When You Can’t Hear God
‘Why can’t I hear God?’
‘Where is the Holy Spirit?’
‘What happened to my joy in Christ?’
All these are questions that I’ve asked myself many a time throughout my Christian walk. Perhaps you have as well. It can be frustrating and discouraging. You want to experience God, but so often prayer feels like a chore, nothing more than words spoken into thin air. Meanwhile, the attraction of the world is so enticing. It feels like hours can fly by amid the mindless, aimless scrolling of YouTube, Facebook, and Netflix. Yet, the mere act of opening up your Bible sounds like a burden. Then we read passages like Matthew 11:30,
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
This is the kind of joy we long for, the kind of peace we yearn for. Yet sometimes, this kind of joy and delight seems so foreign in the midst of our everyday lives where we try to muster up enough strength to be spiritually disciplined. Why is it that the very thing meant to be a wellspring of peace feels like a heavy weight? Why is it that oftentimes, opening up our Bibles and pouring over the words of God, exhausts us rather than gives us rest?
I think part of it may be the fact that we live in a culture that is obsessed with instant gratification and has the attention span of a squirrel. Like pulling a slot machine, we mindlessly scroll through media for hours on end. Only after we’ve wasted the day away do we then ask ourselves, “Where has the time gone?”
I want to be careful here, because my desire is not for us to simply summon up the willpower to resist the temptations of the Internet. That is well and good, but it is not enough. Nor do I want us to find our joy in Christian performance. My hope is that we will not go to bed after a long day, pleased with ourselves that we accomplished today’s checklist. My hope is that we will have joy in Christ regardless of how good or bad a day it’s been.
So with that, my challenge to us is this: What if we treated prayer and Bible reading not as something we must “accomplish for Christ,” but rather as something we have already been given power from Christ to do. What if we didn’t view this as a duty that requires all my strength and willpower, but rather as a fountain of refreshment from which we can draw strength from. Now we move from being exhausted to being energized, from being burnt out to being well-rested, from being weighed down to being freed.
I was encouraged to start treating the Word of God this way upon recently listening to a podcast episode of Ask Pastor John by John Piper. The title of the episode was “Why is My Delight in God So Short-Lived?” And his main point was this:
“When you read your Bible everyday, pause before you read and earnestly, with heart-felt longing, pray to God that He would come and meet you in the reading of Scripture. Ask Him to open the eyes of your heart and show you what is really there, to make Himself real and bring about amazing changes in your life. Or to put it very simply, pray earnestly about the reading of Scripture, just before you read the Scripture.”
He goes on to say that “This moment is not just about you and a book, it’s about you and the Living God!”
I’ve found this has helped alter my view of spiritual discipline. Sometimes it requires discipline yes, but when we begin looking at the Bible and prayer as a place where we can go to draw strength, not exert it, and when we cry out to God, asking Him that He might reveal Himself to us more clearly, then we begin to understand what Jesus meant when He said,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.