Mental Health is … Learning to Listen for the Whispers

The noise of our world will never fully satisfy, but when we learn how to listen for whispers, we find a safe place for the soul.

I wonder when the first sound was made? Was it a big bang or the quietest of whispers. As the sound waves vibrated out, what was heard? Who heard it?

Here in New Zealand, it is believed that the earliest of migrants would have heard the lands existence before seeing it. Such was the abundance of birdlife. Much of that life force is gone now, but even as I write this on a sunny deck, I can hear some of the native birds singing to me.

I hear whispers of God in the throat of a Tui, the whoosh of a Keruru flying by, and the flitting movements of a Fantail dancing in the sun.

It’s a noisy world 

As delightful as those birds are, they are within a world of noise. There’s the noise of my thoughts, feelings, the ‘To-do-list,’ the ‘Not-done-list,’ the tiredness of my body, the fatigue of my soul.

It’s a noisy world in our inner world: hopes, dreams, fears, failings, guilt, shame, mercy, and grace. Then we rinse and repeat.

I need a whisper — a still, calm delicate whispering voice of truth.

Elijah, in his cave of despair, heard that whisper after experiencing the noise of the wild.

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (a delicate whispering voice) 1 Kings 19:12

Some Hebrew from this verse.

  • a voice – qō-wl –  the sound of a human voice
  • still – də·mā·māh – a stillness
  • small – daq·qāh – small, gentle, delicate, fine

Not a Chinese whisper

I remember playing a game called Chinese Whispers.

The first person would whisper in the ear of a friend a short sentence then that person would have to repeat it to their neighbor. On and on the message would be repeated around the group of friends until the final recipient would blurt out something wildly different from the original message.

The whisper had wandered. The original message had been lost.

Gods whispers are direct, one to one, heartbeat to heartbeat.

You have to focus

Listening for a whisper requires attention. It’s a skill to be learned and invited.

Elijah had to be brought to a cave. Moses had to stop walking to gaze at a burning bush.

You have to be willing to set aside your plans for a God who loves to interrupt.

Where you focus is where you will go.

I have always found that God likes me to have a focus on the dance that they are enjoying with me. When I lose the rhythm, miss the whisper, I step on toes.

You see, I want to keep walking my way.

To keep listening to the noise of thoughts and feelings. They buffet my soul like storms, scorching fires, and earthquakes.

It takes practice to weather the storms, see through the noise, and hear the whispers.

Some of my favorite whispers

What is a whisper? Perhaps if I share a few I have heard recently it might help.

  • I am with you
  • You’re precious
  • I love you
  • You’re mine
  • I know you
  • You have purpose
  • You’re held

Sometimes I hear whispers in the writing of others.

  • When God thinks of us, he feels a deep, persistent longing – not for our wholeness but, more basically, for our friendship.
    David Benner – Surrender to love
  • Sometimes you need a biologist,
    and sometimes you need a poet.
    Sometimes you need a scientist,
    and sometimes you need a song.
    Rob Bell What we talk about when we talk about God

What did you hear whispered to you in these words?

What to do with a whisper

I would suggest two things.

  1. Write them down.
    Perhaps in a journal but definitely in what I call a thinking compass. This is a notebook or maybe a file on your phone where you can keep those whispers.  You can also keep other little encouragements. 

I have a Google Keep file where I store sentences of encouragement that I receive from my readers. I read my whispers nearly every day.

2. Savor the sound
Meditate on the whispers. Let them dig deep into your subconscious. Roll them around in your mind and savor every sensation.

Let them go to work on the thinking paths of your brain.

Mental Health grows deep and secure when we learn to hear the whispers and invite them to nourish the soul.

Quotes to consider

  • Science shines when dealing with parts and pieces, but it doesn’t do all that well with soul. Rob Bell
  • Recent brain research by Dr. Newberg at the University of Pennsylvania has documented that all forms of contemplative meditation were associated with positive brain changes—but the greatest improvements occurred when participants meditated specifically on a God of love. Timothy R. Jennings
  • The opposite of contemplation is not action, it is reaction. We must wait for pure action, which always proceeds from a contemplative silence. Richard Rohr 

Questions to answer

  1. Some people are afraid of being still and listening for the whispers. Why would that be?
  2. Some ‘whispers’ were mentioned above. What whispers met some connection with you?
  3. How do you integrate your whispers?

Further reading

How to Grow the Practice of Stillness for your Mental Health

Four Spiritual Exercises from the Bible for your Mental Health

Listening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health

Barry Pearman

Photo by Dimitar Donovski on Unsplash