Category Archives: Desiring God

When God Is Silent, Look for Yellow Butterflies

I’ve received many messages about this essay since I posted it almost a decade ago. It seems I’m not the only one who has experienced God’s gift of yellow butterflies. Easter is the perfect time to share it again. May you be blessed and find everlasting life with Jesus, our Savior.

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mWyqLOUI’ve read about people who accepted the Lord and were instantly saved from catastrophic illness or from a life of sin or from debt. My Christian journey didn’t begin that way. It happened slowly. God led me through baby steps and taught me to listen patiently and with all of my senses.

The first time I heard God’s voice in my heart, on the day I was saved in 1984, I thought it would always be easy to know His will. I thought I could ask Him what I should do and He would immediately tell me. Instead, I found that often He is silent. In the weeks and months following my salvation, I cried out endlessly to Him—but He said nothing. I vowed that I wouldn’t give up hope. Having heard His voice once in my inner self was enough for me to believe that God was real. Surely it wasn’t coincidence that He made the sun shine, just as He said it would, as I stood on the bluff that dreary day when He saved me. These things alone were enough to keep me believing. I decided that if I searched hard enough, I would find the golden secret to hearing His voice whenever I wished.

I bought books about prayer, and I read them as quickly as I could. I read the bible, something I hadn’t done for years. I concentrated on what Jesus taught about prayer. I did everything I could think of to please God, and yet He remained silent. Finally, in desperation, I went back to the bluff. I sat there on the grass looking out at Lake Michigan waiting for something miraculous to happen. Then, completely frustrated and at the edge of doubt, I said, “Okay, God. If you’re not going to talk to me then maybe I was right—maybe I’m just not worth it.”

imgThat thought had only formed inside my head when a small, yellow butterfly landed on my knee. I whisked it away, got up, and walked. As I walked it flew alongside me. At first I thought it was a coincidence. Then it became strange. If I changed direction, so did the butterfly. If I walked faster, she stayed with me. Then, after a few minutes, the most incredible thing happened. A dozen yellow butterflies joined the first. They fluttered about, seemingly interested in nothing but me. At that moment God whispered five simple words in my heart,

“I am with you always.”

For the rest of that summer, yellow butterflies became a symbol of His love. I saw them everywhere: on stationery, greeting cards, posters, and in newspaper ads. They flew in front of my car, and they fluttered outside my windows. But the most remarkable butterfly sighting was yet to come.

I sensed God telling me that it was time to move on. The apartment building I lived in was going condo, and I could choose buying my unit or finding another place to live. God said, “Go.”

I worked with a realtor, but nothing I saw was right—too big, too small, too expensive, too far away. Then, one afternoon, she called to say that she found the perfect house in a neighborhood near my apartment building, one I was familiar with. I knew  I couldn’t afford a house there. “Just check it out,” she said. “It feels right.”

The house was in a subdivision of solid, brick homes with tidy yards and flower gardens on quiet, tree-lined streets. I found the address and parked out front. Everything about the house was perfect—the cream-colored brick, the landscaping, the quaint wooden shutters. I can’t afford this, I thought. But then I saw it—  a yellow butterfly! She was the centerpiece of a large stained-glass sun catcher hanging in the front window. She was big and bold with outstretched wings. “Okay, Lord,” I said. “Show me the way.”

The house was more than I could afford, but I placed a bid anyway. It was rejected. I placed a second bid, and that one was rejected, too. I was ready to give up until, on the very morning I’d planned to call my realtor to tell her to forget it, the Wisconsin State Government issued low-interest financing for first-time homebuyers. I qualified, and my third bid was accepted. That was thirty-three years ago, and I still live in the house God chose for me.

The butterfly sightings have decreased through the years, but once in a while God will send a yellow butterfly in an unlikely time or place as a gentle reminder that He is with me. The butterflies teach me that often our Lord speaks without words.

7c476ebe7f4314619729b20b0069b652Just as in Biblical times there are signs and wonders today, but in our hectic world with all of the noise and confusion, it’s difficult to recognize them. We must be quiet and look for them, and we have to trust God to help us see them. Often they are small and draw little attention. God doesn’t shout to us, “Look!” Instead, He remains silent wanting us to explore beyond His words. He might speak in the wind or in the autumn leaves or in the moonlight. He might speak through a rainbow or a gentle spring shower or through a sleeping kitten nestled in a lap. When God is silent, it doesn’t mean that He’s left us. He’s just asking us to be patient and quiet. He’s asking us to look deeper into His creation to discover the miracles that He sends us every day.

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Filed under Desiring God, Easter, God sightings, Knowing God, Listening to God, Salvation, Uncategorized, Yellow Butterflies

Stop and Hear God’s Voice

When was the last time you were in a state of complete silence?

I’m thinking of the kind of silence experienced during a power outage in the middle of the night, a silence separating you from that faint buzz of electricity flowing through your house, a silence so profound that you notice—and it might even scare you a little.

Our world is filled up with noise, man-made dissonance, a cacophony formed from loud music, honking horns, machinery, angry words hurled back and forth and a plethora of other things.

We live in a noisy world where God hears each one of us even when we whisper. But do we hear Him?

For many, the noise is too much. The world steals their silence.

“Be still!” God says. He whispers it in their hearts. He shouts it from the heavens,

But they don’t hear.

Imagine a quieter world in the time when Noah lived. Even then, there was enough noise to distract God’s people from listening to Him. But Noah heard. Envision him standing still in a quiet place when God revealed His plan to destroy the man-made cacophony and start over.

Think of Abraham standing still in the silence beneath a vast star-filled sky.

“Can you count all the stars?” God asked.

Abraham heard when God revealed His plan to bless Abraham with many children and make him the father of many nations.

There are numerous examples in the bible of people hearing God in quiet places. Some sought Him in silence, while others, Jonah and Paul for example, were forced into silence—the belly of a whale, a desolate prison cell—where they heard God reveal His plans. Even Jesus, the Son of God, our Example, our Teacher, the Way that God wants us to live, went to quiet places to be with His Father to listen to Him.

God shouts to us today in our noisy world. He has a plan. He is working His plan right now as we live, and He is trying to get the attention of every man, woman and child on earth.

“Stop. Listen to me!” He says.
“Stand silent!
Know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation in the world!”

(Psalm 46:10 TLB)

God has a plan for you. He wants to lead you away from the noise and eventually to a place where every sound is harmonious and pleasant, His Promised Land—Heaven. God knows the way, and He wants to tell you. So, follow the examples of Noah, Abraham, and Jesus. Escape from the noise. Find a place to be alone with God.

 Listen.
Do you hear Him?


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Filed under Desiring God, Listening to God