice brings peace to the soul and freedom from guilt and fear. Only one voice lightens our burdens and heals our deepest pain. Only one voice resurrects the dead, and turns darkness into light.
That one voice is the voice of the Creator of the Universe, the Living Word, the All-powerful One, Our Father, our Lord and Savior.
I have found that the more time I spend listening to His voice, the more peace, clarity and joy I have. On the contrary, the more time I spend listening to the voices, the more I strive, the more confusion I experience and the less content I am. The voices put me on the perpetual treadmill. The ONE VOICE bring rest to my soul.
So what does that look like for me practically?
I set aside time daily to focus on listening to His voice. Some call this a quiet time or a devotional. Reading God’s word enables me to know the ways in which he speaks. It allows me to know His heart. It tunes my heart to his frequency so that when the voices begin to clutter the airwaves, I can still hear his voice clearly.
This “quiet” time should be a time that gives us life. It shouldn’t suck the life out of you. If you find yourself feeling drained by your “quiet” time/devotional/bible study time, I want to offer some suggestions to help you actually connect with the Source of Life. I don’t want you to give up on spending time with the Father. He really does have ALL YOU NEED. But… there is no formulaic approach to spending time with our Lord.
1. Read less scripture. Personally, I don’t try to read through the Bible in one year. I never have and I don’t ever plan to. It may take me 4-5 years to read through the Bible. For some of us, reading the amount of scripture it takes to get through the Bible in the year is overwhelming. Reading smaller portions allows me to deeply connect with the stories and really listen to what the Spirit is speaking to me. Sometimes I read a chapter, a few verses or only one verse. Sometimes one verse will prompt me to read another verse in scripture. I don’t give myself any rules. I just allow the Spirit to lead our time together. This isn’t about accomplishing a mission. It isn’t checking off my spiritual “box.” This is about listening to the God of the Universe.
2. Listen to scripture instead of reading it. I’ve done this many times in my car when I haven’t had time to read before leaving home.
3. Think deeply on one portion of your reading. It could be a word, a phrase, a visual image or a concept. If something from your reading really stirs something inside of you, hold on to that thought. Ask the Spirit questions about this particular portion of scripture. Try to keep a record of what you hear–either write it down or record yourself speaking audibly. If you’re in a bible study that requires you to complete several questions, limit yourself to answering one or two.
4. Don’t sit still. Do something. Some people have a hard time sitting down and having a quiet time. You may need to move. Go for a walk. Sweep the floor. Wash dishes. Doodle. Mow the yard. Write a word or phrase from scripture over and over again. Do something physical that is pretty mindless and repetitive so that your mind is free to engage with God and His word. This quiet time is simply focused time, but it doesn’t need to look “spiritual” to anyone.
5. Highlight your Bible in color. Draw pictures in the margins. Paint and draw in your journal. It doesn’t need to be dry or boring. God is a multi-dimensional God. He speaks to us a countless number of ways. Do not limit yourself to the ways that people have shown you in the past.
6. Instead of simply enaging in God’s word on an intellectual level, experience God’s word like you would experience a wonderful meal. We are told to TASTE and see that the Lord is good. Not simply study and analyze and discuss it. We are to experience God’s word with our minds, our emotions, our imaginations and so forth. We should be touched deeply by His words. His words should stir something deep within us. His words are the very words of life that our hearts long for. His words should produce visual images in our minds. His word sometimes brings up old memories. Sometimes it uproots deep pain. His word changes us–from the inside. It’s not always pleasant. Sometimes it’s very painful, but it’s always always GOOD! Do whatever it takes to connect with our Lord! Press through your difficulties. He has tremendous blessings waiting for you!
7. Enjoy some being time. I discovered this concept many years ago while reading a book by Madeleine L’Engle. Being time is just time to be. There’s no expectation of getting anything productive done. It’s time with no agenda, other than to be present in the moment and enjoy it. That can look like sitting in your yard listening to the birds sing, feeling the wind blow through your hair, or walking barefoot on the beach. It’s listening to your children’s chatter, listening to water dance through the creek or listening to yourself breathe This time can be 5 seconds , 5 minutes or 5 hours long. It’s up to you.
I’ve found that I’m able to hear God’s voice far more clearly in these moments of being. It clears my head of the clutter and helps me to think more clearly.
8. Take a Prayer Walk. Every week I go on a prayer walk/jog. It’s a time for getting in some exercise and talking to the Father about the things that are on my heart. I’ll be honest, I talk out loud just as I would if a person were walking with me. I listen for His responses. I ask questions. I share my experiences, expectations and struggles. We’re like two great friends. I cannot tell you how many issues have been worked out on that walk. Much of the material for this book came into being on my walks. You may want to keep a phone nearby to record the insight you receive.
9. Take Quiet Drives. Years ago, I was challenged by Dr. Charles Stanley to make friends with the silence, so I stopped listening to the radio so much while driving. I often use that time for praying. I pray out loud as though he were sitting right beside me in the car. I also use that time for just listening. I still like to listen to the music and podcasts when I drive, but I still make sure I make time for quiet. Especially, when there is a lot on my mind that I need to process.
10. Pray with a Trusted Friend. I’ve been so blessed to have a couple of people in my life that I can be very vulnerable with. I share struggles. We talk about decisions that need to be made. I talk about the things I’m processing. These women give me feedback without judgement, or giving me their personal opinion. They always lead me back to the heart of God. That’s exactly what I need! Most importantly, they are women of prayer so we pray together.
I hope some of these suggestions give you an excitement about spending time listening to the voice of our Lord. He longs to speak to you. He desires that you would know Him. He wants to help you.