August 3, 2011


I have a confession to make; I hear voices. Now before you round me up as nuts or write me off as a little to 'religious' let me explain. I don't hear the audible voice of God (though there are days I sure wish I did) nor do I hear distant whispers of ghosts, aliens, or spies trying to steal my thoughts. Instead I hear past conversations, or during some advanced moments potential conversations.

I hear the voices of people in my head that over the years have been critical, harsh, and otherwise unpleasant. And I am wondering if perhaps you do to.

Now don't get me wrong. To say that this is an everyday, or even every month occurrence would be an exaggeration. Yet never the less it is something that I have to live with it. These voices or memories can creep up when I am trying to prepare a sermon or youth devotional. If that is the case they tend to remind me of times that I tripped over my tongue, or times that some people did not engage with what I said.

Worse still they can remind me of times when I have been very excited about a teaching time;. about the conversations that it had sparked, and the feeling I had that God was using me the way I was put together to reach people, only to be told that what I thought was God moving others thought was a waste of time.

My voices are rarely so encouraging. 

Sometimes I hear a voice that says I am not emotionally available enough to really be a pastor.

Other times I hear that I am too sure of myself or that I lack humility.

On occasion I hear that I ought to work harder and do more. And conversely sometimes I hear that I am not a good team player and I need to allow other people to take on more responsibility.

When it gets really bad I hear words like, maybe you’re not cut out for this you really ought to reconsider ministry.

Like I said I hear harsh voices trying to claw me down into despair. I hear past criticisms, some reaching back ten or more years like they were yesterday, that are seeking to destroy me.

I suspect if I only listened to these voices I would in fact fall in to despair, become destroyed and leave the ministry. But they are not the only voices that I listen for. When I feel like the harsh voices of the past are crowding me in I seek God's voice.

There are two passages that mean a lot to me in times of difficulty. The first is the story of Elijah hiding in the cave. After the fire, the smoke, and the rubble cleared God spoke in a still quiet voice. God spoke to Elijah and let him know no matter how bad things seemed, he was with him and he was God.

The second is a little verse tucked away in the Minor Prophets, Zephaniah 3:17; "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” This passage reminds me of two important things. First that God is powerful. He is the mightiest of warriors powerful beyond any discouragement I may face. And second God cares for me. When the negative voices seek to pull me down into the muck God is singing over me. He is rejoicing over me, and displaying his great love for me.

On my best days I can turn away from the harsh voices and turn and listen to God's still calm voice. When criticism feel almost is too much to bear I listen for God's song.

What about you, do you hear the harsh voices of the past or do you hear the voice of God?