Spiritual Crises – What to do when your spiritual life is shattered

Let’s take a look at the words of some of the greatest figures in the Bible…

Numbers 11:4-15 “The rabble with them (the Exodus generation of Israelites) began to crave other food (than manna), and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’… Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the LORD, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, “Give us meat to eat!” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin.’ ”

1 Kings 19:1-5 “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep…”

Job 3:1-26 “… Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said… ‘Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?… For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest … I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.’ ”

Job 7:3-21 “so I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn… My days… come to an end without hope… my eyes will never see happiness again… I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul… When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death… I despise my life… Let me alone; my days have no meaning. What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention, that you examine them every morning and test them every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?…”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we (Paul and others) experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope…”

Moses, Elijah, Job, and Paul each had moments in their lives of such anguish and despair they wished they were dead. The pressures and injuries in their lives became such a burden they longed for death. That certainly qualifies as a spiritual crisis! And these were not people whose lack of maturity or integrity caused an undue emotional outburst. These were some of the greatest men in history. They legitimately felt violated by the afflictions of the world, and it hurt them so deeply they despaired of living.

That’s one kind of crisis, a crisis that arises from suffering. Another kind of crisis is one that arises from disappointment. Something we desperately want doesn’t happen, or something we desperately don’t want does happen, and we are bitterly disappointed. This bitterness takes root and grows into a mighty forest of discouragement and disillusionment that can destroy our relationship with God.

Psalm 73:1-24 “Surely God is good… to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped… For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”

Hebrews 12:14,15 “Pursue peace with all men… See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;”

Sometimes our disappointment can be legitimate, and sometimes it can be baseless. Jeremiah was brokenhearted because Israel had turned from God to idol worship, a legitimate disappointment. Jonah was angry because God did not destroy Nineveh after the entire city repented and sought God’s forgiveness, a pretty lousy reason to be disappointed. Whether legitimate or not, disappointment can easily lead to a spiritual crisis.

Jeremiah 20:14-18 “Cursed be the day I (Jeremiah) was born!… Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”

Lamentations 3:2-8 “He (God) has driven me (Jeremiah) away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.”

Jonah 3:10 to 4:4 “When God saw what they (the people of Nineveh) did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, ‘Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ But the LORD replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ ”

Another kind of crisis is one that arises from doubt. An example would be the life of John the Baptist. This is the man who, out of all of the billions of people created by God, was chosen to be the “voice in the wilderness” (Matthew 3:3) that heralded the coming of the Messiah. He was the extraordinary prophet who was granted the supreme honor of being the one to proclaim to the world that the Messiah had arrived, and to identify Him through baptism (Matthew 11:9,10).

John the Baptist was truly a remarkable man! He sacrificed everything to complete his mission, living penniless in the wild on “wild honey and locust,” dressed only in “a garment of camel’s hair” (Matthew 3:4). He was eventually imprisoned and beheaded for his faith, and Jesus himself paid an extraordinary tribute to him, saying “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11).

Yet John the Baptist, this amazing prophet who was called to be the herald of the Messiah, was not without doubt! While languishing in prison, John sent a message to Jesus, saying “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

Now this was after John had already baptized Jesus and announced to the world that Jesus was the Messiah – God incarnate come into the world to teach us to love and to then die for our sins. How very human of John, after suffering intensely for his mission, and accomplishing his mission so effectively, to be caught up in a crisis of doubt.

Doubt is an extremely common affliction that troubles all of us at times. Jesus’ disciples struggled with doubt even after the resurrection. And the crisis it brings makes us feel like a ship that loses its anchor in a storm.

Luke 24:38 “And He (Jesus) said to them (His disciples, after the resurrection), ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ ”

James 1:6 “… the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

Another kind of crisis is the one that arises from mission. God gives us something to do, and we simply don’t want to do it. In fact, we resist doing it with every fiber of our being, and the resulting crises are intensely powerful.

Consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus desperately did not want to go to the cross. This was God the Father’s central mission for the Son’s life, and Jesus knew exactly what it would entail, including the indescribable suffering He would have to endure in order to complete His mission. So quite naturally Jesus did not want to do it. Indeed, He so emphatically did not want to do it, the Bible describes Him as praying in “agony,” “deeply grieved and distressed, to the point of death,” with sweat falling “like drops of blood;” that is, in a state of tremendous spiritual crisis.

Matthew 26:36-46 “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping… He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!’ ”

Luke 22:41-44 “He (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done… And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”

Spiritual crises are different from spiritual failures. They do not in and of themselves involve sin. They may (or may not) lead to sin and spiritual failures, depending upon how we choose to respond to them, but we can be doing everything right and still find ourselves in a desperate spiritual crisis. In fact, spiritual crises almost always afflict those who are growing spiritually, because we have to have a spiritual life to begin with before it can be in conflict. Spiritual lethargy cannot be conflicted, because there is nothing there to be challenged.

