Last Sunday I played in the orchestra for an event celebrating Easter. It was a wonderful evening with almost 2000 people gathering to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and worship him together.
The orchestra had only rehearsed together for the first time that day, but it came together well and the music sounded great. There was one moment though that was a bit of a disappointment, at least from my perspective.
I was playing clarinet, and in one of the pieces near the beginning of the concert, I was to play the introduction while the string section played an accompaniment. I saw that the conductor was ready to begin so I raised my instrument to my mouth, ready to play, when suddenly the oboist leaned over and whispered to me:
“We’re not doing that part just now.”
I was confused. I was pretty sure that we were, but he had planted a doubt in my mind. We were playing a slightly different version of the same piece later in the concert and there was just a chance that I had got it wrong.
I didn’t want to make a fool of myself by playing in the wrong place so I turned to try to check with someone else, but everything happened too quickly. The conductor had started the piece, and I realised that we were indeed doing that part just now, except I wasn’t playing, and because I was now so flustered, it took a few moments to figure out where we were and to join in.
It was a frustrating start to the concert. I doubted that the audience would have noticed, but I was annoyed with myself that I knew I was meant to play and yet I didn’t, that I had listened to the voice that caused me to doubt, instead of holding on to what I knew to be true.
It struck me that music is not the only area where this can be a problem.
How often do I allow someone else’s opinion to sway me from the truth?
How often do I know what God is calling me to do, but allow myself to be sidetracked by the voice of doubt and fear?
The voice can be sneaky. Like the oboist’s comment it comes at the last moment, just as we’re about to take action. It plants just enough doubt to paralyse us, and prevent us from moving forward.
The voice is often well-intentioned, or at least it appears that way. I have no reason to believe that the oboist’s remark was motivated by anything other than genuine concern that I was about to play in the wrong place. Sometimes the voice can seem like common sense or helpful advice, but it can distract us from what we are meant to be doing.
Lately the voice has been bothering me about my writing. I have the chance to submit a piece of writing for publication in an anthology. It is something I really want to do, and I know exactly what I want to write about, but every time I sit down to work on it, the voice begins:
“Don’t waste your time… It will never be accepted… There are far better writers than you submitting to this… You don’t stand a chance… Save yourself a bit of pain and don’t even try… You’ll only be disappointed… What makes you think you can do it?… Just give up now…”
It’s easy to listen to the voice, especially when its intention seems to be to save me from disappointment, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that it doesn’t sound like the voice of God.
God never calls us to play it safe out of doubt or fear. He calls us to step out in faith, trusting him to lead us. He never calls us to self-protection, but he asks us to take a risk and to depend on him.
We can’t always know how it will turn out. If I submit this piece there is no guarantee it will be accepted. Realistically I have no idea what my chances are, but there is one thing I do know for sure: I will definitely not have a piece accepted unless I take action and actually submit one!
When we step out in faith there’s always the chance we could be wrong, but it’s a risk we have to take. One thing I have learned from my experience at the concert is that I would rather have gone for it, even if I was wrong, than be left sitting there, hearing the music continue without me, knowing I was meant to be part of it but that I let doubt get in the way.
I would rather be like Peter stepping out onto the water, whatever the outcome, than be like one of the disciples playing it safe and sitting in the boat.
And to make that choice, I have to be intentional about which voice I listen to. I need to tune out the voice of doubt, and turn my focus instead to the voice of truth.
What about you? Where do you find the voice of doubt pulling you off course? What helps focus you on the voice of truth?