Hearing God’s voice is more about deepening relationship than completed tasks. Some people I admire for their intimate walk with God tell me that the voice that was once so clear actually becomes softer over time. Sometimes it feels like the sound of silence. When they lean in, waiting for specific direction, all they hear is “Closer.”
“To respect a mystery is to make way for the answer.”
~ Criss Jami
Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.
~ Henri Nouwen
Photo: Jimsmith Lake, fire season
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.
Smoke from the fires here in British Columbia blocks out the sun and our view of the mountains. I’ve seen the pictures of Slave Lake and Fort McMurry in Alberta and cities in California after wildfires swept in. We live in the middle of a tinder-dry forest. I know what can happen – and there’s no rain in sight.
The next town down the road is on evacuation alert. I wonder if I should be packing up a lifetime of family photos or deciding which paintings and heirlooms to take and which to leave to the flames if we need to run.
My anxiety level rises when I feel pressured to make a decision, whether it’s what kind of replacement laptop to buy or whether or not I should throw an old guitar in the back seat of the car. I can’t think straight. That’s when I need to take a step back into rest and trust and ask the Lord what I am missing.
Usually the missing element is peace, and it’s missing because FOMO (fear of missing out) or FOFSI (fear of forgetting something important) has taken it’s place.
Today is one of those days when I find I am actually pressuring myself to make decisions based on “What if _____________ (enter disaster de jour event here) happens?”
Sometimes I don’t receive direction because I don’t need it. I’ve noticed God tends not to bother with answers to hypothetical questions about events that will never occur.
Sometimes my frustration or confusion is due to an inability to hear because of a barrage of fearful thoughts that drown out God’s voice.
Sometimes I don’t hear because my confidence is misplaced. The author of the book of Proverbs wrote about the dangers of trusting in our own armaments over trusting in God. You can do your best to prepare for the battle, but ultimate victory comes from the Lord God. (Prov. 21:31 TPT)
Sometimes, when I remember to step into the quietness of peace where his still voice is best heard, he simply asks for trust. “Put your confidence in Me. Watch. Wait. I’m still here.”
The words of Fanny Crosby’s song, “Blessed Assurance” have been coming to me lately.
Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…
His goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and His lovingkindness endures forever — even when I forget.
But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, “You are the beloved and on you my favour rests.”… I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are.
~ Henri Nouwen
The craziest thing happened today. I’m still shaking my head.
In the absence of information about my state of health while awaiting more tests and test results (eight weeks is a long time to live with uncertainty), my impatience and my tendency to handle anxiety by gathering as much information as possible in be-prepared boy scout-fashion (because I hate nasty surprises) all ganged up on me. They convinced me to turn to the back pages of Dr. Google’s Book on Exceptional Cases.
According to him my situation is, of course, much more dire than even my unrestrained 3 a.m. insomnia-induced imagination could construe. There seem to be more websites in the UK offering information than in North America, most of them information-packed and some optimistic, but they still outline a difficult path. I was sucked into an obsession with emotionally-detached drama.
I followed links until I found support groups and personal blogs about life with the cancerous syndrome doctors think I have. Some sufferers’ blogs apparently ended abruptly months or years ago. Yikes.
I followed links, swinging from to another, that spoke of drastic surgeries and learning to live with inevitable metastasis and crushing disappointment whilst trying to appreciate the good days when they showed up – apparently less recognizable for some than others.
Then I read a blog by a cheerfully sincere writer who included a list of links to other sites in the margin, mostly medical sites with information containing the latest research on treatments and dietician’s advice. I wasn’t expecting to see anything with spiritual content but the name of one blog stood out to me. “My Simple, Yet Supernatural Life.” Out of curiosity I clicked on it.
Imagine my shock when the first thing I saw was a photo of a book I contributed to that was just released in June! There it was with my name on the cover – Charis Psallo – along with 27 other writers.
Whaaat??!!! It looks just like my copy!!
The writer of this blog was Holly Cusato, a co-author who was also asked by Praying Medic to write her story about hearing God’s voice. I hadn’t met her yet. (I have now!)
