Listening

God speaks to us, and we can hear Him.

Is that really true? How can we know it’s Him? What does that look like?

We could get very theological here, spiritualizing away things God intended to be very practical, but we won’t. Simply speaking, Scripture makes it clear that God does speak to us in various ways. That in itself is a pretty amazing thought: the God who can create the world with His Word also speaks to you and me!

But we humans can easily get confused. Hearing God’s voice can seem difficult, mystical, or weird. If you’ve been around church at all you’ve certainly heard people say, “God told me …..” Or perhaps you believed God spoke something to you, and then later wondered if it was really Him, your imagination, or something else.

I’ve certainly been there. I’ve had many people say to me, “God told me to tell you …..” I’ve been so hungry to hear from God when I was facing a difficult challenge that I’ve acted on a “word from the Lord” that someone else told me, only to later be very hurt and disappointed, and certain it was not “the Lord” who spoke.

I have also wrestled with big decisions where I have taken considerable time to hear God’s voice for myself in various ways. Through all of that I have learned some things about hearing His voice that make it much less confusing and more practical. Here are some characteristics of God’s voice:

  1. God does not add His voice to a mass of confusion. If I am hearing many conflicting and competing voices, God is not among them. He will usually wait until there is calm – if not in the circumstances, then at least in my mind – and then He will make His voice heard.
  2. The more I know Him, the better I recognize His voice. My husband doesn’t have to tell me it’s him on the phone: I recognize him with the first word he says. So it is with God. The longer and better I get to know Him, the more I recognize when it’s Him speaking. The more I listen and follow, the easier I hear and understand Him next time.
  3. I cannot control when, how, or what God speaks. Trying to control Him is rather human – and not very smart! I hear Him best when I put away my own agenda as much as possible and truly listen. After all, this is God we’re talking about!
  4. God does not use fear, condemnation, or confusion. If what I am hearing, either in my own heart or through another person, brings up these feelings in my heart, I’ve learned to strongly question whether it is truly God speaking. (See 2 Tim 1:7, Rom 8:1)
  5. God intends His voice to be obeyed. God does not speak simply for my pleasure. He may ask me to do something difficult, or convict me of the need to change, forgive someone, or confess some sin. He will not usually speak further until I follow or obey whatever He has asked of me. Most of the time I will need to take action as a result of hearing from Him.
  6. Spiritual disciplines help. Reading Scripture, hanging around other growing Christians, time in prayer (especially quiet time listening) – they all improve my ability to hear God’s voice, and to distinguish His voice from others.
  7. God takes the long view. God’s voice will rarely if ever lay out the whole future I would like to know about. He will usually provide direction for just the next few steps I must take. Learning to trust Him for the rest of my future makes following His voice much easier.

God wants to speak to you. Are you listening?

Your turn: How do you hear God’s voice? How has His voice affected the direction of your life, or the decisions you have made? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


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