At the deepest core of our being, we want to hear God speak to us. Yet, the clutter, busyness, and noise of life at times makes me feel like God’s still small voice is being drowned out. Do you ever freak out a bit and say to yourself something like, “I don’t care what anyone else has to say, I just want to hear what God has to say about this situation.” Well, if you have ever reached that place, then you are welcome member of the human race. Throughout history men and women, boys and girls alike have sought to hear God speak. One of the interesting things to me, is that when you look to the Bible for how people sought to hear God speak to them, they more often than not, went off to be alone in Creation to experience solitude with God. One of the most common outcomes of solitude with God that we see in the biblical text is that his people learned to recognize his voice.
WHEN GOD SPEAKS, HE DOES NOT CHANGE HIS MIND
In the wilderness, the Israelites learned that when God speaks, he does not change what he says. Through regular times of reflection and journaling out in Creation, we too can be reminded of what God has spoken to us in the past. What God speaks he does not change. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone off to have some solitude with God and through prayer and worship, he reminds me of something he has already spoken to me in the past. “Oh yeah!” I say, “You have talked to me about this same thing before, I just forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me Papa!” You need regular times of solitude to create space to think and remember ways you have seen God work or heard him speak to you in the past. Solitude with him reminds you that his Word is living and active, shaping you like clay in the Potter’s hand.
THE OUTDOORS IS A SPECIAL PLACE WHERE GOD WILL SPEAK TO YOU
Three biblical passages might help you understand that the wilderness is a special place where God speaks to you.
- The disciple Stephen, in the first century spoke about this when he referred to Moses in one of his sermons: “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you” (Acts 7:38). Stephen makes the point, that it was through solitude that Moses heard God speak.
- The Apostle Peter also asserted, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). What he is saying is that when God speaks, he doesn’t change his mind. His spoken word endures. And this is true for us too. When God speaks to us through his Word and through prayer, he speaks personally to us. And he doesn’t change his mind. The problem for me is not that God doesn’t speak enough to me to help guide me through life, the problem is that I don’t listen, or that I forget what he has already spoken to me.
- The prophet Isaiah also taught on this concept: “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). God’s words are different then ours. His words have authority and power to accomplish what he desires. Nothing can stop his words from becoming reality. This is why we should want nothing more than to hear him speak. Yet how often to we listen to the world’s empty words instead. Even though they are empty and bland?
WE NEED REGULAR SOLITUDE WITH GOD TO HEAR HIM SPEAK OR TO BE REMINDED OF SOMETHING HE’S ALREADY SPOKEN
How do these biblical texts relate to our need for retreat and solitude with God? In three primary ways:
- God wants to speak to you and will speak to you through his Word and prayer.
- If he has spoken to you, his word has not changed.
- Nothing can stop what he speaks from becoming reality.
Because our flesh is weak, we can often become deceived by our feelings so we easily change our minds or forget what God has spoken. When I go outdoors to enjoy solitude with God or when I lead groups of people into the wilderness for Christ-centered retreats, I like to provide ample space for our participants to enjoy solitude with God. For example, after an intense adventure, or after a day or two into your expedition, once your group has had adequate time for their soul to be in a position to listen to God speak, you might ask them to consider:
Has God spoken clearly to you on some issue with which you are currently struggling? What does his Word say about your situation?
Have you, over time, fallen into unbelief even though God has already spoken to you on this issue?
If God doesn’t change his mind, and he’s already spoken to you on something, then what is stopping you from saying yes to him right now?
We all need regular wilderness experiences to remind us of what God has spoken.