And that is what these things are. They are challenges to what we hold true. They get in our faces, spit in our eyes, and say “You don’t really believe that. You don’t really trust this God you pretend to worship. Your faith isn’t real. This whole life you’ve built for yourself is an illusion. It’s just wishful thinking. And I’m going to tear your pretty, convenient little house of cards down.”

These crises grow organically from life in a fallen world. Suffering and disappointment rise up, wrap their tethers around us, and start to squeeze. Doubt is a mace this world turns to like a favored weapon to pound away at the heart and mind of every thinking person. And many stories from the Bible reveal that God often asks more of His children than they think they are capable of doing.

A spiritual crisis can arise from any one of these sources – suffering, disappointment, doubt, or mission. Many times it will come from a potent blend of these pressures that together rock the very core of our faith. We suffer, which brings disappointment, which leads to doubt, which causes us to question our mission. Or maybe we are troubled by doubt, so we abandon a mission, which then leads to disappointment and suffering. These things can assault us in any order, alone or together, interacting in an infinite variety of powerful recipes that can be lethal to our relationship with God.

And notice that no one is immune to their effects. If you are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, take comfort in knowing you are in excellent company. The greatest people in history, including Moses, Job, John the Baptist, and Paul, all had spiritual crises. Even Jesus Christ our Lord – God incarnate – struggled with a spiritual crisis that literally nearly killed Him before He ever got to the cross! So don’t be ashamed or feel like there is something wrong with you when your crisis comes. And know this, eventually, it will come. If you are seeking to follow Jesus, this world will assail you regularly with as many crises as it can possibly conjure up.

John 16:33 through 17:26 “ ‘I (Jesus) have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father… I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world… My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me… Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’ ”

And so experiencing a crisis of faith does not mean you are a bad person, unworthy of being called a follower of Christ. It’s just the opposite. It means you are genuinely alive. You are truly experiencing life in a fallen world. Your head is not in the sand, denying these forces and feelings exist. (That would be something to be ashamed of!) Instead, you experience them deeply, and you long for answers. You yearn for something that will soothe the pain of suffering, bring understanding to disappointment, eliminate the uncertainty of doubt, and inspire the completion of mission.

Where can you find something like that? What exactly do you have to do in order to overcome a spiritual crisis?

Three very difficult things:

1. Speak truthfully to God;
2. Allow God to truthfully answer; and
3. Trust God no matter what.

1. Speak truthfully to God.

All too often, crises inspire panic. They extinguish rational thought and provoke actions driven by uncontrolled emotions. We become totally unnerved, and in our hysteria succumb to base instincts. In other words, we freak out.

In these moments of crisis, perhaps our most basic need is to run to someone for guidance and comfort. We want to know what is going on, and what we should do, and how this is all going to turn out. We want to find whoever is in charge and ask for an explanation and for protection for ourselves and those we love.

In a spiritual crisis, that’s basically where God wants us to begin. He wants us to run to Him, the One in charge, and seek guidance and comfort. And the great thing about God is that there is no need to sugar coat how we feel or wrap our words in a frosting of politically correct bureau-speak. God loves it when we talk openly and honestly to Him about how we feel. Consider the words of Job during his crisis…

Job 10:1-19 “… I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God: Do not declare me guilty, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the plans of the wicked?… Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?… you stalk me like a lion and again display your awesome power against me… Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!”

This is not to suggest we should be disrespectful, childish, or otherwise sinful when we call out to God in times of distress. We don’t want to add sin to the already volatile mix of ingredients that make up a spiritual crisis (and if you keep reading in the book of Job, you will find God had some pretty frank words Himself for Job in responding to Job’s provocative questions). The point is this: It won’t help us in a crisis to dance around how we feel or say something we know we don’t actually mean. If we truly want help in a time of genuine spiritual crisis, the best place to begin is by speaking truthfully to God.

We have to pour our hearts and minds out to God in prayer. This includes our rational thoughts and our deepest emotions. And it is totally fine to express anger, frustration, bitterness, regret – indeed, any and all negative feelings – openly and honestly to God. You will find it cathartic to do so, and there’s certainly no use in trying to hide these feelings from God. He’s God, so He understands exactly how you feel, and why you feel the way you do. But often we don’t truly understand our own feelings until we at least try to verbalize them, and the best person to verbalize them to is the One who created everything about us, including our feelings.

