Sometimes the influences in our lives slip in like background music. They set the tone and tempo. Upbeat and positive like the music playing at a theme park that makes us want to run to the first ride we see and hop on with joyful abandon. Or dark and ominous like the tense tones of a scary movie that tell us when it’s time to cover our eyes.
We might not notice what’s playing in the background of life or when the message subtly changes. But there’s no doubt about it. What we hear impacts us. And when we listen too long to the wrong voices, we can find ourselves thinking and believing things about God and ourselves that just aren’t true.
Is the soundtrack of your life helping or hurting you?
Several years ago I struggled with anxiety. It impacted many areas of my life but became especially troubling when I started to fear driving to unfamiliar destinations. My usual confidence to explore new places disappeared, and I found myself missing out on events that I normally would have enjoyed. Just to avoid having to navigate what I suddenly felt to be the dangerous streets of San Diego.
Where was this fear coming from? I found the answer when I took a look at the background noise that filled my days.
At the time, headline news kept me company. It blared from the radio every time I hopped in my car. It greeted me at the breakfast table as I perused the daily headlines over my coffee and toast. And it filled my living room late at night after I put my kids to bed. Without even realizing it, I was consuming a steady diet of anxiety. I had heard somewhere (probably in a news broadcast!) that turning off the news might help reduce stress. And guess what? It worked!
Once I became aware and turned off this unhealthy soundtrack to my daily life, my fear began to disappear. Instead of shrinking back from the unknown, I found myself leaning in. Into the new and unfamiliar places where God was calling me to join Him.
We all have voices that influence what we believe to be true. About the world, our relationships, ourselves, and God.
Some of these voices are good and healthy. They influence us to move closer to God and toward becoming the people he created us to be. They draw us closer to the ones we love.
But some of them make it harder to discern the truth from lies. They sound logical. Possibly even helpful. Like the daily news for me. Or the serpent’s promise of wisdom to Adam and Eve in the Garden.
It’s a problem as old as time. “Who are you listening to?” is the question God asked when the first couple hid their nakedness from him. “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord asked. (Genesis 3:11) “Who have you been listening to?”
And if it can happen to them – freshly created in God’s image, with the sound of His actual voice ringing in their ears – it can happen to us.
Who are you listening to?
Have unwanted voices slipped into your life? Voices that at first seemed to offer you something?
Maybe like me, it’s the daily news that offers to keep us informed on all the current issues that matter to us. But along with the information comes fear about what’s happening in the world and anxiety about how to handle it. Maybe it’s from social media that promises us connection but is called an alarming and rapidly growing negative influence by several high-level founding designers in the Netflix documentary Social Dilemma.
Or maybe it’s from a closer source. A well-meaning friend or family member who offers encouragement wrapped inside solutions that make you doubt your ability to find and follow God’s plan without their help. It could even be the voice inside your head – a voice that sounds true because it sounds like you. Saying that you don’t have what it takes. That it’s dangerous to try something new. That you should save yourself from embarrassment or humiliation.
All of these voices have one thing in common: They move us away from the life God wants for us. And that’s how we know we are listening to the wrong voices.
Hearing the One voice that matters.
The voice from God does not sound like fear or anxiety. It doesn’t stir up doubt or point out your loneliness. It doesn’t condemn or judge. It’s the welcoming voice that invites you in for a rest. Reminds you of who you are and who you belong to. Tells you how much you are loved. And teaches you how to walk in “the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matt. 11:28-30 MSG)
So when your life begins to feel crowded with unwanted voices – influences that sneak in uninvited and cause you to shrink back from the life God wants for you – it’s time to turn off the noise and get intentional about listening to the one voice that matters. You’ll know it’s Him when you feel your heart expand and open up. Because the music played by your Father invites you to step into the truth that you are His and you are loved. And inspires you – not to shrink back – but to step out into the life He created you for.
Have unwanted influences slipped into your life? What changes will you make to tune them out so you can better hear God’s voice?