Why Don’t We Hear God’s Voice?

Humanity was designed to hear God. It’s in our DNA. So why is his voice so rare? Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.


We often hear well-meaning people describe conversations with God in ways that mislead. Their exchanges with God sound like dialogues written by Oscar Wilde:

I asked God: What should I do with my life?
God answered: Are you willing to take a risk?
I replied: Yes, but I don’t know what to do.
God said: Move to Timbuktu.

When people tell these stories, we think, I never hear God so clearly.

Let me tell you a secret: neither do they. At least almost never. Those stories are usually shorthand summaries of hours spent reading Scripture, reflecting, praying, getting Godly nudges, and recognizing God’s voice in circumstances and through friends.

Because God speaks through his infinitely imaginative, artistic mix of methods and moments.

Common Sense or Nonsense?

The speaker was persuasive and moving. He asked us to hug a friend, stomp on the floor, and even pinch our own forearms. It didn’t hurt that he could have been a GQ model: six foot three, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and funny. When he looked each of us in the eye, we felt his personal care.

preach r1

(This is not the actual speaker, just a photo of an unknown preacher I found on the web.)

The conference theme was Knowing God. Its most popular presenter was this man with passion for feeling God’s love:

  • He asked, “How can we know God’s love?
  • He answered, “We feel love in the hug, we sense the solid floor in the stomp, and we experience pain in the pinch.”
  • He argued, “God knows our frame, our need for hugs; he longs for us to detect his touch. And that is how we’ll know his love. When we feel it.”
fact faith feeling

Carrie Koens http://www.carriesbusynothings.com

He scorned the old evangelical formula, “Fact–Faith–Feeling” with its mundane illustration of a train: the locomotive represents “fact,” the coal-car “faith,” and the caboose “feelings.”

If we put our faith (fuel) in the facts (locomotive), our feelings will follow. He snickered at its antiquated answer.

“That perversion,” he laughed, “is completely contrary to the God-man of the gospels. Jesus was a man of compassion. We know his love only when we feel it. Feelings teach us facts.”

A Blank Sheet of Paper

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” (Hemingway)

When I was a kid, I lacked a basic ingredient needed for life. Fear. (I also lacked wisdom, but one blog at a time.) It wasn’t that I was courageous, it was that I was fearless. And there’s a difference. I climbed trees no one else would dare, and I jumped off buildings no one else would climb. But I now face a weekly task that terrifies me.

Every week I face a blank sheet of paper.

Typewriter-with-blank-sheet-of-paper r1

It sounds like a silly fear, but that blank sheet scares me. The empty page mocks my empty mind. I keep a ten page list of blog ideas that once sounded exciting. But each new week, as I open a blank Word document, my inspiration-list looks boring, and I freeze.

So I take out the trash, change the font on my blog, look at my bank statements, and wind up our grandfather clock. I get up from my desk seventeen times before writing my first word. Then I delete it. And return to that damned blank page.

I finally get an idea but I can’t begin. Should I write, “This morning I saw a monster perched on my laptop” or, “When I was a kid I lacked fear”? I get up and brush the dog.

A blank sheet of paper is my weekly terror. After writing today’s title, I got a glass of water and cleaned the coffee maker. Then I re-typed Hemingway’s quote. And mowed the lawn.

Spiritual Lobotomy

I recently heard a Christian speaker say, “Thinking is the devil’s territory; I just want to experience God.” He continued, “Hearing God is a totally right-brained activity. We need to turn off our analytical thinking and lean into our intuition.”

He’s wrong, totally wrong, and dangerously wrong. But I think (oops, I feel) that I understand his dismissal of the analytical. He is reacting.

He’s reacting to the modern era’s enthronement of reason. In the modern age (which began with the Enlightenment), rational thinking became the epicenter, the very essence, of humanity. So Descartes—a prominent rationalist—penned his famous declaration, “I think therefore I am.”