Matthew 6:8 “… your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Psalm 142:1-6 “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way… I cry to you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need…”

Psalm 102:1-17 “Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones … I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof… I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears… But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion… the LORD will… respond to the prayer of the destitute…”

Psalm 62:1-12 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken… Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge… One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

Psalm 103:8-18 “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love… he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

If you are angry with someone, tell God about it. If you are angry with God Himself, tell Him about it. (He already knows how you feel about Him, so it won’t come as a surprise, and He can take it!) If you are heartbroken, exhausted, terrified, mystified, overflowing with doubt, or so disappointed you despair of living, tell God about it – in no uncertain terms, withholding nothing – in as much detail as you possibly can. If you are not sure how you feel, ask God to help you understand and express whatever is bottled up inside you. If you need to, figure out some way to honorably set aside some time in solitude to do this. And do not stop until absolutely everything you think and feel has been laid out naked and raw at the feet of your Heavenly Father.

Allow God to truthfully answer
(humble your heart, ask God to speak, be still, and listen).

Then you must do something very brave. You must allow God to truthfully answer you. Not give you the answer you want or the answer you think you deserve, but the answer God, as an expression of His holiness and love, needs to give you in order to allow you to accomplish His plan and purpose for your life.

Just as you were open and honest with God, now you must allow God to be open and honest with you. You must allow Him to search your heart and disclose truthfully to you where you may be right or wrong, where you may be safe or in danger, and where you may or simply may not go. If you allow Him to, God will explore your thoughts and feelings with you. He’ll take you by the hand and examine every item you laid at His feet, and reveal what you need to know about them in order to bring glory to Him, light to the world, and Joy, Peace, and reward to yourself.

1 Chronicles 28:9 “… serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you…”

Psalm 139:1-24 “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all… For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb… Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

But be forewarned, God is no yes-man. He makes no promises to provide easy or comfortable answers, only right answers; that is, answers that will lead you down the path of life He intended before time began. Yet what could be more precious than that?

Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 73:21-26 “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 37:3-40 “Trust in the LORD and do good… Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light… Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him… the humble will… delight themselves in abundant prosperity… the LORD sustains the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever… Wait for the LORD and keep His way, and He will exalt you… the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.”

Psalm 25:1-9 “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust… No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame… Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

Psalm 23:1-3 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Proverbs 4:5-18 “Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! (the ability to properly apply God’s Word)… Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you… Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty… the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

So the question now becomes: How exactly do we allow God to answer these often deeply personal and extremely difficult questions?

We started this process by speaking truthfully to God. We poured our thoughts and feelings out before Him, until our cisterns of uncertainty and pain were empty and dry. We have nothing left to say. We’ve laid it all out at His feet. Now we have to do four things: Humble our hearts, ask God to speak, be still, and listen.

Only humble hearts can hear from God. If we are full of pride, arrogance, bitterness, or hatred, all of our spiritual senses shut down. We become spiritually deaf, dumb, and blind. If we truly want to hear from God, we must get our hearts into a very humble place, where we acknowledge we don’t have the answers, but in faith trust that our Heavenly Father does.

Matthew 13:10-16 “The disciples came to him (Jesus) and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied… ‘This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.’ ”

Psalm 115:2-7 “Why do the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’… their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk…”

2 Timothy 4:3,4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Ephesians 4:18,19 “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Hebrews 3:12,13 “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.”

2 Chronicles 34:27 “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words… and because you humbled yourself before Me… I truly have heard you,” declares the LORD.”

This can be unspeakably difficult when we are hurting. All of our natural, human instincts are to rage and indiscriminately attack, like a wounded animal backed into a corner. But an attacking animal can’t be comforted. We have to wait for it to settle down or sedate it before we can come to its aid. And similarly God can’t sit down next to us and give us words of comfort and truth until we first surrender to Him.

Job 22:21-28 “Submit to God and be at peace with him… Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored… Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to him, and he will hear you… and light will shine on your ways.”

It’s worth repeating that it’s very important to do our absolute best to air all of our grievances to God before we then try to hear from Him. Why? Because until we’ve gotten all of these things off of our chests, it’s nearly impossible to truly humble our hearts. There will be pockets of hurt feelings still pent up within us that prevent us from letting go of our anger and fear. Small but powerful strongholds of resentment will close our minds to God and harden our hearts. So don’t try to do this piecemeal. Get it all out there, then wholly surrender yourself to God with an open, humble heart.

Psalm 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Humbling your heart transports you to the correct spiritual place, where you will be able to hear from God. It makes certain that, in a spiritual sense, you are located where the voice of God resounds. Your unconditional surrender to God maneuvers you away from a noisy battlefield full of the fog and confusion of spiritual conflict, to a place where all arms and defenses are laid to rest. Your mind can clear, and your heart can stop racing. So what should you do next?

