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“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:4-5)
I recently met a lady who, in Jesus’ day, would have been called demon possessed. All of her life she has heard voices in her head. Each one is male and distinctive. They tell her negative things like she is stupid, unworthy, ugly, not worth living. She says at times they are so loud they drown out everything else around her. She has been under psychiatric care for years and years.
Though she has this horrible handicap, she has defied her doctors’ predictions and has married, can drive a car and has a job that she does well in. She is also a believer and prays all the time. She told me that even though Jesus’ voice often does not come through the din of the others, she still knows it is there and He is the reason she is where she is. His still, quiet voice is truth and she knows the others are lies, no matter how loud they scream.
Are any of us so different? Do we not all “hear” voices that are negative? They may come from friends who are inclined to be negative about everything, an emotionally abusive spouse, a harsh and depressed parent, or a grouchy, never-can-please boss. We all know someone who, if we are with them for more than five minutes will say something smug or negative about us. “I was hoping you would’ve lost weight. Weren’t you going on a diet?” “I thought you got your hair cut.” “Aren’t you ever going to become a manager at your work?” “I never raised my child to do that.” Then they shoot us a smile and reply, “Oh, but I’m sure that…” couching their remarks in a more positive light, as if putting anesthetic cream on the stab wound will cover the remark.
We live in a negative world. My mother, who was a school teacher, used to say we raise our children to be negative by asking them “what is wrong with this picture” or by having more “false” answers on tests than “true”. No wonder we learn to hear negative, inner voices as well. The ones where we call ourselves stupid, or ugly, or tell ourselves we can’t do anything right today, or ask why would anyone ever love us. At times we are our harshest critiques.
The ability to decipher voices is a natural thing. In a sea of children, a mother can hear her child whine. Children, in turn, know their parent’s voice. In a crowded room of chatter, we can hear our spouse’s laugh as he tells that joke for the umpteenth time. Even pets respond to our voices. Jesus says His sheep will follow His voice and not a stranger’s voice. But what does His voice tell us?
Jesus says He is the way and the truth (John 14:6). His voice tells us we are children of God (Romans 8:16) and precious in His sight (Psalm 72:14). His voice tells us we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and have purpose (Romans 8:28). His voice tells us we can do anything through His strength (Philippians 4:13). His voice tells us not to be anxious (Matthew 6:25).
Each day we have the choice of whose voice will influence our actions. We can listen to all the negative junk that bombards our ears and our brains, or we can turn a deaf ear and listen to Christ. What we hear will affect our actions, our thoughts, and our view of the world as well as ourselves.
Dearest Lord, You are the author of the good and the true in our lives. Help us to hear Your voice above the ruckus of negativity that invades our minds each day. Keep Your words of truth near to us, and help us to listen to them. Teach us to hear Your call and follow You—our Good Shepherd who protects us from evil and leads us to verdant pastures of peace. Amen.
Question: Whose voice will you follow today?