Hearing God in a Crisis

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

My family and I are in the midst of a tragedy. We are walking through grief and loss. My older brother has just died at 47. He was in a car accident. He left behind a wife and three kids. We feel like so much has been stolen from us. So much time and so many memories that were yet to happen were ripped away from us in an instant. My nieces and nephew lost their dad. I lost a brother. My parents lost a son. My sister-in-law lost her husband. My kids lost an uncle. The pain is real and intense.

During these kinds of seasons we need the presence of the Lord to be near to us and comfort us. We need Jesus to bring His peace that passes all understanding. And it is extremely helpful to hear from the Lord as He speaks to us about what is happening. Yet, many people report that during difficult times, they don’t hear from the Lord. It often feels like the Lord is silent.

I have some thoughts on this. I believe the Lord wants to speak into these situations in our lives. I don’t believe the Lord wants to be silent. But I believe we often experience a kind of silence for a couple reasons.

Have you ever been on a video conference call and someone started talking while they were still muted? You can see their mouth moving but you can’t hear anything. It’s not that they aren’t talking but the mute button is keeping you from hearing them. I believe we sometimes interact with God this way. God is speaking but we don’t hear him. We have a mute button on in our spirit.

The thing that opens communication with the Lord is trust. If we can trust him implicitly in good times or bad, no matter what happens, then the communication lines stay open. Lack of trust shuts down our ability to hear from the Lord. So if personal crisis causes us not to trust the Lord, then we are shutting down the very thing we need in that moment–the voice of the Lord.

Not only does mistrust shut down our ability to hear, but it will sometimes cause God to stop speaking. He stops speaking because He loves us. That may sound strange but just think about it for a second. Imagine you are grieving an incredible loss in your life. Now imagine someone you don’t trust starts talking to you. In that moment, do you want them to keep talking? No. It doesn’t matter what they are saying. It doesn’t matter if they are saying all the right things. If we don’t trust them, we don’t want them speaking to us while we are in the midst of deep grief. It would be better if they were just silent.

God knows this. If we don’t trust God, it doesn’t matter what He says to us in that moment of grief and pain. If we don’t trust Him, we will misconstrue whatever it is He wants to tell us. We will doubt it, question it, and misinterpret it. Our lack of trust toward God often means it is more loving for Him just to be present with us and not speak to us in that moment.

Yet, in the midst of grief and pain, we are willing to hear from people we trust. So if we trust the Lord no matter what, we are willing to hear from Him in the midst of our pain. God speaks and we listen. And when we hear the word of the Lord in the midst of our tragedy, it is so helpful, so comforting, and so clarifying.

This may sound strange to some, but here’s the truth: God has not been silent during this tragedy in my life. In fact, the only way to describe my interaction with God right now is that God has been downright talkative. In the midst of my grief, pain and loss, He has had so many things He’s wanted to say to me.

He has spoken to me directly through scripture, through prayer (His still small voice in my heart), through friends, and through prophetic words from others. When I didn’t know what to pray, the Lord gave me different themes and things to focus on that directed my prayers. When I was confused by what seemed to be missing pieces of the puzzle, God dropped a puzzle piece on me that brought understanding.

My wife had a prophetic dream in the middle of our crisis that brought tremendous clarity. My good friend had multiple prophetic visions that he shared with me that were hard to hear at first but brought a level of comfort and understanding. This is why the above verse of scripture says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all.” If we can learn to receive and process prophetic words on our normal days, then they will become lifelines during a crisis.

Trust is what keeps those communication lines open. When God begins to speak, and He says something unexpected, trust is what allows us to receive His word without being confused or offended by it. Jesus is the most trustworthy person I’ve ever met. We owe Him our unconditional, implicit, unyielding trust.

We need to stop believing the lie that God is always silent during hard times. Not true. God loves to talk us through a crisis. He loves to speak. He loves to speak words that bring clarity, understanding, comfort, and peace. If God is quiet, it may be that He knows what we need in that moment is His tangible Presence and not His words. But it also might mean that our inability to trust Him has shut down communication. Let’s make sure our trust in Him keeps those lines of communication open. Even during a crisis, He is worthy of our trust.

Years From Now

When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab’s family;he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah.

2 Kings 10:17

Jehu is anointed King of Israel and goes about destroying the entire family of wicked king Ahab. Both him becoming king and his campaign to rid Israel of Ahab’s family was prophesied by Elijah. What struck me about the above passage is that Elijah had been gone for sometime. Roughly 15 years had passed from the time Elijah prophesied this to the time it actually came about. Fifteen years!

The Lord told Elijah to anoint Jehu king when Elijah had run away and was hiding on Mt. Horeb. This is also when the still, small voice came to him. It was also when Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as prophet to succeed him (1 Kings 19). A couple years after this Elijah would prophesy the total destruction of Ahab’s family. Yet, Elijah didn’t get to see any of this.