The answer is: Ask God to speak to you. So often we go about our lives wishing God would do this, that, and the other thing, but if we pause for a moment and think about it we would realize we never stopped complaining long enough to ask God for help. We get so caught up in what we are lacking, we forget to recognize the One who has the power to provide us with all things, and who loves us, and who has a purpose for our lives, and who will not hesitate to act on our behalf when what we seek is in keeping with His will. We forget to do one of the most elemental things in our relationship with God – earnestly present our requests before the throne of grace.

James 4:2 “… You do not have because you do not ask God.”

Hebrews 4:16 “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

In human relationships we have to keep in mind that our friends and loved ones are not mind readers, but God actually is a mind reader! He knows exactly what we want before we ever ask Him. Even so, God wants us to call out to Him for the desires of our hearts. Indeed, He expects us to bring our requests before Him and ask for His grace. Why? Because the act of requesting His intervention demonstrates our humble submission to Him and our absolute dependence upon His provision. We acknowledge we cannot obtain what we want through our own efforts, and instead seek the aid of our Heavenly Father.

Matthew 6:8 “… your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Luke 18:1-8 “Now He (Jesus) was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.” For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ ”

If we somehow can’t verbalize our requests to God in prayer, something is wrong. We may harbor some grievance against God. We may doubt His love for us. Or we may know what we want would never be in keeping with His will. In some ways, the act of actually asking for something is a test to see if our hearts are in the right place and if our motives are pure. If these are out of whack, then this is often the reason we don’t ask.

As part of humbling our hearts before God, we need to trust in certain foundational truths. God is. God loves us. God will listen to our prayers. And He will grant us those things that complement His plan for our lives. This will embolden us to bring our hearts’ desires before Him.

1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

Luke 11:9-13 “So I (Jesus) say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you… Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?… how much more shall your heavenly Father give… to those who ask Him?”

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

We can also always trust that when we humbly ask God to speak to us, He will tell us exactly what we need to know. However, notice God reveals what we need to know, not necessarily what we want to know. We may want God to answer very specific, pointed questions relating to some critical matter in our lives, and He may comply. But He may respond with a reminder or challenge or simple truth that makes the answers to our questions irrelevant. His response may bypass our questions completely, but get to the heart of what’s really going on in our lives. One thing we can always count on is that whatever God’s response, if we choose to then trust and obey Him, our relationship with Him will become deeper, our service to Him will become more vital, and it will lead us to Joy and Peace in a fallen world. More on this later.

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

1 Chronicles 28:9 “… serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you…”

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Proverbs 2:3-11 “indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will… find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding… Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

After we have humbled our hearts and asked God to speak to us, the next thing to do that is absolutely necessary in order to hear from God is: Be still. We have to let our bodies, mouths, and minds settle into an environment of calm. Physically, our bodies must unwind. Verbally, our tongues must quit wagging. And mentally, our minds must relax.

Psalm 4:1-5 “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness… Be gracious to me and hear my prayer… The LORD hears when I call to Him… and be still… and trust in the LORD.”

If we are physically agitated or tense, it’s extremely difficult to sense anything but the most rudimentary instructions from God. We might feel Him shout: “Hey there, would you settle down for a minute so I can talk to you!” But we will never be able to receive careful guidance through the subtleties of life. We’re moving too fast for thoughtful conversation to catch up with us.

Job 7:3,4 “… nights of trouble are appointed me. When I lie down… I am continually tossing until dawn.”

Isaiah 57:20,21 “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ ”

Exodus 14:13,14 “… Do not be afraid. Stand firm and… The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

1 Samuel 12:16 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!”

Isaiah 30:15 “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…’ ”

Likewise, if our mouths never shut, how can we expect our ears to open? If we can’t quit talking, it’s like putting our fingers in our ears and belting out an infantile tune. We’ll never hear anything other than our own muffled words echoing back and forth throughout the cavern between our ears.

Matthew 6:7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

Psalm 62:1-8 “My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken… On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people… God is a refuge for us.”

And if we can’t stop our thoughts from racing, how can we expect our minds to be comforted and transformed? If our minds are spinning out of control, it’s awfully hard for God’s voice to punch through the chaos. And so we must bridle our thoughts like a runaway horse, gently reining them in until they slow to an easy, steady pace that can receive assurance and instruction.

Isaiah 41:10-13 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you… For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ ”

Psalm 46:1-10 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake… The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress… He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God…’ ”

Being still is more than just sitting down and being verbally quiet. We can physically collapse and shut our mouths to create silence, but if our minds are whirling at a hundred miles an hour, we can’t consider that being still. Every action, word, and thought must stand down, like soldiers when hostilities cease so constructive talks can begin.

