How to Turn Down the Noise in Our Minds and Turn Up the Volume of God's Voice
By Abby McDonald
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Abby's Story
I tried to make out my son’s voice, but the noise of the skating rink rose and made it impossible to hear him. After he made several attempts to speak through the loudness, I finally understood him. He was tired and ready to go home.
Honestly, I was ready too. The speakers overhead blared music that combined with the clamor of the rink, and the constant dissonance made my head hurt.
As soon as we stepped outside into the fresh air and quiet, I could feel my body relax. Instead of cranking up the music in the car, I turned it down and relished being able to hear my son’s voice without shouting. It was such a simple gift, but one I often took for granted.
Recently, I realized the amount the dissonance in my life wasn’t limited to the experience at the skating rink. It spilled over into my spiritual life as well. Voices in my day-to-day life, on social media, and work competed for my attention, and often left me questioning which way to go.
One person said I needed to take a certain direction in my work life, while another recommended a different path. A training course pushed a one strategy for growth, while a popular influencer pushed another. And while each of these voices was clear, one voice wasn’t: the voice of God.
On a Tuesday when the kids were at school and the house was quiet, I silenced my phone and opened my Bible. I prayed and tried to focus on the words. But after several minutes, my mind wandered and I found myself thinking about an email I forgot to send.
How do we hear the voice of God in a world that is filled with distractions? How do we quiet our mind when it’s racing with the hundreds of things we need to get done on any given day?
I’m no expert, but God is teaching me that in order to discern what He’s speaking to me, I have to be intentional. And a racing mind is not fertile ground for receiving a Word described in 1 Kings as a “still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19: 11-13)
There are many ways we can be intentional in our everyday life, and I’m going to discuss a few of them. Each of these practices has helped me discern God’s voice, and they’re both simple and doable:
1 | Take a walk without the cell phone.
When it’s just me, the dog, and the sounds of nature, it’s easier to eliminate distractions and discern God’s voice. Often, He speaks to me through nature. The beauty of His creation communicates volumes when I pause long enough to listen.
Walking outside is just one way to do this, but we can hear Him anywhere. The key is to find a way to limit the noise of the world. Like my experience with my son at the skating rink, it’s difficult to hear a voice when it’s drowned out by everything else grabbing for my attention.
The familiar verse, Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Harpu is the actual Hebrew word used for “be still” here, and the word means, “let go.” I don’t know about you, but it’s difficult for me let go of things when I’m surrounded by a million distractions. But when I put myself in a place where my mind can focus, I can give my worries to God more effectively.
2 | Don’t just talk to God. Listen too.
Often, I come to God with a long list of requests and don’t stop running my mouth long enough to listen. Goodness, help me. But God is always speaking, whether we hear Him or not. Even though God may not speak to us in an audible voice like He did with Moses in the burning bush, His Spirit speaks to us in infinite ways.
Like any conversation we have with a friend, our talks with God are a dialogue, not a monologue. When I speak to Him and then pause, His Spirit is given room to speak to my heart in ways I can’t comprehend.
In the gospel of John, Jesus says those who are His will hear His voice. Not that they may hear His voice, but they will.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,” (John 10:27, NIV).
3 | Limit the voices in our lives for a season.
If our spirits still feel depleted and the dissonance doesn’t go away, it may be time to set some boundaries on the amount of noise we’re consuming. We can do this in a number of different ways: fast from social media, clean up who we receive emails from, or choose only a few of our closest, trusted friends to talk to for direction.
In each of these decisions, it is important for us to pray and seek God’s guidance. When a desire to follow His will is at the root of our choices, He will lead us.
In my season of dissonance, God revealed that I needed to limit the amount of voices in my life and focus on His. This didn’t mean I couldn’t listen to others for direction, but I needed to make more room for Him alone. As I did, His voice became clearer. And it is a beautiful, sweet presence I don’t ever want to miss.
Photo Credit: Unsplash, Kelli McClintock.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE resource, A Listening Guide + Prayer Map, which walks you through four heart postures to help you learn to hear His voice in prayer. This guide is a tool to listen for Him differently, and capture your prayer time in a new way, helping you know Him deeper and hear Him louder.
Learn more about each posture:
1 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
2 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
3 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
4 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Abby is a writing coach and the author of Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. Her mission is to empower women to seek God in the middle of life’s messes and to share their faith with courage.
Abby writes regularly for Proverb 31 Ministries’ daily devotions team, and her work has been featured in numerous publications.