Elisha became prophet of Israel, and Elisha is the one who anoints Jehu as king. Elisha gets to see the fulfillment of a word that came to Elijah.

What did your life look like 15 years ago? For me, I had just started pastoral ministry. I was dating my wife but was not married, and I didn’t have three kids. I was a brand new pastor with no wife, no kids, no house and no idea what the next 15 years would hold. If someone had given me a prophetic word about the coronavirus during that time, would I have believed them? And even if I believed them for the first few years, would I have continued to believe it after so many years?

Jesus did something similar in His own ministry. The disciples are overwhelmingly impressed with the splendor and grandeur of the Temple. Then Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the Temple, something that wouldn’t happen for another 40 years.

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

In our fast-food world, prophetic words like this are really difficult for us to process. It seems that in ancient cultures there was a better understanding of how things take time. Maybe personal experience with farming helps a culture understand cultivation and the nature of time. There was a generational approach to things. It was assumed that one might not see something in their lifetime but that it would be important to build toward it for the sake of children or grandchildren. Today, that idea seems so foreign. We don’t plan and build with the next few generations in mind. We want things now.

Maybe God has given you a word or a promise that hasn’t come to pass. And maybe you’re starting to doubt that it ever will. But God’s timing is very different than ours. It could be coming years from now. It could even be coming in the next generation, something you won’t see firsthand. But one thing we can trust is that God keeps His promises. He keeps His word.

How God sees you

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:11-12

The Midianites would regularly come in and destroy the land of Israel by consuming all of their crops and livestock. This left Israel impoverished and afraid. Gideon was so afraid of having no food that he was threshing his wheat crop inside a winepress to hide it from the Midianites.

Then the angel of the Lord shows up to Gideon and says two things that are completely contrary to the situation. He says, “The Lord is with you…” And then calls Gideon, “…mighty warrior.” Both parts seem to be very untrue at this moment in Israel’s history. God seems very far away from Israel and from Gideon. And, riddled with fear, Gideon is in no way a mighty warrior.

This is what God does for us. God sees in us who He created us to be, not who we are in the moment. God speaks the future over our lives when we are still in the present. By the end of the Gideon story, it will become obvious that God is with Gideon and that he is a mighty warrior. But when these words are spoken in this moment, they sound ridiculous.

God’s words have creative power. So words from God that declare our future have a way of pulling us into that future. What God says about us in this moment is more true than the circumstances that we see around us. His words about us are more true than our own self-image or self-perception. Our job is to believe His words above everything else we see with our physical eyes.

I’ve had this personally happen to me. I’ve had people come up to me and give me a prophetic word from the Lord. When they said the word to me, it sounded ridiculous. It sounded outlandish and fanciful. Yet, looking back years later, I realize that every bit of that word was true. And more than that, because that word was spoken, it had a gravitational force to it that pulled me into that future.

God still does this with me today. There are moments I’ve had in prayer where I sense God saying something over my life. Yet what God says seems unbelievable. But what God is teaching me is to trust His word over the circumstances I see around me. I’m learning to trust His words about me more than I trust my thoughts about me.

So, what is God saying about you? What word does He have for your life? If you don’t know, ask Him.

Ask this question: Father, how do you see me?

Then sit quietly and listen for spontaneous thoughts that enter your mind that don’t feel like your own. Or look for mental images that come to mind that seem to appear spontaneously. This is often how the Holy Spirit will respond to the questions we have for God. You may be surprised at what He says, but choose to believe His word over your own self-perception.

Total Recall

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 1:18-19

Paul wrote to Timothy as his spiritual son knowing the prophetic words that had been spoken over Timothy’s life. In order for Timothy to fight the good fight and continue in the faith through hardship, he would have to remember the words spoken over his life.

Sometimes prophetic words–words from the Lord about who we are and who we are becoming–come to us through our alone time with God. Sometimes God speaks to us through a highlighted passage of scripture that the Holy Spirit illuminates. Sometimes God speaks to us in our prayer time, calling us into our future through His still, small voice. And sometimes prophetic words come to us through other people who speak a word from the Lord about our lives.

Life can come at us in a way that makes us forget what God has said about us, our identity, and our future. The Israelites were continually getting into trouble because they forgot–forgot what God said, what God did and who they were called to be. Paul needed Timothy to remember the prophetic words spoken about his life so that he would have the confidence to move forward in faith. Remembering what God says about us emboldens us to break through what everyone else is saying about us.

So, if you get a word from the Lord, either through other people or through your alone time with Him, write it down. Keep a journal. And make it a practice to go back and read through them, remembering the words that God has spoken to you and about you. This is essential in fighting the good fight of faith. This is essential is avoiding a shipwreck of faith.