I Hear Voices
I recently had my hearing checked – mostly to prove my husband wrong, but partly because I was worried he was right. And I procrastinated for a couple years because I have a dear friend who did the same thing and walked out of the test with hearing aids! It was a complete shock to her and I thought there might be some validity to my husband’s concern. My anxiety inched up with every question in the interview that preceded the test. I could see the test administrator’s eyebrows inching up as well. I am convinced he was silently rooting for my husband to be right. During the test I was cursing the air conditioning and the effect the impending lunch hour had on my stomach, because they were both significantly louder than anything coming through the headphones. And there were long pauses with no sound at all. No matter how tightly I squeezed my eyes shut and pursed my lips I couldn’t hear a thing. In the end, my hearing was normal. Actually, better than normal because I can hear two octaves lower than the norm!
So it’s my listening I need to work on…
Coincidentally, last month I spoke at a women’s retreat about hearing God’s voice, and I can see a lot of correlation. My premise was two-fold: 1) God does speak to us personally, and 2) there are competing voices that we need to identify and weed out.
It’s true that God uses Scripture, other people, and circumstances to speak to us, and it’s true that he speaks to us personally. It’s also true that other people and circumstances can be competing voices to what God desires us to hear. Practically the entire book of Job is filled with his well-meaning friends giving him reasons and advice in face of his immense suffering. Really, all they wanted to do was to see an end to his suffering. The prophets of God in the Old Testament were constantly outnumbered by the prophets that were advising the king to act in the way the king wanted to act (2 Chronicles 18, for example). Finally, the world is full of input to shape us in a certain way (social media, entertainment and news, or the songs we are listening to). Perhaps that’s why Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world…”
So if God also uses other people and circumstances to speak to us, what do we listen to? Here’s the thing: If we can learn to hear God’s voice we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt when the other voices are aligning with his or competing.
If you’re brand new to learning how to hear God’s voice to you personally or if you’ve been struggling with this for a while, be encouraged! There is a learning curve! It’s a squeeze-your-eyes-tightly-and-purse-your-lips kind of a learning curve. For example, the prophet Samuel grew up in the temple. His story of hearing God for the first time is in 1 Samuel 3. When God called him by name, Samuel just assumed it was Eli, the prophet he was studying under. Eli, in all his godly experience, didn’t even recognize it as God’s voice until the third time it happened. So don’t be hard on yourself! There is definitely a learning curve, and it takes concentration and discernment, but once you know you know God’s voice in your life you’ll spend far less time wondering and wandering.
How can we recognize God’s voice? Well, he’s consistent so I started looking at 1) what are things he is recorded as saying in Scripture, 2) how is he recorded as saying them, and 3) how does he affirm that we heard him correctly? Are you ready for some lists?
What are things God says?
God is always consistent with Scripture, and in Scripture we find him saying these kinds of things:
- He reveals his character, particularly with “I am…” statements (I am the good shepherd; I am the beginning and the end; I am the light of the world..) and in the names of God.
- He reveals our identity with “You are…” statements (You are my children whom I love; you are chosen; you are skillfully and wonderfully made..).
- Correction, discipline
- “Do not fear” statements
- Promises (the “if, then” statements)
- Love, compassion
- Worth is conveyed
How is God recorded as saying them?
As Shakespeare says about love, “Let me count the ways…”
- Roar (Hosea 11:10, Jer. 25:30)
- Whisper (1 Kings 19:11-13)
- Through prophets (um… the ones that were listening for his voice)
- Audibly (Acts 9)
- In dreams
- Through angels
- Tenderly (Is 30:18)
- Illumination (that is, the clear understanding) of Scripture
- Sounds of wings (Ez 10:5)
- Truth in love (Eph 4:15)
- With authority and word pictures (Job 38-41)
- Shows wonder (Ps 17:7)
- Walks with us, a sense of companionship (Gen 3:8-9)
- Blinding light (Acts 9:3, 2 Cor 4:6)
- Processes in nature (Rom 1:20, Mat 7:11)
- Conviction (1 Thess 1:5)
How does God affirm that we heard him correctly?
- Stuff happens as he said it would (the story of Zechariah in Luke 1:5ff)
- Others give testimony (have you ever heard “at just the moment you were prompted to pray, this was happening to me”?)
