Most psychologists agree that when one focuses too much on the past, it can lead to depression; focusing too much on the present often triggers stress; and focusing too much on the future may provoke anxiety. It’s difficult for me to fathom the idea of one individual dealing with all three at the same time and in one body!
Because we all experience anxiety about the future, let’s focus on some of the uncertainties about the future that often provoke anxiety and fear in us.
No one knows what the next decade, century, or millennium will look like. Many writers, however, have imagined the future in their works, inviting us to travel through time. Lynn Lobash, manager of the New York Public Library’s Reader Services Department, gleaned a number of trends from 11 must-read volumes about the future. Here are some of those: (1) Syrian refugees; (2) farewell hospital, hello home-spital; (3) by 2025 we should have space elevators and Internet-enabled contact lenses; (4) by the 2030s, we’ll be ready to move humans toward the Red Planet.¹
Anxiety and fear so often cloud our perspective that we can no longer see our faithful God standing before us, ready and willing to guide us, prepared to fight for us.
Imagine you are standing just outside your home, surrounded by dense fog so thick you can’t see the other side of the street. You look to the right, then to the left, but you cannot see more than 10 meters (or 30 feet) in any direction. You are surrounded by fog. How much water do you suppose it takes to create that thick blanket of fog that has completely isolated you from your world?
Just 50-100 milliliters (or a few ounces)—a small glass of water.
The total volume of water in a blanket of fog 64 meters (or one acre) around and one meter (or three feet) deep would not fill an ordinary drinking glass. How is this possible? First, water evaporates, and the resulting vapor then condenses into minuscule droplets that permeate the air. One drinking glass of water disperses as some 400 billion tiny droplets suspended in the air, create an impenetrable cloak that shuts out light and makes you shiver.²
This is precisely what happens with painful or difficult experiences. This is what happens when anxiety and fear creep in.
Is there a word of encouragement from the Lord? As I listened to an audio version of the Bible, I noticed the interesting fact that at least in three instances in Scripture God’s voice is heard from behind:
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isa. 30:21).³
“Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: ‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place!’” (Eze. 3:12).
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet” (Rev. 1:10).
Leading From Behind
The question that begs to be asked is Why would God speak from behind? Speaking from behind a person is considered rude in some cultures.
The Western way of thinking suggests that the past is behind us and the future is ahead of us. The Jewish mindset, however, as well as in other Eastern cultures, is characterized by the opposite: The past, since we have already seen it, is ahead of us. The future, which is still unknown to us, on the other hand, is behind. Again, the past is ahead, and the future is behind.
From the uncertainties of the future, which cause anxiety and fear, God speaks, reassuring us that our future is in His hands. Interestingly, with God, our future is history!
The immediate context of the three verses referenced above clearly shows that Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John were extremely worried about the situation of God’s people at that time. Dire circumstances and an acute sense of distress may have led them to question whether God was still in control and what the future held for His people. They were all in an urgent need of guidance and encouragement. At this very moment they heard the reassuring voice of God from behind—from the future.
When we hear God’s voice from behind we can move ahead with confidence.
God is ever willing to give us His Spirit to guide us in the right direction. All may hear His voice from behind, if they will but listen.
But how do we hear God’s voice? Whenever we open the pages of our Bible, we’re entering a listening room in which God speaks to us personally, specifically, intimately, and authoritatively. Based on experience, I have come to believe that the greatest way to hear God’s voice is through daily Bible reading (or listening), memorization, and meditation. God trains us to recognize His voice through His written Word. He uses it to tune our spiritual ears to what is real so that we can easily recognize a counterfeit.
To live in confidence that we are hearing Him, from behind, we need to have a knowledge of His Word continually in our heart.
Nothing in our lives takes God by surprise. Even in the midst of personal upheaval, relational challenges, financial stresses, family transitions, career disappointments, and chaotic world affairs, God still speaks from behind. Just find your spot today, where you can enter the Lord’s presence as you open His Word, listen to Him personally, trust in what His Word says, and respond to Him in prayer.