It’s pretty straightforward to still our actions and words. We simply choose to physically relax and stop talking. Stilling our minds can be much more difficult. Fear, worry, confusion, and anxiety don’t necessarily leave the building when we ask them politely. Many times they have to be forced out.

And there is only thing with the power to do that: Faith. As we saw earlier in this study, a heart full of faith creates a mind full of hope, and hope drives fear and all of its evil cohorts (like worry, confusion, and anxiety) out of the mind, so we can love. Faith and the hope and love it creates are therefore our greatest allies in the battle to still the mind.

Matthew 8:26 “… You of little faith, why are you so afraid?…”

Psalm 56:3,4 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid…”

Psalm 27:1-3 “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?… Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.”

Job 11:13-18 “… if you devote your heart to him (God)… if you put away the sin that is in your hand… then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear… You will be secure, because there is hope…”

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

1 Timothy 1:5 “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

Psalm 34:4 “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

If you find your thoughts are out of control, try this (which we first looked at in Chapter 5 in examining how to solve life’s various problems, whether they be with circumstances or relationships). Search through the scriptures you have learned and grab on to a verse or two that relate to what you are going through. Hang on to them with the tenacity of a pit bull on a postman. Speak them out loud. Repeat them a few times, and start to focus your mind on the truths they represent. Examine these truths very carefully, and ask God to reveal all they mean to you. Then ask God to help you apply these truths to your particular situation and discover what He would have you do.

If as a part of this process you will choose to trust in the promises of God and follow His leading, these acts of faith will in turn fill your mind with a living hope, which will drive out every fear and enable you to be still before God. The fears that excrete anxious and uncontrollable thoughts will be expelled, and in their absence your mind will be able to settle into a hope-filled state of calm. And in the resulting stillness God’s answers will resound.

Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.”

Isaiah 30:15-18 “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength…’ the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you… How blessed are all those who long for Him.”

Psalm 51:6 “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.”

Philippians 4:6,7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 14:33 “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace…”

In a sense, humbling our hearts takes us to where we need to be in order to hear from God. Being still is how we need to be in order to hear from God. Humility transports us to the proper spiritual location. Stillness creates the proper spiritual environment within this place.

Why do we need to be still in order to hear from God? We saw in Chapter 3 that God most often speaks in a gentle whisper. As with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, God might use earthquakes and firestorms to get our attention, but when He wants to tell us something, it’s usually not His way to shout. Instead, He speaks in a soft and tender voice. And when someone speaks to you this way, you have to be still and quiet or you will miss it.

God extends the truth of His grace in a gentle, quiet voice because He is not trying to force anything on anyone. He’ll use the intensity of crises and suffering to get our undivided attention if necessary, like a responsible parent disciplining a wayward child, but once that’s established, He reveals His will in a clear but soft voice that respects our freewill. He is not going to try to impress us with theatrics or intimidate us with volume. He will gently reveal truth, then allow us to choose.

If we’ve not poured out all of our thoughts and feelings to God, we will never be able to be still before Him. It’s the necessary first step that allows us to purge ourselves of sufficient negative attitudes so we can then humble our hearts and create the environment of stillness that will allow the gentle voice of God to be heard. Unexpressed hurt and anger stir up our minds like a tempest raging at sea. Exhaustively communicating these things to God allows the storms they create to blow themselves out, and leaves tranquil waters where Heavenly Father and earthly child can meet and genuinely connect.

If we cannot become still before God, we will never be able to hear His voice. The noise and clamor of our worry and distress will drown out the voice of God that seeks to comfort us. All we will be able to hear will be the voices of defiance, compromise, and doubt this world loves to amplify and broadcast in our ears at every waking moment. We must therefore learn to make a conscious decision to shut our ears to the distracting cries of the world, and through faith drive out all of our debilitating fears, and in the living hope that fills our minds allow a stillness to settle around us that brings with it God’s presence and voice.

In a sense, being quite before God is a test to see if we have truly humbled our hearts, because prideful, willful hearts can never shut up. We are too self-centered and arrogant to stop babbling on and on and on, which means we don’t really want to hear what God has to say at all, and we’ve never reached the state of humility necessary to receive truth from our Creator. Knee deep in growing piles of our own pride, we are quite content listening to a never ending stream of our own drivel.

Proverbs 15:2 “… the mouth of fools spouts folly.”

Psalm 131:1,2 “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty… But I have stilled and quieted my soul;”

Being still is also a test to see whether we truly trust God. As important as it is to lay all of our thoughts and feelings out before our Heavenly Father, it is equally important at some point to reasonably come to the conclusion we have had our say, and now it’s time to be still and let God reply. We’ve thoroughly expressed our doubts, fears, and anger, and now we need to let them go long enough to allow God to respond. And it takes faith to do that! We have to truly believe that, as great as our hurts are, God is greater still, and He has the balm to heal our wounds if we will be still long enough to allow Him to apply it.