God Speaks is about how different followers of Jesus from different backgrounds and traditions and styles of worship have learned to hear God for themselves. I am very grateful to Praying Medic for inviting me to submit an essay describing my experience of learning to pay attention to the unexpected ways God speaks to me. Resisting the urge to compare my beginner status to other people who amaze me, I sent him the essay two years ago.
The day he contacted me to let me know it was going to be released that week is the day the surgeon told me I had cancer. That morning I read an email confirming an open door to an opportunity I saw in a dream. Other significant emails correcting information about lies we had long believed arrived on the very same day as well. I’m learning to pay attention when similarly themed events line up like a well-timed chorus-girls’ kickline. Do you see it? Pay attention, Charis.
So, here I was this afternoon, wandering away from God’s promise that he’s got this and arming myself with Dr. Google’s earth-bound facts to load the yeah-but hope-blasting unbelief cannon when Abba, my ever-lasting-kindness Heavenly Father ever so lovingly hijacks my computer and drags me back from National Health Service research papers to land me on a page with a reminder to pay attention to His voice – using my own writing about paying attention to his voice. Like I said, the craziest thing. The angels must be laughing.
He’s like a father who drives around town looking for a kid who has been out too late with the wrong crowd. When he finds her he kindly, but sternly drives her home with a reminder of who she really is by quoting her own words from previous conversations the whole way.
Lord, you amaze me. You have my attention. My eyes are back on you. I know you love me. The adventure continues.
And thank you, Holly! Her blog is here. https://supernaturallifeblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/god-speaks/
Links to God Speaks here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071H3GNVZ
and in Canada, here: http://amzn.to/2tVoGQR
Can’t pretend that I am blind
Can’t go back and erase the mind
Naivety and wide-eyed wonder are far from me
But at least now I see
It’s like I’m walking on a tightrope
Stretched across the universe
Way too high to go back from where I came
Overwhelmed at the miles I’ve yet to tame
-from Tightrope by Misty Edwards
When I started writing this blog I thought it was about having an outlet for creative expression and sharing, in a grandmotherly way, how the Lord has enabled me to grow and change. I didn’t know it would be about the faith walk in real time. I’m not done yet. I’ve got a long way to go.
I was happy to share insights and personal victories – after I could see the outcome when the mess was tidied up and the embarrassing trip through doubt and emotional upheaval faded in the rear-view mirror.
Then, in the spring of 2013, it looked like our healthy, athletic son-in-law was going to die. I was going to wait before writing or publishing anything about the situation. I said I was worried that it might look like I was using a crisis to gain attention. The truth is I allowed doubt to creep in. I wanted to make sure everything turned out well before I posted. But I felt the Lord saying that faith is acting as though it is well with my soul before facts anyone can check are evident. I took the risk of increased transparency. (Love is Louder)
When I participated in helping my daughter and son-in-law write a book about the miracle God did, it meant letting go of precious privacy for all of us. Were we willing to tell the story to strangers and let them into dark rooms where we cried and begged in moments of doubt? They decided the story was not theirs alone and invited the world into the bigger story of God’s goodness and intent to bless many more people. I joined them. Yes, it was worth it. (While He Lay Dying)
A few weeks later we faced another crisis. Our eldest son and his family faced challenges when floods hit, destroying much of their town and turning their property into a new lake. I learned from the experience earlier that year that God trusts us with his blessings, so long before we saw restoration, while the family was still in the Canadian version of a refugee camp, I wrote a blog post about the future of High River. (High River’s Higher Calling) The post had several thousand Facebook shares, was picked up by news services and spread much more widely than I anticipated. This word of hope is still the post with the highest number of hits.
Gradually I am learning to let concern for what impresses readers about me take second place to what impresses God about me. Trust. Trust (or faith) and talking about his goodness as if it were a real thing – because it is. Even when we can’t see it yet.
