This friend of mine, a father of three children who lives on Capitol Hill and leads a large church in Washington, D.C. might be the last person you’d think would write about being quiet. But Mark Batterson says it’s the noise around him—and in him—that reminds him every day how much he needs the uninterrupted silence of God. Mark joins us today with a gentle but strong reminder that being quiet before God will be the most important thing we do this week as we learn to hear God’s loving whispers.
More than half a century ago, Dr. Alfred Tomatis was confronted with the most curious case of his fifty-year career as an otolaryngologist.
A renowned opera singer had mysteriously lost his ability to hit certain notes even though those notes were well within his vocal range. He had been to other ear, nose, and throat specialists, all of whom thought it was a vocal problem.
Dr. Tomatis thought otherwise.
Using a sonometer, Dr. Tomatis discovered that even an average opera singer produces 140-decibel sound waves at a meter’s distance.
That’s slightly louder than a military jet taking off from an aircraft carrier!
And the sound is even louder inside one’s skull.
That discovery led to a diagnosis: the opera singer had been deafened by the sound of his own voice. And because he couldn’t hear the note, he couldn’t sing the note.
In Dr. Tomatis’s words, “The voice can only reproduce what the ear can hear.”
The French Academy of Medicine dubbed it the Tomatis effect.
We all have our fair share of problems and perhaps your problem-solving techniques are as effective as mine, which isn’t very!
Maybe that’s because we’re treating symptoms while ignoring the root cause: a spiritual Tomatis effect.
Is it possible that what we perceive to be relational, emotional, and spiritual problems are actually hearing problems—ears that have been deafened to the voice of God? And it’s that inability to hear His voice that causes us to lose our voice and lose our way.
A few years ago, I wrote a book about the power of prayer titled The Circle Maker. Prayer is the difference between the best we can do and the best God can do.
But there is something even more important, more powerful than talking to God.
What is it? Listening to God. It turns a monologue into a dialogue, which is exactly what the Heavenly Father wants.
Let me make a bold statement:
Learning how to hear the voice of God is the solution to a thousand problems! It’s also the key to discovering your destiny and fulfilling your potential.
His voice is love.
His voice is power.
His voice is healing.
His voice is wisdom.
His voice is joy.
If your life is off-key, maybe it’s because you’ve been deafened by negative self-talk that doesn’t let God get a Word in edgewise!
Maybe you’ve listened to the voice of criticism so long you can’t believe anything else about yourself.
Or maybe it’s the Enemy’s voice of condemnation that speaks lies about who you really are.
If you don’t silence those competing voices, they’ll eventually deafen you. You won’t be able to sing God’s song because you won’t be able to hear His voice.
Is God’s voice the loudest voice in your life?
That’s the question.
If the answer is no, that’s the problem.
I Kings 19:11-12 describes the voice of God this way:
“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.” (NIV)
We tend to dismiss as insignificant the natural phenomena that preceded the whisper because God was not in them, but I bet they got Elijah’s attention! God has an outside voice, and He’s not afraid to use it.
But when God wants to be heard, when what He has to say is too important to miss, He often speaks in a whisper just above the absolute threshold of hearing.
The question, of course, is why. And how. And when and where.
In Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God I talk about the seven love languages of God.
The first language is Scripture, and it’s our Rosetta Stone. God never, ever leads us in any way, ever, that doesn’t echo and follow the ways of Scripture. Like Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts, “Unless you live in the truth of His Word, your world truly warps.”
But there are six secondary languages as well, each of which, when they are from God, echo the will of His Word: desires, doors, dreams, promptings, people, and pain. Those secondary languages are six ways in which God whispers — always and only echoing and aligning with His Word.
The Hebrew word for “whisper,” demamah, can be translated “silence” or “stillness” or “calmness.” That same Hebrew word is used to describe the way God delivers us from our distress: “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29, NIV).
And that psalm foreshadows the way Jesus would stop a storm in its tracks with three words: “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)
God’s whisper is gentle, but nothing is more powerful.
My dictionary defines whisper as “speaking very softly using one’s breath without one’s vocal cords.” The use of breath instead of vocal cords is significant. Isn’t that how God created Adam? He whispered into the dust and named it Adam.
Adam was once a whisper.
So were you.
So was everything else.
Whispering is typically employed for the sake of secrecy. No form of communication is more intimate. And it seems to be God’s preferred method. The question again is why, and I won’t keep you guessing any longer.
When someone speaks in a whisper, you have to get very close to hear. We lean toward a whisper, and that’s what God wants.
The goal of hearing the Heavenly Father’s voice isn’t just hearing His voice; it’s intimacy with Him. That’s why He speaks in a whisper.
When our children were young, I’d speak in a whisper so they would inch closer to me. That’s when I’d grab them and hug them.
God draws us in the same way.
We want to hear what He has to say, but He wants us to know how much He loves us.
“The voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr,” said Oswald Chambers. “So gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it.”
Aren’t you grateful for a gentle God?
The Almighty could intimidate us with His outside voice, but He woos us with a whisper.
And His whisper is the very breath of life.
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D. C., and the New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker, which has helped over 2 million people learn to talk to God. Today’s devotion is from his book Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, which helps us learn how to listen to God.
Whisper introduces us to seven love languages of God, each of them unique, divine—and surprising. There’s more than one of us reading this book here on the farm — and I highly recommend Whisper to anyone who longs to hear God’s voice in everyday life, for big decisions, and as a way to draw closer to Him.
[ Our humble thanks to Waterbook Multnomah for your partnership in today’s devotion ]