Psalm 37:1-8 “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong… Trust in the LORD and do good… Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him… Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil.”

Psalm 30:1-12 “I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths… I called to you for help, and you healed me… To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy… You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”

Isaiah 57:15-18 “For this is what the high and exalted One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite… I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort…’ ”

Psalm 147:1-3 “Praise the LORD!… He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Stillness shifts our focus from ourselves to God. It’s the crucial turning point that demonstrates we’ve said all we need to say, and now we are willing to settle down and humbly listen to God’s reply with an open mind and eager heart. Whatever grievances we might have (whether legitimate or unfounded) have been aired, and our true desire is to repent of any sin born out of our pride and receive correction, comfort, and instruction from the God whom we know loves us. And to this invitation our holy, loving God never fails to respond.

Psalm 25:14 “The LORD confides in those who fear him…”

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Deuteronomy 4:29-31 “… if… you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul… For the LORD your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon or destroy you or forget…”

1 Chronicles 28:9 “… serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you…”

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Isaiah 58:2-11 “… seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways… delight in the nearness of God… Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer… And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

We have humbled our hearts. We have asked God to speak. We have stilled our bodies, mouths, and minds. Now in order to allow God to truthfully answer when we call to Him, a final thing we must do is: Listen.

This is the culmination of everything that has come before. Genuine humility, a sincere request, and the following stillness all work together to bring us to a point where we can truly listen and honestly hear. They clear away every impediment to communication with God, whether those barriers come from the distractions of the world or the prideful shortcomings of our own hearts. We humble ourselves, call out to God, and settle into a place of faith-filled calm. And as we do, we are cleansed from those things both in the world and within ourselves that deafen us to God’s voice, so we are prepared to receive God’s truthful answers.

So exactly how should we listen for God? Two things are essential – expectancy and patience. First, we have to expect God will answer. We must trust that God is going to make His will known. If we don’t believe God will respond when we call out to Him, our lack of faith makes it very difficult to hear His voice.

Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me…”

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

James 1:5-8 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Psalm 5:2-12 “Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray… in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly… Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness… make your way straight before me… let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

Micah 7:7,8 “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.”

Isaiah 49:23 “… those who hope in me (God) will not be disappointed.”

The paralleling principle is that, while we should listen with faith-filled expectancy for God’s answers, we must also wait for those answers patiently. We should not presume to have the right to tell God when to answer. All too often we try to put God in a headlock and force an answer out of Him, when in His plan it’s not time for answers, it’s time to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit of patience. And so we must have the faith that answers will come, but also the faith that answers will come at the right time.

Psalm 40:1-4 “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.”

Hebrews 6:10-15 “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him… We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”

Lamentations 3:21-57 “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD… I called on Your name, O LORD, Out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice, ‘Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.’ You drew near when I called on You; You said, ‘Do not fear!’ ”

1 Peter 5:6,7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Psalm 27:1-14 “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?… Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me… Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me… Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

Psalm 38:15 “LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.”

Expectancy and patience are not contradictory virtues, when tied together with the bond of faith. Faith ensures we expect answers to come, but we have the patience to wait on God’s perfect timing. Without faith, expectancy fades into doubt, and patience slips into anxiety, and it’s very hard for doubt-filled, anxious ears to hear God’s voice.

Ezekiel 12:2 “… They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.” (NIV)

Matthew 13:10-16 “The disciples came to him (Jesus) and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied… ‘This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.’ ” (NIV)

Hebrews 3:12,13 “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.” (NIV)

So exactly what should we listen for? In what form should we expect God’s answers to come? We’ve humbled ourselves. We’ve asked God to speak truthfully. We are still. And we are listening, with patient expectation. How will God answer?

We’ve already touched on this in Chapter 6, where we looked at how God reveals His will. In general, God can speak to us through:

• God’s Word;
• (Natural) Abilities and (God-given) Passions;
• Wise Counsel;
• Circumstances; and
• God’s Spirit.

As you humbly pray, make your requests known to God, be still, and listen, God may lead your mind to a verse of scripture that speaks powerfully to your particular need. The vast majority of times, the answers to our questions have already been revealed in God’s Word, and God’s Spirit will help us remember these truths and properly apply them to our circumstances. This should serve as a reminder of how vital it is to learn God’s Word and memorize scripture, so in times of crises we have these treasures to call upon.

Psalm 119:9-165 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word… Your word I have treasured in my heart… Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law… Strengthen me according to Your word… I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart… Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments… The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces… How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path… You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word. Depart from me, evildoers, that I may observe the commandments of my God… The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple… My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word… The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting… my heart stands in awe of Your words. I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil… Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

John 14:26 “… He (the Holy Spirit) will… bring to your remembrance all that I (Jesus) said to you.”

