Most of the time, we experience God's communication to us in the form of spontaneous words and images. But why? Couldn't He speak more distinctly? Perhaps audibly? Or at least in clear sentences? The following is an excerpt from Whispers of my Abba, where I address this characteristic of our Father's voice.
Why God Often Speaks Without Words
Why Not Just Speak Directly To Us?
I used to wonder why God talks to us this way rather than just speak into our inner ear or something like that so we could be sure of what he said. But I'm beginning to think he really does know what he's doing! First, he wants to write his words on my heart (Heb.10:16) not simply say things to me. This seems to be particularly true when he is offering an insight into something I did not know before or when he is in the process of reframing an event so that I can see what I have been missing. In this way he often reveals truth to my heart even before I have the words for it, like an intuitive leap that my mind has not quite grasped. As I reach for it mentally, it begins to take shape in words that make sense. And when I finally write it out, the words have the ring of truth to them.
This is especially true when it comes to inner healing. During one of my last big encounters with God regarding my life-long struggle with self-hate, I was struck by the idea that self-hate must be built entirely of lies because it always assaults my God-given identity. In the moment I saw this, I was fairly sure that God had revealed it. At the same time I was hardly able to believe that so much of my identity could be made up of smoke and mirrors, because no one had ever explained it to me that way before. So it took some time to work out in words what I had already received in my heart. But I never forgot it. This was a perfect example of how God can begin writing his truth on our heart even before we can make sense out of it with our mind.
Second, and somewhat related to this, is the idea that what he wants to give me is not so much a verbal statement as it is a light so I can see differently. When God reveals something about how he sees my situation, my neighbor, or whatever, the new perception can take hold of me like a dawning awareness and flood my understanding, with or without words. What I know, I know because his Spirit has revealed it. Putting it into words is mostly my own attempt to capture what I have already seen with the eyes of my heart. The revelation itself is more important than the words used to describe it. So whether he begins with words and images, or whether he begins with an understanding that comes before the words does not really matter. Either way, by giving me the task of finding words to describe it, he involves me more fully in the process.
Third, I find mysterious beauty and wonder in the idea that evil is loud and violent in its manner, while a small whisper from God is enough to dispel the darkness and heal our wounds. Evil seeks to overwhelm, intimidate, and escalate until everything in its path is destroyed. But God speaks peace into the void and creates life, or touches a leper and heals his flesh. God uses the most simple of means to overturn the work of the enemy. Speaking quietly is one of those ways.
Fourth, God is speaking with us Spirit to spirit, not person to person. It makes sense that our spirit would hear and see differently than our physical body would. Paul emphasizes this when he says that spiritual things are discerned spiritually and not by human means (1Cor.2:13-14).
Fifth, I think this way of communicating with us very much resembles that of a masterful rabbi. Rather than spoon-feed us everything we need to know, he asks us to speak out what he is showing us as part of our learning process. A great example of this can be seen in the Gospels when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” While he had given them plenty of evidence, he wanted them to do the work of putting into words what they were starting to believe about him.
By actively participating in working out his revelations to us, we internalize the learning more deeply. As a by-product, we become far more practiced in spiritual discernment. When you see it, this is actually a very ingenious way of writing his ways on our heart rather than simply pouring more information into our head.
Finally, his way of speaking to us is consistent with his desire to draw us to himself and not overpower us or coerce us in any way. We need to be deliberate about paying attention or we will miss what he wants us to know. Seeking connection with him is part of what we need to do in this relationship.