by Jenny Harris
“I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him? I also invite you to take steps to hear Him better and more often”
President Russell M. Nelson, February 2020
I used to think that I was skilled at hearing God’s voice.
Then came epidemic, earthquakes, and uncertainty about my family’s future. I felt like God’s voice was muffled by my negative emotions. Social distancing took a toll on my health, mentally and physically. It was difficult to discern the spirit of power, love, or a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). God wasn’t the author of my tension headaches or sleepless worries. He wasn’t the one leading me to pore over scary news stories and worry about things beyond my control. Surely He was still there—but where? And how could I hear His quiet voice when everything else in the world seemed so loud?
I practiced listening to the Spirit day after day, and gradually my thoughts reflected greater hope:
Social distancing is official. Our group sizes are now limited to twenty.
But have you noticed the Missouri primrose? Their seed packets are like giant star-shaped purses! Hear the rattle? See the seeds? What a genuine surprise!
Group sizes are now down to ten. And why is finding baking soda such a mammoth endeavor?
But have you noticed the warmer temperatures? Spring is here, and you can go walking every day! What a perfect season to be alive.
I am lonely—I am scared. And now the earth is quaking.
But have you noticed the bright green hues of rain-soaked lawns? Have you touched the soft soil? There is dirt under your children’s fingernails; they are happy.
The parks are caution-taped. Even the swings! And I still can’t find dry beans at the store.
But have you noticed the goats that live on the corner? They jump and bleat and make you laugh!
The library is officially closed. How we long for fresh stories!
But how nice it felt to get caught in the rain today! Even the hail, stinging your hands, brought sensation and feeling and zest for life.
Back in February, I wrote a list of ways that I hear God’s voice. The list included things like good books, gratitude, and connecting with others. But the list was incomplete. In March, I started a new list: “Hearing the voice of God—in troubled times.”
This time, nature was at the top of the list. As a family, we are now placing higher priority on long bike rides and gardening. The Lord reminds us that “all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart … to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:18–19).
It has been helpful for me to remember that the voice of God isn’t available to me just to solve my problems. It also inspires worship and fills my soul. In nature, the thoughts and feelings that I receive are simple: Wonder. Enjoyment. Laughter. Contentment with a slower pace, and greater focus on my surroundings and my family. Seed pods and goats don’t erase my problems, but they do assure me that God the Creator is near. When I am out of doors, my worries are temporarily replaced with feelings of worship. And this feeling of divine proximity makes the hard times easier to endure.
Joseph Smith encountered God the Father and Jesus Christ in the woods, “on the morning of a beautiful, clear day” in spring (Joseph Smith History 1:14). Those details—the woods, and a clear spring day—are significant. Joseph found the Creators in a setting of Their own making. The same is often true for me.
As long as there are windows and doors, grass and trees, flowers and rain, I can hear the Creator’s voice. I love His messages. And I will keep listening.