As an ice-breaker, I ask people this question: What’s the worst movie you have seen and why did you hate it? We often ask about favourite books or songs or movies and sharing those things helps us to understand each other better. But sharing the things that provoke us to righteous indignation and creative rants sometimes reveals hearts’ passions on a deeper level.
When someone asked me this question I knew the answer immediately. I could think of three films that thoroughly irked me and made me want my time and ticket money back. With little effort, two more came to mind. All were nominated for Academy Awards. All of them featured talented actors, brilliant cinematography, amazing costume and set design and all the production skills of top-notch artists. All of them carried the message: ABANDON HOPE. What a waste of resources!
The secret shame became public. The fall-out of a crime lingered for generations and attempts at atonement failed. Grief was insurmountable. Terminal loneliness and disconnection returned. The hero’s pointless death led to the memory of the faint chorus of a jaded ancient king: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
I want to scream! Quit trying to drag me into your hopelessness that offers a cruel kindness in place of love, where worry dons the thin costume of fragile, short-lived happiness, and despair suggests resignation to death is the only solution to the problem of pain!
I want stories of hope. Real hope in real life circumstances. Real hope that doesn’t hide under a veneer of re-written fictional happy endings. Real hope that doesn’t rely on fallible humans or systems. Real hope that looks physical reality in the face and says, ‘My God is bigger.’ Real hope that says, ‘Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives the child I carry can have a future. Because he lives this marriage can be saved. Because he lives depression will lift. Because he lives goodness is still a weapon against evil. Because he lives I’m no longer a slave to fear.’
I want stories of hope that can say, with authentic candour, ‘This sucks, but Jesus has come to show us what his Father is really like by destroying the works of the devil.’
Then I hear my Heavenly Father say, “So write them yourself. Tell people I’m good. But be authentic, not nostalgic.”
Misty Edwards writes songs that touch my heart in the middle of ‘this sucks.’ One that means a lot to me right now is called “Tightrope.” In the song, she talks about ‘the mystical in-between,’ that place where we know God is doing something in our lives, but we don’t know what. It’s that place where putting one foot in front of the other is the only choice because we’ve come too far to go back, we have too far to go to sit down and we have to keep moving if we don’t want to fall.
Hanging there in space, my toes gripping the rope
The only hope
That golden thread that got me here
Will be the same
That brings me to the end
I know, I know You’re with me
You surround me, You surround me
Your invisible hand is around, around
In this uncomfortable in-between
Where I’m too far in to turn around now
Too far to go to sit down now…
So at the risk of looking like I am attention- or sympathy-seeking, or trying to get as many numbers as I can muster on a prayer petition to influence God (when I truly believe the faith-filled prayers of a little child have as much influence as an entire denomination’s membership) let me be authentic about this uncomfortable place on the tightrope.
A few weeks ago I had a CT scan to rule out any lasting problems with surgery I had in February. Everything was fine in that regard, but the scan revealed a mass in my abdomen that was not fine. After tests, the surgeon told me I have cancer.
At this point I don’t know how serious it is, if it has spread, or what kind of treatment I’ll need, although there is evidence it has been there for a long time. Today I start a series of invasive scans and scopes looking for other sites which, quite frankly, I don’t look forward to.
Like Misty (who is a cancer survivor) I know God surrounds me. He gives me dreams, songs in the night, and encouragement through friends, books, podcasts and most of all his love letters. He’s not surprised and I know he’s got this. But it’s still scary.
I feel like there is an attack on hope in this world, and cancer is a symbol of that attack. The word itself carries dismal forebodings.
I have seen marvelous things with my own eyes, things I never thought I would see – the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I also long to be in Paradise with the Lord. For those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose every ending is a good ending, but I think I still have things to do here.
I welcome prayer, but if you pray for me can I ask that you attach it to a prayer for hope for yourself, your community, your country, our world?
When I run out of words I paint my feelings. In the interest of keeping it real, I painted a woman on a tightrope who is just an average-type woman with an unimpressive average shape because this battle is about hope for everyone. She’s coming from a place of darkness and moving toward the light of hope.
And this is the walk of faith in real time.