Comfort, Whispers of God

God Whispers


I like to think that God whispers, that God never shouts at me or speaks to me with a harsh, loud voice. I like knowing that when God speaks to me, God will always whisper. Because shouting frightens me and harsh speaking causes me to cover my ears so that I cannot clearly hear what God is saying.

I heard once that, more important than all the loud, big proclamations preachers speak from the pulpit, the people in the church pews truly listen when preachers whisper. That’s when preachers say the most important things, it seems. Or so I’ve been told by people who know that sort of thing.

It turns out I have always known a whispering God, from the very beginning of our relationship. That first whisper of God, and all the others I have heard in my long life, reached my ears as “a still, small voice.” I’m not really sure about this, but God may very well shout once in a while. I have never heard a loud word from God myself. I have heard only whispers, gentle whispers of very important things I needed to hear clearly and surely.

I’m thinking today about the bombings at the airport in Kabul. I’m praying today tor the Americans who are currently trying to flee from Afghanistan, the U.S. military with an impossible task, our Afghan allies who also need to leave quickly and the Afghan people who are hopelessly and helplessly stuck in a country filled with danger. I mourn those who died today and I lament the volatility of the situation that exists there. I can only imagine the chaos, the fear, the sound of the bombs, the screaming and shouting, the loud calls for help. The people surely can’t hear themselves think in such a situation.

Maybe it’s even too loud to pray. Maybe even God cannot be heard over the ear-piercing sounds of a bombed place. I believe that God is present there, hearing prayers and speaking softly to the terrified people with whispers of comfort . . .

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41: 10

In all the noise, the people near the bombings most likely could not hear, not even yelling or shouting. I like to imagine that what they can hear is God whispering to them, whispers of comfort, whispers of peace, whispers of hope. That is the voice of God I have always known, the God who whispers to me when I am still and quiet, waiting to hear God’s holy whisper. But I have also heard God’s whispers in the midst of deafening noise. In those noisy times, I have heard God’s whisper still. God’s voice — the whisper — has talked me through many seasons when fear, pain, grief and other negative things were literally shouting at me from every direction.

I have learned to hear the whisper of God. It is the balm for my soul, the sound that keeps reminding me that all shall be well. I have loved the thoughts of Prathia Hall who was an American leader and activist in the Civil Rights Movement, a womanist theologian and ethicist. She was the key inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and she often found herself immersed in trouble of every sort. These are words she spoke that offer encouragement in frightening times:

“Out there in the brush arbors, the wilderness, and the woods, the God of our ancestors, the God we had known on the other side of the waters met us and whispered words in our ears, and stirred a song in our souls.”
— 
Prathia Hall (Quoted by Courtney Pace in Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall)

I wonder if you could tune your ears to God’s holy whisper. You will hear it when everything around you is quiet and when everything around you is reverberating with noise and clamor, tumult and uproar. I pray that, even in all the turmoil visited upon the people who suffer in Afghanistan this night, they will be able to hear God’s comforting, healing whisper.

May God make it so. Amen.

Comfort, Faith, Hope, Preaching, Whispers of God

Whispers of God

Word cloud by Kathy Manis Findley

Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.

Joel 2:28 NRSV

Because I am an ordained Baptist minister, I followed a path that made hearing the whispers of God necessary. I heard God whisper to me on many a dark day. So I am fairly certain about it when I do hear the whisper of God. Only that kind of holy whisper could cause one to face off about ordination with a patriarchal system. But truth be told, I did accept that face-off almost forty years ago. And I persisted through a long season of unkind challenges and lengthy treatises about all the reasons a woman could not be ordained.

In the end, I was ordained. I am deeply grateful to have experienced a rich and varied ministry through those years, including serving as pastor of two churches. I preached every Sunday, real sermons. You might say — borrowing the words of the prophet Joel — that I “prophesied.”

Oh, my!
God whispered. I followed. It’s just that simple.

The truth is that throughout my life, I have heard the whispers of God many times. God’s whispers were just for my hearing, sometimes to comfort me, sometimes to gently correct my steps, sometimes to encourage me, sometimes to lift my spirits, sometimes to show me a vision and sometimes to call me to a mission, like prophesying or preaching.

I have learned a very important life lesson: that when I am grieving, confused, sorrowful, hurt, betrayed, beaten down . . . God’s whispers give me hope. When I am disheartened, God’s whispers touch me with healing. When mourning has stolen my songs, God’s whispers move me to sing again.

I am reminded of the inspiring words of Rev. Dr. Prathia Laura Ann Hall (1940-2002), an undersung leader in both the civil rights movement, womanist thought, social justice and African American theology. These are her words:

Out there in the brush arbors, the wilderness, and the woods, the God of our ancestors, the God we had known on the other side of the waters met us and whispered words in our ears, and stirred a song in our souls . . . 

– Prathia Hall, Quoted by Courtney Pace in Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall

Right now, I am in “the wilderness and the woods.” In other words, I am in a shaky place. I need that quiet, familiar, sacred sound of God whispering in my ear. I wonder if maybe you, too, need to hear that sacred whisper that can make all the difference. Wherever you are, however you feel, in whatever place you are in your life, in whatever way you experience God, I pray that you will listen closely for the holy whispers you need to hear.