Proverbs 6:22,23 “When you walk about, they (the truths in God’s Word) will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light…”

2 Peter 1:2-4 “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world…”

Sometimes, the answers we seek may be right before our eyes, revealed through the way God created us. Our natural abilities and God-given passions may lead us to common sense answers and comfort when we lose our way. How God made you will help you understand His purpose for your life, which can provide the direction you need to find your way out of the storms of spiritual crises.

Psalm 139:1-16 “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me… For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made… your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Romans 12:5-8 “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly… he who teaches… he who exhorts… he who gives… he who leads… he who shows mercy…”

2 Timothy 1:6-9 “… fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord… by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life…”

Many times God sends wise counsel through men and women (and boys and girls) to strengthen and encourage us during difficult times. As noted earlier, we should always test the counsel we receive against God’s Word, because God’s answers will never contradict His written Word, but it’s clear God often speaks to us through the wise counsel of others when we don’t know where to turn, what to do, or how to endure. And God particularly likes to use brothers and sisters in Christ who have been through the same (or similar) spiritual crises as you to encourage and guide you in your time of need.

Proverbs 13:20 “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Proverbs 19:20 “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.”

Hebrews 10:24,25 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

Galatians 6:2-5 “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ… But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.”

1 Corinthians 2:5 “… your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

Colossians 3:15-17 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another… Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

God also answers through our circumstances. As we patiently wait for God to explain a crisis, sometimes we discover His will and purpose through a change in our circumstances. Some event takes place that brings light to the darkness and reveals God’s answer. And sometimes, a lack of change in our circumstances can indicate God’s answer is for us to wait patiently and endure.

Psalm 65:1-5 “Praise awaits you, O God… O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come… You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness…”

Psalm 81:7-10 “In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you… I am the LORD your God…”

James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth… gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power… those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Finally, we come to God’s Spirit. We’ve seen how God can reveal His will by either granting Peace or causing unrest about some decision. We make a choice, and God’s Spirit fills us with a comforting Peace that confirms we are doing the right thing, or we are filled with a disquiet that warns us we have made the wrong decision.

Romans 2:9-11 “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil… but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good… For there is no partiality with God.”

Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Proverbs 3:13-26 “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed… My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”

Isaiah 57:20,21 “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ ”

As you seek God’s answers and comfort during times of spiritual crisis, God’s Spirit may communicate with you in other ways. In the stillness of your earnest prayers, as you meditate on God’s Word and humbly ask Him to speak to you, God’s Spirit may bring an image to your mind, or a song, or a memory, or an impression that defies earthly description, and through these things tell you all you need to know.

Psalm 51:6 “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.”

But this is an area where we must be very, very careful. The stress and confusion of crises, the deceits of the world, and our own sinful natures can easily conjure up any number of “signs” for us to eagerly misinterpret in order to hear the “answers” we want to hear, but do not come from God. They represent our own desires, not His, and give us excuses to do things we have already determined to do, regardless of God’s will and in defiance of His Word. And so, as with the counsel we receive from others, we should be careful to test these things against God’s Word. A message that is truly from God will never contradict God’s Word.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Isaiah 29:13 “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’ ”

Jeremiah 14:14-16 “… The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My (God’s) name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them or spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds… I will pour out their own wickedness on them.”

2 Timothy 3:2-7 “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant… holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Timothy 4:3,4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Jeremiah 29:8,9 “Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.”

Yet at the same time, our hearts and minds should be open to receiving God’s counsel, however He chooses to provide it. Sometimes we put God in a pre-conceived box and only heed those messages that conveniently fall into it, and because of our narrow-mindedness we miss genuine promptings that would be truly beneficial. This then becomes just another way of limiting God’s answers to those we’ve already determined to hear.

And so, when these inevitable spiritual crises assail you and you desperately want to hear from God, you should do this:

Speak truthfully to God. Pour your heart out to Him and share how you really feel, including all of your pain, disappointments, doubts, worries, and grievances.

• Once you’ve truly expressed all of these feelings, you must lay them all down at God’s feet, and humble yourself before Him. Tell Him that, even though you have all of these feelings, you acknowledge He is God and you are not, and you trust He has a purpose in all things, and His purpose is good.

• Then ask God to answer you. Ask Him to reveal whatever you need to know in order to overcome this crisis. And remember, what you need to know may be something you’ve never considered before, even something that seems unrelated to all you’ve laid at God’s feet. So be sure to keep your heart and mind open, and ask to learn what God thinks is important, not what you think is important.

