Q&A: Discouragement, Burnout, and Hearing God’s Voice

Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about discouragement in ministry, burnout, and hearing God’s voice. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. I hope that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

Q: I am struggling trying to keep the vision of my ministry. Have you ever been discouraged about serving God?

A: My heart has been deeply touched as I’ve traveled and have met many individuals in the five-fold ministry asking similar questions. I do know how it feels to be discouraged, and at times I wondered whether I was really in God’s will for my life and my ministry. I want to encourage you not to give up hope. Please continue to press on to victory—it will come eventually as you trust in God’s ability to deliver you from your circumstances. God promises us in Matthew 28:20 that [He is] with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 10:35-36 says, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (NASB).

Q: I’m resting from near burnout from church duties, outside women’s organizations, my family responsibilities, etc. During that season, my quiet times were not what they should be. Now I find myself having regular, quality quiet time but feeling a lack of fulfillment. I don’t seem to have any vision, and the Lord seems to be silent. Do you have any suggestions or Scriptures?

A: The answer to your burnout problem and present lack of fulfillment is found in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” In life, there are seasons of bearing fruit, pruning, growing, and bearing more fruit. Certainly, in the times of “fruit bearing,” where there is evidence of what our life is producing, we have a sense of fulfillment because we can “see” what we have done. However, there are necessary times when God puts us in a “dormant” state so that we can abide in Him and He in us. John 15 goes on to say, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (v. 4). I believe you may be experiencing a time of “abiding” in your life. God is giving you a season of rest, consolidation, and a chance to re-energize. Enjoy it! Receive this time as God’s wisdom for this season in your life. If the Lord is silent, then you can be certain that you are in His will! The Holy Spirit gets “noisy” within us when we begin to walk outside of God’s will.

Q: I’m not sure if I’m hearing God’s voice or someone else’s voice. What does God’s voice sound like?

A: We all struggle with the question, “Is this the voice of God?” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, John 10:3-5 offers us a wonderful promise: “…the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” The voice of God can come to us in different ways. In the Old Testament, the voice of God is described as a still, small voice (1Kings 19:11-2). Most often, God’s voice sounds very much like our own thoughts. But these thoughts do not originate from the mind, they come from deep within our own spirit. Believers have been promised that as we continue to walk with God, He will guide us with His eye upon us and lead us in the way we should go (Psalm 32:8). According to Galatians 5:16, we can know that we are being led by the Holy Spirit if we are walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means to act on God’s Word no matter what our senses (or “sense-knowledge”) tells us. I believe our flesh seeks after signs—something we can see or feel. Check out the leading you have by asking yourself, “Is this my flesh wanting a sign, or is this God’s Word directing my spirit?” If you follow the Word, you will never be disappointed.

Q. Several people have told me that God has a special call on my life. How do I find out what God’s will is for my life?

A. I want to share with you three steps that have helped me discern the will of God for my life:

  1. the desire must line up with the Word;
  2. you should have an inner witness of your leading—the Holy Spirit bears witness with God’s Word in your spirit which brings you peace; and
  3. circumstances should line up accordingly. At times there may be a waiting period.  The desire may be scriptural; you may have an inner witness; but circumstances may take some time before coming together.  When this happens, it’s important to be patient.  It is never wise to try to make things come together on your own. God will bring to completion what He’s begun (Proverbs 3:5-6).

You can trust God for your future.  As you learn to rely more on Him and less on your own “feelings,” you will find a peace that truly passes all understanding.  Be very careful about accepting any “Word from the Lord” from others.  Remember, all “words” must line up with the Word, your own inner witness, and the circumstances.  Anytime we depend on someone else’s understanding of God’s will for our lives, we are putting ourselves in a place of danger.