Hearing God’s Voice
Commentary by David Liezen
Have you ever heard someone mention they hear God’s voice? In some cases, I find it reassuring. In others, I look for an exit. What’s the difference?
OK, you might question how I could be reassured when someone speaks simply of hearing God tell or ask them things. I, too, have found a quiet, compelling voice in my mind’s ear displaying greater courage, insight and wisdom than I can claim. Another voice at times would lead me to destructive conclusions or actions. Depending on which I attend to, the difference is stark.
Results indicate source.
When first God spoke to me, I did not even believe he existed. Sure, I had been dutifully brought to church services and Sunday school. But believing God made the world in a week, Jesus was born to a virgin and later died a criminal’s execution with no clear explanation as to why it mattered, made as little sense as believing Santa would bring me a pony.
I no longer trusted science to explain matters, either. Layers of earth were identified by certain fossils and we knew certain fossils were “X” number of years old because they lay in certain layers of earth. And species? No problem. Easily categorized. How the…? Wouldn’t gradual development leave us a chaotic record? Props or crutches to life and learning deserted me just as everyone in authority had. My life was in shambles. Death seemed the only way out of intolerable woe.
A Bit of Background
Most teachers and parents do the best they can with a child. Sometimes, they are faced with someone who challenges their understanding of what a person can be. That was our situation: a teacher eager to finish her last year of work and used to boys who needed a good spanking to set them right; a strong-willed dad pouring himself into the business he started; a mom who shrank from asking hard questions that might require hard choices; and a highly sensitive boy who liked to please while disdaining tedium or boredom. Incomprehension on all sides produced way too much punishment, too little approval or guidance, a broken child.
I hated school, my parents and the workaday world where my dad expended all his energies. Thrashed all of first grade by my teacher and all of second grade by my dad, I saw myself as retarded, stunted, unworthy of notice, let alone love.
Although I thirsted for knowledge, connecting the dots to fit nature, history and the arts into a cohesive whole, I found busy work in classes and incremental teaching goals hindering that quest. It was hopeless. So was I.
By sixth grade I knew I was depressed. By ninth grade I had contemplated suicide for years. Other kids in school were depressed, too, and did things that appeared to me to be token gestures. I settled on something final (and will spare you details). Then came the unexpected, a fresh thought:
“What happens when you die? Is it like snuffing a candle flame?”
The response from somewhere charged to the surface of my consciousness, “NO!”
Hadn’t expected that. Apparently my inner self knew I faced life beyond.
“What about heaven?” that voice in my core asked.
Well, much as I liked happy endings — that happened to other people — there seemed no reason God, if he existed, would welcome me into his eternal presence.
“If not heaven … ?”
Huh? If I died while loathing myself, I would be locked into a position of total isolation with the one person I couldn’t stand. Sounded like a working definition of hell.
“What of artists and writers? Where do they get inspiration?” I had no answer.
“Why do people bring children into the world?” Got me there.
“Are billions of people deluded while you know life as only sordid and worthless? Are you alone wise?” I didn’t like those odds.
It occurred to me suicide in the light of these questions might be premature. They deserved study, which would take time. I decided to look until my 18th birthday, three years and four months away. If no answers were evident by then, I would carry through with the former plan.
Looking around, my classmates made all kinds of choices that determined the course of their lives: street drugs, free love, magic and witchcraft, Eastern meditation and religions and running away only to find life harder than before. Some guys worked dirty jobs under the table, and some girls were pressured into selling their virginity and innocence. Last of all (in my mind) some began following Jesus.
Really? Jesus did something long ago that changes lives now? I pushed back at that confession, mentally ran for corners or looked for loop holes. Meanwhile, I questioned and argued with believers, not realizing I drew closer to Jesus: he might live, he does live, he maybe answers prayer, he answers mine (why?), he can be trusted with matters weighty and light. I am an idiot not to trust “Him” (capitalized in reverence now) with all things.
Three years after the low point of my life and those questions that would not go away, I went to my knees in the midst of a state park to yield all I was and all I could be into God’s hands. And I pleaded with Him to provide all He was and had to bring me meaning, worth and purpose.
Some years later yet, in recounting this tale of woe and relief, I realized those questions came from Someone Else and turned to Him in my heart: “You asked those questions, addressing me as ‘you’ and I hadn’t noticed. You knew how best to stay my hand and redirect my focus.”
So, when someone mentions hearing God’s voice, I check for simplicity, a willingness to appear a bit foolish, for gratitude. Or maybe it is a grandiose claim, bursting with pride and self. What God says proves itself to be true. What we profess about communing with Him does, also.
Dave Liezen (rhymes with season) might be the latest of late bloomers, earning a BA in English from Whitworth at the age of 52. Long before that, Dave kept bumping into Jesus People, who challenged him to lay his life unequivocally into the management and guidance of the Lord Jesus. Dave did. He says Jesus continues to show himself fully capable of handling any situation and need, renovating Dave and leading him to marry happily and raise five fine people known to him as children. Shortly after finishing college, Dave began raising some of his own fruit in the backyard, where he also learned to graft apple and plum trees. They are good, or get replaced via grafting. He hopes to live long so he can taste the fruits of his labor. Dave sings in the Spokane Symphony Chorale and an a cappella madrigal group called Hubbardston Nonesuch.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — Call/Text or Chat 988
If you or someone you know is in crisis — whether they are considering suicide or not — please call, text or chat the toll-free Lifeline at 988 to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7, or visit the website for chat support.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.