Sometimes you can't hear the words. God's voice seems silent and far away. It often happens when we're most stressed and we feel most desperate for some kind of answer or encouragement. We long to know we're not alone in our stress.
Well-meaning friends remind us how important it is for us to pray. But how do you even pray when you're stressed out with no words? Praying can feel like another check box that leaves you feeling guilty.
Life is complicated. In an age of information a Google search away, Facebook photos and updates, we can be overwhelmed by answers, choices, and dilemmas. It's hard to hear God when we're frozen, analyzing what to do about our stress.
What we really long for is God's voice, to hear him and his heart. That's a tough thing to do, when we live separated from our hearts in our self-reliant, information-flooded culture.
Ironically, when we are most stressed, we deprive ourselves of what we need most to hear God's voice in everyday stress: God's goodness. We need to give ourselves permission receive God's TLC (tender loving care) so our hearts can open up to hear him.
This is hard for me. Growing up without a dad since I was seven, I have always looked to God as my provider. I didn't realize that God wanted to be more than just my provider. God longed to be my soul's confidante. Deep where I am stressed, where I hide, feel lonely, and struggle to receive, God longs to speak to me.
I find it easier to take care of others and do things for God. But God is showing me I hear him best when prayer becomes an intimate soul conversation to be loved and known, rather than a spiritual transaction to be made better.
This journey of hearing God speak to me in my stress came in the most unexpected way: my first panic attack.
At the cusp of a life-long dream—writing a book—painful childhood memories reignited as live events.
Even though I was married to my husband, mom to two beautiful boys, having once travelled halfway across the world as a missionary to tell others about Jesus, I couldn't stop my heart from pounding like a jackhammer, unable to breathe. I couldn't stop endless nights of insomnia or anxiety so thick I lay in bed by day.
I felt ashamed.
I knew how to pray to be competent and strong. But I didn't know how to listen to God with my heart.
Instead of abandoning me, Jesus whispered,