Many people (including the speaker above) react against crowning reason as king. They see too many “intellectual” Christians who spend too many hours studying supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism* (who makes these terms up?); such highbrows might hold right doctrine, but they often live harsh, anxious, and miserable lives. Something isn’t working.

So nowadays we reject reasoning. Instead we feel, intuit, or “just believe” because it “seems right.” We prefer the right-brain, we choose imagination over discernment (unless the discernment is based on a gut feel), and we leave thinking to those brainiac eggheads.

The Enlightenment divorced the heart. Today we chop off the head. Both approaches are stupid. Divorcing the heart doesn’t help us think better, and a lobotomy doesn’t help us feel better.

Guillotining the head is not an improvement over stabbing the heart.

What’s Your Legacy?

Babysitting two grandsons Tuesday morning, I felt discouraged. Not with them; they were great. Not even with changing their diapers—although I’m a rank diaper amateur. I was discouraged because of a dissatisfaction with how my time was being spent.

I left the business world because God led me to something new. Now I sense a God-given, heart-gripping, compelling to write, to offer new perspectives on how our beliefs drive us.

So a few months ago I decided to spend more time writing. And how have I done? Rusty TypewriterThe short answer is, “Badly.” So is the long answer. Instead of writing more, I’ve written quite a bit less.

And I feel sort of useless. Hmmm, not useless; I feel wasted (no, not that kind of wasted), like I’m squandering my time, letting it be filled with activities while the mission that drives my heart lies abandoned.

Interruptions intervened, friends had urgent needs, I preached sermons and spoke at retreats, storms dumped snow, taxes were complicated, and diapers stunk. My writing was rusting.

So I re-visited my priorities to sort out how my life can make a difference. Then I read,

[Our] battle is not against sin, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself (Oswald Chambers).

I’ve been more interested in my ministry to God than in God himself.

Are We Merely To Be Good, Or Good for Something?

I remember the first time I visited the home of one of my high school friends. A corner of his family room housed a music section with a baby grand piano, some brass instruments, and a beautiful old guitar lying on a shelf.

The guitar looked like something special. I took it down from the shelf, dusted it off, tuned it up, and strummed it. I thought I was in love.

I asked my friend about its history. The guitar has been given to his mother when she was young. old gibsonShe had never learned to play it, but she had a sentimental attachment to it, and she loved seeing it sit in their music corner.

I wrote down the model and serial number and visited my favorite guitar store to discover its roots. It was a customized 1940’s Gibson guitar with rare Indian Rosewood sides, real ivory inlay, and a custom fingerboard. It was a literal treasure.

Years before some unknown master craftsman had fashioned this custom guitar using special woods, saws, braces and glues, to make a masterpiece. Now it sat on a shelf gathering dust. My friend’s mom thought, “It added atmosphere.”

I think this is the common picture of Christian calling: to look good on the pews—maybe a little dusty—while missing the God-designed purpose: releasing our music.      

By The Way, Just In Case You’re Curious

About thirty-five years ago, I lived in a community of a hundred men who kept everything in common. We literally pooled our money. Out of that pool we paid for our clothes, food, rent, and even our cars.

Before we had a non-profit name, the cars we bought were registered in one of the men’s names (usually whoever was convenient at the time). We had a little fleet.

One day I was in a car with Bruce (the first time I’ve used a real name) when he was pulled over for speeding. Officer ticketThe officer sternly asked for a driver’s license and the car registration. We always kept the registration in the glove box; always … except this time.

Bruce told the office he didn’t have the registration, and the officer asked Bruce who owned the car. Bruce glanced at me red-faced, turned to the officer and stuttered, “Sir, I don’t know who this car belongs to.”

The officer replied incredulously, “Let me get this straight. You are speeding in someone’s car; you can’t find its registration. You don’t even know who it belongs to; but you don’t want me to think you are stealing it.” He strode back to his squad car.

A few minutes later he marched back with a speeding ticket. After handing the ticket to Bruce, he leaned in the open window and he dead-panned,

“By the way, sir, just in case you’re curious, this car belongs to you. You own it.”