- There is blessing and fruit from our obedience to his voice
- If God is asking you to do something (because sometimes he just wants to speak to you so you can understand something more deeply), and you don’t – he may ask someone else to do it instead.
Please notice that none of those lists include shaming, guilting, berating, enticing, or insulting. If we hear voices that are communicating to us in those ways we can be certain it is not the voice of God!
The Learning Curve
When you know you’ve heard from God you know more of who you are in this relationship that you have with God (Phil 3:8-11). You receive the courage to be obedient (Joshua 1:9) and therefore can act in obedience and trust to what he says, and with less trepidation and fear. Your capacity for love increases (even for your enemies), and you experience an unusual peace (John 14:27). Ultimately you will have an unshakeable confidence in God’s ability to do what he says he will do, even despite the circumstances (the account of Moses and John 16:13).
Do you want this? It’s easy to identify God’s voice in Scripture because we can read, “God says…”, but our lives don’t come with a parallel transcript that we can refer to when in doubt. How does he speak to us “normal” people? “For God does speak – now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it” (Job 33:14). We already know the kinds of things he says and that he speaks in a variety of ways. Following are three strategies to pursue when learning to perceive his voice in your life.
Consider your design
Our design affects how we hear his voice. We also know that he created us very individually and with purpose (I have another list for that, but I’m afraid I’m over-listing you). Consider how you are designed and how this might affect how you could hear God. Are you a teacher, a scholar, an artist, curious, a thinker, a dancer, a storyteller, an administrator, task-oriented? Are you a visual learner, audio, tactile, kinetic?
Ask for examples
I have also found it immensely helpful to survey other people (in person, with a phone call, or Messenger) to ask them how they hear God’s voice in their life. How do they know it’s God’s voice rather than one of the many competing voices out there? Now I have also found that there are generally three groups of people:
- People who can recognize God’s voice in their life.
- People who think they hear God’s voice in thier life, but there is doubt that it is God.
- People who have no idea at all.
For example, my mind is always (I mean, always) filled with thoughts and ideas and things to be accomplished… Those thoughts are always thrashing about like stormy waves. When the waves are calmed and stilled, and there is one thought remaining above the rest, that is God’s voice in my life. I will also have metaphorical pictures come to mind when I’m praying for someone or some thing. Sometimes he is prompting me toward action, sometimes he’s just keeping my company, and sometimes he’s imparting truth to me or letting me “see” his perspective. God’s voice to my husband seems to come in the form of questions. At the retreat a woman shared that God does speak audibly to her – and from the back seat of her car!
Reflect on your own experience
Now it’s your turn to focus in on how you hear God’s voice personally; and this might just be the start of learning how to recognize his voice. When were there times that you moved to prayer and action and were affirmed by God? Think of at least 3-5 situations. What did you do (as a result of being “moved”) and how were you affirmed?
Remember each of those instances, and now focus on how you were moved. Go back to when you thought you should ______________. What did that moment (or series of moments) look like? How did the idea come to you? Did you “see” anything? Did you “hear” anything? how did you feel at the time?
What was consistent in all those situations?
Cultivating Your Listening Skills
You may still not be able to pinpoint how God speaks to you, but being aware that he does and exploring how he does is the start to the learning curve – and there are things we can do to keep us progressing on the learning curve!
Samuel heard the voice of the Lord for the first time when he was in the temple of the Lord. David records time and time again that he was still and waiting (but in a variety of locations – the pastures, the palace, the battle field). What are some best practices that we have tried or heard about that can help put us in a situation to optimize our ability to hear God’s voice? Here are some that I’ve tried:
- Be consistent in gathering with a community of believers
- Scripture meditation (reading the same passage 3-4 times to see what jumps out at you)
- Walks in nature
- “Soaking” – just sitting in the presence of the Lord without speaking
- Doodling or coloring adult coloring books while listening to instrumental music
- Extended time of praise and thanksgiving
- Waiting on the Lord during prayer time (giving him a chance to get a word in edgewise)
- A blank notebook and a pen/pencil
Finally, always make sure that the voice you are hearing is consistent with God’s character and his Word!!!! That’s why I spent so much time reviewing what and how God speaks in Scripture.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on very side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Cor 4:7-9
Now go and strive to hear God’s voice in your life.
- Posted by hellobabs
- On December 6, 2017
- 0 Comment