The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19: 11-13)
In a world where messages are so plentiful that most of us resort to extreme measures in order to gain any attention, it’s paramount to realize that God, the most powerful and omnipotent Voice in the universe, doesn’t speak to us in the loud, booming tower of fire of which He is able, but rather in the gentle, kind whisper that is capable of shooting straight to the core of every wounded soul.
Reflecting on these verses from Elijah’s story this week, I am struck with three, key things we can do to help us ignore the thunder and avalanches of the world’s messages and concentrate instead on God’s whispers: SLOW DOWN; BE STILL; BE QUIET.
The most obvious way to make room for God’s gentle whispers in your life is to slow down the incoming messages that threaten to drown Him out every day. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to walk around with our cell phones as an extension of our arms. Moments standing in line might be spent practicing deep breathing instead of catching up on the latest posts on Facebook or Drudge. If the television must be streaming in the evening, why not the spa channel, nature sounds or classical instrumentals instead of news, dramas or reality TV?
My “bestest” friend and I are always trying to point out to each other the times when God is plunking tiny pebbles on our heads, trying to save us from a boulder before His message gets across to us. But, if I am so busy working, ferrying kids around town, running errands, squeezing in exercise and meeting social obligations, how can I be aware enough to notice that pebbles are plopping down?
The first step to hearing our God’s whispers is making sure there is enough space in your mind and schedule to notice the slightest wisp of information that can be overshadowed by the world’s more colorful, abrasive ramblings.
Slowing down is just the first step toward an even more important requirement when you want an honest, strong relationship with God. We must find time in each day to just be still in His awesome presence.
Perhaps this stillness differs between believers. For me, stillness with God is five, deep breaths of the clean, early Spring air on a sunny afternoon that just feels right, thanking Him for the moment, for the experience of being human and surrounded by a peaceful reminder of His master creation.
Being still is also my morning habit of praying to help me focus my actions for the day, of studying His Word and devotionals by others that give me different perspectives on the depth and breadth of the Bible and its application to my life.
Mainly, being still is taking the time to stop everything else and just focus on God, whether that be a prayer of gratitude, singing a hymn or just sitting comfortably in a chair with nothing else going on around me. This is a lifetime habit that must be cultivated, even if we have to set an alarm on one of our many electronic gadgets to remind us it’s time for stillness. Otherwise, I’m convinced, the world will always scream louder than God whispers.
But being still isn’t exactly enough. Too many times, sitting in half-lotus position with soothing sounds reverberating softly in the background, my mind refuses to concentrate on nothing but my breath going in and out of my lungs. Too quickly, it flits back and forth between worries, to-do lists and a thousand other things I need to accomplish or think I should do. How can I hear God whisper if I’m busy talking to myself?
Quieting the mind is another lifetime practice to perfect. But it begins by at least working to place our minds on the one, true God as we sit in stillness. We can thank Him for everything, including troubles because these take us closer to God, talk to Him about our troubles, bring the troubles of others before Him and ask Him the deepest, darkest questions of our hearts. When our minds are focused on God in this way, we can take the time to make our mind as quiet as possible to listen.
Listening is another skill we all need practice improving. Listening keeps us from making judgments about others, putting ourselves down, gossiping, or otherwise saying things that might break Jesus’ heart. When we concentrate on listening instead of being heard, we are open to understanding the messages in God’s Word and in the communications we have with others. Only by listening will we ever truly hear what God tries to tell us.
God coming in a whisper also reminds me that I have to be patient with my questions. I have to realize that sometimes His answers have been lost in the whirlwind of noise that constitutes a modern life.
I also have to ask myself why a God so mighty in power restrains Himself to a whisper. It’s a lesson I can apply to my relationships with other people, this knowing that words softly spoken can have more power than the force of a mighty wind.
This week, attend to how many opportunities you seize to hear God’s whispers and also how many opportunities inadvertently slip through your fingers. After all, pebbles are much less painful than boulders.