Man thinking

You’ve prayed, over and over again. Perhaps you’ve asked other people to pray for you also. You were hungry to hear from God, and you did. Your heart leaped when God’s voice spoke to your soul, telling you something you desperately needed to hear. Everything was going to be alright.

But things didn’t go as you had hoped. The thing you believed you heard from God didn’t come to pass. The cancer returned. The job didn’t come through. The marriage you thought was God’s idea turned into an unfaithful nightmare. The open ministry door turned out to be a blind alley. And you’re left wondering why. What do you do when what God said doesn’t happen?

When I was thirteen years old I prayed hard for something very specific. I can remember the time and the place when I believed I heard God tell me that the thing I was praying for would happen. It didn’t. And it wasn’t something I would simply have to wait for. Something happened that made what I thought God told me forever impossible. Had God let me down? Had He spoken, and then not been able to follow through? How could I have heard Him so wrong?

Yes, my questions then reflected my adolescence both physically and spiritually. But there have also been other times when I was certain I had heard God’s voice but things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would. Perhaps you too have heard God’s voice, or at least you thought you did, but the way things happened made you wonder if you heard Him wrong. Perhaps you’re tempted to wonder whether we as human beings can really hear His voice at all. What’s wrong when what we hear Him say doesn’t come to pass?

I come from the position that God is good, He speak to us, we can hear Him, and He is well able to do what He says He will do. I believe that by faith. So how can one reconcile that belief with what we see happen in our every-day lives?

Here are a few things I’ve learned. Perhaps they will help you also:

  1. Our desires and God’s word can get confused in our minds. It’s possible for me to want something so badly that I hear what I think is God’s voice telling me what I want to hear. That’s not God’s fault. And sometimes my desires only allow me to hear part of what God is trying to say.
  2. God has given every human being free will. That includes you, and everyone else you care about also. Sometimes God’s will is dependent on us human beings responding appropriately, and we can’t control anyone else. If someone else makes a choice against God’s will, He won’t always stop that from happening.
  3. Spiritual maturity improves our ability to discern what God is really saying. Time in God’s word, going through difficult challenges with him, and learning His ways helps me hear Him better. It’s like being able to instantly recognize my husband’s voice on the phone.

I’m not an adolescent physically or spiritually anymore. In this life, however, it’s still possible for any of us to not hear God correctly. Here’s what to do in the meantime:

  1. Own your own thoughts, feelings, and requests. It’s always OK to ask God for anything. Be specific. Tell God how much you want it, and how you feel about it. Be real with Him.
  2. Then put your own feelings aside. We can’t do this perfectly. But I’ve learned to pray, “God, as much as possible I put what I want aside. I really want to hear from You, not my own feelings.”
  3. Be willing to listen. Keep your spirit open to whenever and however He will speak to you. It may be His still small voice in your heart. It may be Scripture, circumstances, or another person who speaks. (Psalm 46:10)
  4. Look for confirmation. If God says something to your heart, He will back it up with confirming messages elsewhere. That doesn’t mean you won’t have opposition, but it does mean God won’t keep changing His mind.
  5. It’s OK to be wrong. If you don’t hear God correctly, don’t get too worked up about it. He knows how to make His voice heard in your heart. That’s His problem. If you get it wrong He’s well able to find you, correct you, and take you where you need to go if you keep listening.
  6. Keep learning about Him. The better you know Him, the better you’ll recognize when something is His voice, versus the enemy or your own thoughts. You get to know His ways, and how He deals with you.
  7. Keep trusting Him. Settle in your heart that He knows you, He loves you, and He’s there for you. He’s God, and you’re not. He’s got this. We know the end of the story, and He’s well able to take you there. He will finish what He started in and for you. (Philippians 1:6)

Did you hear Him wrong? Maybe. Maybe not. But keep listening. He’ll keep talking. And He’s eager to make His voice known to YOU.

Your Turn: How have you responded when it seems as though what God said to you doesn’t happen? Leave a comment below.

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