• After you’ve made your requests known, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 46, you must: “be still, and know that He is God.” Calm your body; silence your tongue; and quiet your mind. Truly rest in the knowledge and belief that our holy, loving Heavenly Father has heard your prayer and will respond at just the right time, with just the right answers, according to His perfect plan and purpose.

• Then listen, with expectancy and patience. In the stillness you have created, be attentive to any scripture, counsel, image, or impression God’s Spirit may bring to your mind. As you consider alternatives, note whether they bring with them feelings of Peace or disquiet. Be receptive to the promptings of plain ole common sense, as it relates to your passions, abilities, and the crisis in general. Reflect on any changes in your circumstances (or lack of change) and consider what this may reveal. Let everything you have learned of God and experienced in your relationship with Him comfort and counsel you through the storm. And test everything you think you hear against the perfect standard of God’s Word.

This process will help tremendously in times of spiritual crisis. But it shouldn’t be just an emergency procedure we turn to as a last resort when our worlds fall apart. It should become a lifestyle that blends into our daily living, where we are constantly having honest talks with God about how we feel and what’s going on in our lives, followed by humble requests for God to reply just as honestly with us, and open, quite hearts listening intently for God’s answers, however they may come, with expectancy and patience. This daily dialogue between Heavenly Father and earthly child will result in a powerful and fulfilling relationship that is our greatest ally in conquering spiritual crises. We are able to overcome them, because God is by our side through them.

What kinds of answers can we expect from God? During times of suffering, God may reveal the purpose the suffering serves in His plan and how your pain serves some higher cause. In times of disappointment, God may reveal why He chose to allow something to happen (or not happen) and, as with suffering, why this is important and necessary in His design. When plagued by doubt, God may send something that strengthens your faith and eliminates your uncertainty. And when daunted by mission, God may answer with something that truly inspires you and fills you with resolve.

Or He might not. He might be (seemingly) totally silent. You spill out your guts to Him, genuinely humble yourself before His mighty presence, reverently ask Him for His priceless counsel, settle into a place of pristine stillness, and listen with the ears of an elephant.

And nothing happens. No signs. No wonders. No promptings of any nature. Just the spiritual equivalent of crickets chirping. What could God want from you?

Trust God no matter what – Faith in the absence of answers.

Sometimes, God answers with the speed of lightning in a voice like thunder. It’s blindingly fast and impossible to miss. And from our human perspective, we like it that way, because it immediately satisfies our needs. There is an instant gratification of our desires in which we delight.

From the divine perspective, this sometimes also delights God. He loves His children more than we can even begin to comprehend, and of course He wants to intercede quickly and decisively. He derives no pleasure from watching His children in crises.

But many times, He can use suffering and disappointment, and even doubt and hesitancy (in regards to mission), in powerful ways to bring about tremendous good in a fallen world. These four crises are things every single person on the planet struggles with at some point in his or her life, so when one of God’s children endures them, but is not overcome by them, and instead is able to know Joy and Peace despite them, God is truly glorified and the darkness of the world is authentically illuminated.

But that can’t happen particularly well when God’s answers are fast and loud. Nor is it really possible in a fallen world where people are free to choose between good and evil. If God swooped down and sorted out every crisis in the blink of an eye, faith gets removed from the equation and replaced with entitlement. We ask and we receive, right then and there, or we impugn God and call a lawyer, because after all, we have “rights.” And freewill would have just about the shortest reins imaginable, where anyone out of line (including you and me) would get a divine smack down as soon as they caused any trouble.

These narrow parameters just aren’t possible in a world where people are truly free to choose, so God exercises His divine discretion, as is His right as the sovereign Creator of the world, to choose how quickly and how distinctly to answer when we call out to Him during a spiritual crisis – all depending upon what is best according to His holy, loving plan and purpose. It might serve Him and our fellow mankind most if God responds immediately. Or it might be better if He waits a little while so our faith can grow and bring light to the world. Or it may be we are called to wait a really long time.

Another possibility is we get an answer, quickly and clearly, but it’s not what we want to hear. It’s a great big “no,” when we were praying fervently for a “yes.” And hearing a resounding “no” from our Heavenly Father can chill us to the bone, as its implications sink in like a freezing drizzle on a winter’s night.

So in all this – answers that are fast or slow, yes or no – what does God really want from us? What is He truly after?

As we saw earlier in this study, God wants us to trust Him no matter what. Regardless of the timing or content of His answers, God wants us to trust that He is, He loves us, and He has a plan and purpose that are good, both for us and for all humanity. We also have to accept that our finite minds cannot even begin to understand the complexities of this plan (so we can’t always expect Him to stop and try to explain it every time we want Him to), and often more glory comes to God and more light comes to the world when we trust Him in the absence of answers.

Isaiah 50:10 “… Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.”

Psalm 126:5,6 “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”