“Why do you bother doing what you do? If I were you, I wouldn’t even have tried.”
The woman on the phone was referring to my writing and speaking ministry. Her words so shocked me that I didn’t know how to respond. The conversation ended moments later and I slumped into my office chair feeling defeated to the core.
Thankfully God, in His wisdom, used that incident as a pivot-point for me. Through it, I learned the importance of choosing which voices to heed and which to ignore. I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about…
Voices that whisper fears when you debate a new venture: “You want to do what? You don’t have the know-how. What if you try and fail?”
Voices that mutter misgivings and cause you to question your worth: “You’re not as pretty or capable as other women. Move over, sister – you’re out-of-date.”
Voices that murmur doubts and cause you to query God’s character: “A good God would never allow such painful circumstances. Why devote yourself to Him? He obviously doesn’t give a rip about your well-being.”
Three Hebrew officials – Eliakim, Shebna and Joah – encountered a negative voice, too. Their story, told in Isaiah 36, began when an enemy king sent his chief of staff with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When the three Hebrews went out to confront the army, the chief of staff made it his mission to discourage them. Here are some of the things he said:
“What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength?” (vv. 4,5)
“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariot and charioteers?” (vv. 8,9)
“…Do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD’s direction? The LORD himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’” (v. 10)
“What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (v. 20)
As if those comments weren’t enough, the chief of staff blatantly disregarded the official trio’s request to speak in Aramaic to protect the Hebrew population from overhearing him. Instead, he shouted to the Hebrew people, “Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us…” (v. 13-15)
Unfortunately, the Hebrew men listened to the negative voice. Despair overwhelmed them, and they tore their clothes in response to their mental and emotional state.
We probably wouldn’t tear our clothes, but depending on our circumstances and what the voice says, we might feel equally as distraught. And so we’re faced with a choice: do we listen or do we ignore? We all know the right answer, but knowing how to do it (or choosing to do it) is where the challenge lies. I’ll talk about that on Monday’s post.
What negative voices have you encountered in your life? How did they impact you?