Hearing God’s voice is a bit different for everyone, but whatever the case may be for you, getting quiet is typically what all Christians need do to hear Him. This is illustrated by the famous story of Elijah on a mountain, waiting to meet with God.
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Ki 19:11-13)
This story is crucial to understanding what God’s voice sounds like. Here is a mega-prophet who know’s God’s voice quite well and is waiting for God to show up and speak to him. First there’s a great strong wind—something reminiscent of a tornado that is strong enough to move rocks on a mountain. That seems like something strong enough for God to manifest as—not to mention that the Hebrew word for Spirit is also often translated as wind. But surprisingly the Bible takes note that God is not in the wind.
Then there’s an earthquake—a force powerful enough to tear cities apart and can be felt for miles—an event that will always make the headlines of every news outlet. It’s dangerous and Elijah should feel like his very life is at risk being inside a cave on a rocky mountain. This seems like powerful enough of an event for God to make His presence known. And yet the whole point of the earthquake seems to be to illustrate that God is not in it.
Next there’s a fire—perhaps a giant forest fire in keeping with the escalating signs. Whatever its severity, fire is as dangerous as can be—able to consume most anything in its path and spread to the next thing. It can displace houses and cities and all that we love can be gone in a moment. But again, this passage is clear: God is not in the fire.
So where is God? When is He going to show up? What is the prophet waiting for?
Suddenly, there’s the sound of a low whisper. And that’s all Elijah needs to know God has arrived. In fact, he is so assured it’s God that he leaves the cave to hear the low whisper more clearly. This mega-prophet who knows God’s voice better than most has identified God’s voice in a low whisper—not amidst incredible noise or vast destruction, but in the quiet sound of a word hardly spoken—a gentle blowing.
Now if you want to hear that sound, you’re going to have to discipline yourself to be very quiet—both physically and mentally. You will need to rest and wait upon God. This is hard for many people to do in a busy world full of 24/7 shopping centers, late night restaurants, on-demand televisions, internet-infused devices, and swarming city streets. If you’re like me, you can’t even sleep without the sound of a fan.
But God beckons us into the silence to hear real noise—to hear whispers of the divine. And once we have heard His voice enough in the quiet secret place, we might start to recognize it in the hubbub of everyday life.