Growing up, my family was not religious. I had not stepped foot in church and never considered or spoke of God. However, that would change on one sunny weekend when I was eight years old.
I was in and out of our garage and all around the house trying to build something with scrap pieces of wood and nails using my dad’s tools. At some point my dad found me in search of his hammer, which I had misplaced. With a serious look, he gave me a deadline of when I needed to return his hammer. I knew with certainty that it would not go well for me if I did not find it. I searched high and low, frantically retracing my steps and looking in every nook and cranny for where it could be. As I heard my dad return to see my progress locating the hammer, I had none. I knew the clock was ticking and with more frenetic fear I did something in desperation … I bent down on my knees and prayed to God to help me find my dad’s hammer. I promised I would do anything he wanted me to do if I could find that hammer. As I opened my eyes, to my amazement I saw my dad’s hammer lying there flat on the bumper of my dad’s car directly in front of me at eye level! That was the first conversation I had with God.
I did not have another conversation with God for well over a decade, and I was at a much different point in life. Gone was the innocence and wonder that comes with youth. By this time I was in my mid-twenties, somewhat cynical because I’d gotten a taste of real life and was hardened by the guilt of my poor decisions, no matter how well I rationalized them. I needed God, I wanted to believe in God, and I needed his help. However, I was too afraid to talk to him. If he was real, would he want to talk to me? Did I deserve to talk to him? Was I too sinful to have a conversation with him?
I think these are real thoughts that all of us have at some point in our life. And unless we are willing to have some honest conversations with God, we will never deepen our relationship with him and doubts will cloud our judgment about him. Our fears will drown out his voice.
Luckily, the Bible says over and over that God is greater than our own fear, thoughts, and guilt:
19-20 There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things.
1 John 3:19-20 Voice
19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God. 20 With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.
Ephesians 3:19-20 NCV
God is greater than your shortcomings, your sins, your failures, and your past. Despite our sins, we never reach a place with God where he no longer wants to have a conversation with us. In fact he can’t wait to talk to us. Don’t allow your doubts, fear, or guilt prevent you from talking to God.
God is greater than all of our mistakes and has great plans to use you and I in greater ways than we can imagine. However we won’t believe that unless we are willing to have honest, vulnerable, and humble conversations with him. As we look at Moses he teaches us how to have these conversations with God.
23 Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.
Exodus 2:23-25 NLT
God saw the harsh treatment that Israel faced in Egypt and decided to do something about it. Who did he decide to use? He decided to use a man who was adopted. A man who quit and ran away at the first sign of opposition, a man who was past his prime and over the hill. That man was Moses.
9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
Exodus 3:9-10 NLT
How did Moses respond to God giving him the responsibility to lead a nation away from the most powerful regime of its time? Fear, doubt and denial. Let’s look at all the different things the voices of fear said to Moses and how God responded to each one.
The Voices of Fear
1. “I’m nobody. You’ve got the wrong person.”
11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
Exodus 3:11-12 NLT
God’s response: “I will be with you.”
Often times we can doubt the great things that God puts on our hearts to do. We can second-guess God. Our mind can catalogue all the reasons why we are unfit, unable, and unqualified for the job. That voice in the back of our head is the voice of failure, whom most of us want to avoid at all costs. However, God’s response to that fear of failure is that he will be with us. It doesn’t matter how insignificant we think we are. God is saying, “I’ll be with you. I’ve got you covered. We’ll do this together.”
2. “I have too many weaknesses.”
10 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
11 Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
Exodus 4:10-12 NLT
God’s response: “Who gives man the ability to speak? I will give you the words to say…”
It’s much easier when called to do something great to provide a list of all the reasons why you can’t rather than coming up with a list of reasons why you can. If you were asked what your weaknesses are I bet you could come up with a number of things that just roll off the tongue. However, if you were asked what your strengths are I’m guessing you’d take more time to come up with a few thoughts. This teaches us that more often than not most of us are wired to think more negatively than positively.
The biggest pitfall of this voice of fear is when we won’t admit it. What we learn from Moses is that he had the humility to be honest with God, which allowed God to respond to his fears. And God’s response: there’s no weakness that I can’t help you to overcome. If you feel like it’s a speaking issue, I’ll give you the words to say… If it’s a character issue, I’ll help you to develop your character… If it’s a relationship weakness, I’ll give you the ability to care…
3. “I’m afraid of failing.”
13 But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”
14 Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. 15 Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. 16 Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. 17 And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”
Exodus 4:13-17 NLT
God’s response- You don’t have to be afraid of failing. You won’t be alone. I’ll give you a partner and you can do it together.
At the end of the day Moses had to be honest and get through all the other voices in his head to get to the core of his fears- the fear of failing. Moses had made an attempt earlier in his life to respond to what he believed God wanted him to do and he failed. Moses was terrified of repeating the past and cycled through all the reasons why he shouldn’t be the one to lead Israel out of Egypt. However, because he was willing to be honest, vulnerable, and humble in his conversation with God he was able to hear God.
It took Moses some time to get to this point. In fact, before this conversation with God, he ran away and avoided talking to God for 40 years because of his fear of failing.
8 The Eternal is compassionate and merciful. When we cross all the lines, He is patient with us. When we struggle against Him, He lovingly stays with us—changing, convicting, prodding…
Psalm 103:8 Voice
Although Moses avoided God and this topic for decades God was patient. He knew at some point Moses would be ready to talk again. Even when we stubbornly refuse God and run from him he does not quit and does not give up on us. Even when we cross lines with him he doesn’t cross us out.
Are there areas of your life that you are avoiding talking to God about?
Are there things that God has put on your heart that you just don’t want to do?
Have you had honest conversations with God about your fears rather than just avoiding him altogether?
As we learn from Moses how to have these honest, vulnerable, and humble conversations with God there are a few practicals we can do to clear up our ears to be able to hear God’s voice over own voices of fear.
Hearing God’s Voice
1. Resolve Emotions
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Psalm 10:4 NIV
What emotions are consuming you presently that keep you from being able to have space in your heart to hear God? Fear, anger, stress, sadness and any other emotion that we’re too proud to ask for help with will push God out of our minds and hearts.
2. Be Connected
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
Another reason why it’s hard to hear God is because of sin that hardens our hearts. Who can you talk to about sin and guilt in your life so you can hear God?
3. Practice Patience
“For the vision is yet for the appointed [future] time It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail. Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it, Because it will certainly come; it will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:3 AMP
Although God puts great things in our hearts it may take some time for them to become reality. In some cases it may be months and years. Along the way we may also experience setbacks or obstacles. Patience is what enables us to not give up and believe we are becoming who God intends for us to be.
What scriptures can you find to hold onto to keep you focused on God and his promise before it’s fulfilled?