“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” (1 Kings 19:11-12, NIV).
God was not in the dramatics. He wasn’t in the powerful wind. He wasn’t in the earthquake or the fire. He was in the gentle whisper.
However, He did include those three dramatic elements in the story. Why? What was the point, if He wasn’t going to speak through them? Can you imagine a wind so powerful it was tearing the mountain apart? Why add such a thing if it wasn’t the medium of His communication?
Put yourself in Elijah’s sandals for a moment. How must he have felt, with the ground swaying underneath his feet, right after watching tornado-strong winds rip away the edges of his hiding place? What was racing through his mind when the flames roared around him immediately following?
I suspect that God was allowing Elijah to watch, feel, and experience a dramatic physical portrayal of the turmoil the prophet had been experiencing inside. In a way, He was acknowledging Elijah’s feelings. It’s like He allowed the elements to stage a terrifying drama to communicate very personally to him, “This is how you feel inside, isn’t it, son? I deeply understand. And I am not in the storm. I am not the author of all the pain you have been feeling. But I am right here with you in the midst of it.”
He then allowed His son to experience a spectacular portrayal of the tremendous relief that comes when He Himself calms the storm. The noise and fury were abruptly swallowed up in silence. Serene silence. Holy Spirit calm reverberated through the atmosphere and took over. His gentle whisper began to envelope and heal the prophet’s troubled soul. “The storm has passed. I’m here. I’m listening. Tell me your troubles, child.”
What is there to glean from this as we study how to listen for Daddy’s voice? It’s this: He is not in the storm. He is not a God of confusion, but of peace. In our journey of coming to know our Good Shepherd’s voice with intimate familiarity, it’s vitally important to learn which voices are not His. Elijah clearly had become closely acquainted with His voice. He recognized when God wasn’t speaking. This differentiation was crucial for the emotional healing that he so desperately needed at that difficult junction in his life.
Here are a few distinctions to keep in mind, as you tune in to listen for the Shepherd’s voice:
- If He is speaking, His voice will bring clarity; not turmoil. It will bring resolution and hope; not heaviness. If there’s a storm of confusion raging in your emotions, that’s not Him talking.
- If He needs to correct you, the inner witness of His Spirit will bring gentle conviction. He only disciplines us with utmost love; never with anger or impatience. If the voice of condemnation is threatening to tear apart your inner refuge, that’s not Him.
- He will never be harsh. God IS love. He may speak or act sternly if one of His beloved children is being obstinate, but even His sternness is an expression of His intense, passionate concern for our eternal wellbeing. Whether it be in correction, in guidance, or in a simple outpouring of His affection, His voice can always be distinguished by the healing quality of its timber. The wellspring of all of His communication is His infinite love. This love permeates and characterizes everything that He ever speaks.
No matter what your circumstance is today, quiet yourself to listen to Daddy. He is overflowing with eagerness to impart to your spirit exactly what You need. Whatever anxiety or discouragement may be troubling you, His gentle whisper will bring profound restoration to your soul. Remember, He’s not in the storm. Listen for His still, small, healing voice, dear one. Shhhhhh… listen.
What are some of the ways God has taught you to distinguish His voice from others cleverly disguised as His?