Discerning God’s Voice Amidst the Noise of Human Desires

Felicia Kuo reflects on how the hustle and noise of societal expectations and comparisons can draw us away from the one voice that patiently awaits us – God’s. She invites us to make time and space for God to help us to hear Him more loudly and clearly.

In the cacophony of our busy lives, many voices clamor for attention. Many human desires, our own or those of others, pull us in countless directions. It is easy to be swept up by waves of human desires that push for career progression, advancement, competition, staying ahead of the game, aiming for the next holiday destination, or upgrading to a bigger home. It doesn’t help that with just a few swipes, social media makes it so easy for us to compare our lives with others. Often, everyone else whom we compare with, seems to be doing better, going faster or getting further ahead.

When we navigate life’s challenges amid the noise of human desires, the soft promptings of God can be easily ignored. Luke 11:28 reminds us, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

This verse reminds us of an important piece of work that we must do if we desire to reach God’s kingdom. This work requires us to actively seek out His will for us, to discern His voice amid the noise of our own desires. It requires us to carve out a space where the chaos of the world can be silenced into a distant murmur so that we can hear Him.

In Psalm 46, God called us to “Be still, and know that I am God” yet how often have we dedicated time for stillness and silence to hear the gentle promptings of God?

In recent years, I’ve stumbled upon this precious stillness and silence before and during the early 8am Sunday masses. The 1st Sunday mass is not the most popular of mass times for most families that must wake up in the early hours on weekdays for work or school. On early Sunday mornings, the roads to church are quieter, the traffic is less, the pews are not packed, the distractions from the congregation, negligible. I head to church earlier so that I can get in a good 20-30mins of solitude before mass begins. Although I wake early on a day that I can sleep in, I am motivated by the fact that I wake for God and not for work.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I began to hear His voice during these early Sunday masses. It was a gradual realisation that if I listened attentively, there would be a line, in it the readings, responsorial psalm or gospel that was God’s response to an answer that I was seeking. A reassurance that He is still walking with me, a promise of hope of better days. Allow me to briefly recall 2 occasions this year:

1) In a week when I received a piece of disappointing news that an opportunity I had been waiting for was closed to me, I heard this at Sunday mass:

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body…” Matthew 10:28

I was reminded that no news, however disappointing, can crush my soul. Even if my opportunity had been killed, my soul will not be. I have God with me. I must continue to work for what I believe in, with the gifts that He has gifted me with.

2) In another week when I was deliberating about whether I should start a very difficult conversation with a colleague and possibly suffer the loss of an ally. I was tempted to let sleeping dogs lie because it was the safer non-confrontational option to just let it be. I heard this at Sunday mass:

“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do…Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16: 23-25

I was reminded of how my human instincts of self-preservation and protection run counter to God’s ways of upholding truth and justice, which are what I should truly strive to preserve, even if it must suffering other things to come.

At times like these, I am reminded of Luke 11:28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God andobey it!”.

Don’t get me wrong, these moments don’t occur to me at every early Sunday mass. Most times, I seek comfort in the fact that I’ve found a pocket of silence and stillness in my life. I get to sit undisturbed, unhurried, in stillness and silence, in between sparser pews and look up to Jesus on the cross. I pray.

At times when God’s voice come as soft promptings, I feel a gentle nudge to my consciousness. Something in my consciousness clicks that the line I’ve just heard is God’s answer. I am quietly washed over with a sense of peace that God has spoken to me, given me a direction. There are other times when I’ve suddenly felt overcome with emotions when singing the hymns at mass. A prayer group leader enlightened me that these emotions could be a result of being touched by the spirit, evoked by the Holy Spirit’s presence over me. Little by little, I have come to recognise the signs of these gentle promptings from God when I still my own noise and listen to Him.

May I encourage you, who are reading this, to set aside some time for silence and stillness in your lives?

In the hustle of our daily lives, finding moments of silence is not easy. But it is important work that we must do, to anchor ourselves in our faith and to continue to find purpose in our work life. In quietness, we can hear God’s voice more clearly. By setting aside time for prayer and reflection, we create a sacred space where God’s whispers can be heard, guiding us away from the clamor of our desires. I’ve heard of some teachers using the time during their early morning commute to do this, in their cars, or in other forms of transport.

I’ve found that God also communicates His will through people around us—family, friends, mentors, or even strangers. These individuals can unknowingly become vessels of God’s wisdom. When praying for discernment at certain periods of my life, I’ve received a text message from a friend, only to hear the same message from a colleague who popped by my desk, and then to hear it again from a guest speaker/acquaintance whom I don’t often encounter. I’ve come to learn that recurring messages and patterns from people around me can carry God’s voice to me too. It is then up to me, to listen and obey with an open spirit.

Discerning God’s voice is a process that requires patience and perseverance. It will not happen overnight even if we change some routines/habits and make time for silence and stillness. But, it will happen someday, if we persist. Together, as pilgrims on this journey, let us be patient and trust in God’s timing. Through persistent effort and unwavering faith, His voice will become clearer amidst the noise of our human desires. Ultimately, discerning God’s voice requires surrendering our own desires and trusting in His divine plan. Let’s try to let go of the need for immediate answers and embrace the uncertainty that will hang around for some time. Let’s trust that God knows what is best for us and in His time, He will reveal His will with unmistakable clarity.

This November, as our primary six students wait for the release of their PSLE results, may they and their parents hear and heed God’s gently promptings as they discern what is most suitable for them in their next phase of education.