Have you ever tried to carry on an important conversation in a restaurant when the music was so noisy that you could not hear the person sitting across the table? Have you ever received a phone call but your television was so loud that you could not hear the caller? It is hard to communicate when other noises are creating audible interference. The same is true in our spiritual life. It is hard to hear God when Satan is shouting so loud. How can we hear God’s voice?
Have you ever struggled to hear the voice of God. There is so much noise in our world that it is hard to think. Noise pollution is everywhere. Many of us walk down the streets, ride our bikes, and workout at the gym with earbuds on, pumping endless noise into our brains. Many of us turn on the radio as soon as we get in our car or turn on the television the moment we walk into our living room. Noise comes at us from all directions.
In addition to the cacophony of noise in every day life, Satan is also incessantly blathering on in our ears. He is frequently the voice behind our earthly desire for fame, power, wealth and control. He is constantly badgering us with the allure of sin. The voice of the devil tells us how much enjoyment we will derive from our vices. He makes every sin look good. He tantalizes us until we give into sin just to drown out his withering chatter. This can be especially true for people struggling with addictive behaviors.
We must never forget that Satan is duplicitous. He is the great deceiver. First he tantalizingly lures us into sin. However, the moment we give into sin, he begins to shout at us, filling us with self loathing rhetoric. Once we’ve stepped into his trap by sinning, he instantly changes his tactic. After giving into the allure of sin, he swoops in like a carnivorous vulture. He convicts us with the very same sin he talked us into. Now, he fills us with overwhelming guilt and shame. He screams at us trying to make us believe that we are not worthy of God’s love and mercy. His loud evil voice tries to bring us down. He tells us that our sins are too big for God’s forgiveness. He wants us to give into despair rather than to fall on our knees at the foot of the cross. He wants us to feel isolated and alone and he wants us to believe that God has abandoned us. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever experienced Satan’s noise in this way?
The clinker, clamor, jangle and dissonance of day-to-day life, coupled with the voice of Satan, blare at us from every direction often drowning out the voice of God. God’s quiet voice never ceases calling after us, but the endless noise prevents us from hearing Him. God often speaks in hushed tones. Therefore, we must be still in order to hear Him. This often means we need to get away to a quiet place.
In the Old Testament, we are told Elijah walked 40 days and nights to be with God. There, standing all alone at the entrance to a cave on Mount Horeb, far away from the noise of the world, he heard God’s voice. In 1 Kings 19:11-13 Elijah did not hear God in the violent wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but rather, he heard God’s voice in a light silent sound.
In Luke 6:12 Jesus got away from the noise of the crowds in order to talk with His Father. There we read, “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.” Again in Luke 5:16 we read that Jesus, “withdraw to deserted places to pray.” Jesus instructed His apostles to do likewise in Mark 6:31. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
When was the last time you got away from daily distractions specifically to listen to the voice of God? When was the last time you went on a spiritual retreat? Some reading this message might have to answer never. Others can admit to having been on a few retreats throughout their lifetime. Still others might respond by saying they try to find time yearly to get away to hear God’s voice. What is your answer?
I know that many of you reading this message are involved in putting on various Christian retreats. You serve on teams for Kairos, Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, Walk to Emmaus or any one of a number of really good Christian spiritual retreats. I would respectfully submit to you that this is not what I am referring to. Serving on a retreat is different from being on a retreat. Serving on a retreat team brings a noise of its own. Like Martha in the Bible, we can become distracted and too busy trying to serve the Lord. In order to be more Mary-like, we need to get away and sit quietly at the feet of Jesus.
As I type this message, I am preparing to put on a retreat this weekend in Teaneck, NJ. I have several more retreats planned over the next few months. My hope is that these retreats will be a getaway and refuge for everyone who attends. I know from past experience that many who attend, do in fact hear God’s voice on these retreats. But, like I mentioned above, putting on the retreat is not really a retreat for me. I too, must make time in my busy schedule to have time alone with God. Just like a cell phone needs to be recharged in order to function properly, we all need time in prayer and quiet solitude with God to recharge our spiritual batteries.
Like Martha in Luke 10:41, we are all anxious and troubled by many things. Satan’s shouting and the noise of the world make it hard to hear God’s voice. Mary chose the better portion when she sat quietly at our Lord’s feet listening to His voice. Let’s all make time in our schedules soon to do that same thing. I believe it is a good idea for all of us to go on retreat at least once a year. If your church or parish does not have any retreats scheduled, please invite me. I would be more than happy to talk with you or someone at your church about coming there to put on a retreat. If that is not possible, please try to find and schedule a retreat for yourself today. God has a lot to say to us if we just give Him our undivided attention.
Heavenly Father, I desire to hear your voice. Convict me with a commitment to make time in my schedule to get away with you. Lead me to a place of solitude. Speak to me there Lord. Help me to listen closely to your voice. Amen!
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