My journey in learning to hear God’s voice has been very similar to Mark Virkler’s journey. Like him, I was taught that hearing God’s voice myself did not exist or was bad and wrong. Like him, I set aside a season of life to seek God about this, and like him, I learned from God to hear God. I was very encouraged when, years later, I read his book 4 Keys to Hearing God's Voice to see that what God had taught me and what God had taught Mark Virkler was the same. However, I was very grateful for the book, for unlike me, he was able to put what I was doing into words!
Mark warns that the practice of picturing/imagining/envisioning Jesus and other scriptural realities is the most controversial of his “four keys,” and I remember struggling about it myself. When God first showed me I could picture or imagine scriptural realities and enter into conversation with Him that way, I wondered if it was really OK. So I asked the Lord, “Is this OK to do?” and immediately the thought popped into my head, “No, it’s not OK.” Being very new to hearing God, I took that thought to be God and resolved to give up picturing for Him. Looking back, I now realize that thought was not coming from God but from another source (self or an evil spirit).
It was the most painful sacrifice I had ever made for God. I remember lying in my bed that night trying to fall asleep and not allowing myself to picture that Jesus’ arms were around me. I tried to meditate on every comforting verse of Scripture I could think of, like “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” but only by reminding myself of the words, not letting myself picture these realities. It hurt so much, it was like an unbearable physical pain. At last I couldn’t take it anymore and cried, “I don’t know, Lord, if this is right or wrong, but I can’t do this anymore, it hurts too much, I have to let myself picture something!”
As soon as I let myself picture something, the vision rushed in and took over:
I saw myself lying in a hospital bed, wounded with this pain. I saw Jesus rush in like a worried parent whose child is in the hospital, asking, “Will she be all right? Will My baby be all right?” There was a nurse standing by my bed, and she reassured Him, “Don’t worry, sir, your daughter is going to be just fine. But she would feel much better if you rocked her.”
Then I saw that there was a rocking chair in the corner of the hospital room. Jesus said, “I can do that!” and scooped me up out of the bed, sat down in that chair with me on His lap and rocked me. I pictured that until I fell asleep.
Over 5 years later, when I took a class taught by Mark Virkler, he had us write a journal entry in which we asked the Lord Jesus,
“Lord, how important is it to use the eyes of my heart?”
And then we wrote down what we heard Him reply. I journaled he following answer:
“You already know how important it is. I showed you long, long ago, when I gave you the vision of you in the hospital bed and I came and rocked you. I want you to share that image/story with the world. It’s not just a picture of you. It’s a picture of the entire Protestant church. The whole church is where you are, like you are, lying in the hospital bed because she tried to do this for Me. She tried to sacrifice her heart for me, to please Me, to do what she mistakenly thought I wanted her to do.
The reason you were in great pain in the hospital bed is because you had climbed up on an altar, lain on your back, and stabbed yourself with a knife and tried to cut your heart out and sacrifice it to Me. You interpreted My word in a way I never intended you to, as if you had thought I wanted you to physically cut out your heart. And I say to you what I said to the Israelites who thought physically sacrificing their babies would please Me - “It never entered My mind.” I’ve asked you to be a living sacrifice, not a dead one.
When you cut out your imagination, you cut out your ability to really give Me your heart in the way I wanted you to. And I know you did that for Me. You did it because you loved Me and wanted to please Me and believed a lie about what I want you to do. Many others are doing that too: misinterpreting My word, cutting their hearts out, thinking it will please Me--and the church is in a hospital bed because of it. And I want you to share your story with them so they’ll know I can pick them up and rock them too, comfort My bride. A lot of the pictures I’ve given you over the past years of your life that you thought were just for yourself were actually prophecy for the rest of the world too.”
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