Hearing God’s Voice

I’ve been asked to give advice on how to hear God’s voice and, despite the fact I am no expert, I feel God wants me to share what I have learned so far.

People often wonder how to know when God is speaking to them or how to increase the chances of hearing from Him and I think God wants me to let people know He talks to everyone regardless of whether they are a sinner or a saint.  He talks to everyone because He loves everyone but not everyone wants to hear from Him and there are many others who don’t believe He would actually want to talk to them personally.

I think one of the greatest obstacles to hearing Gods voice, for those of us who want to hear it, is our inability to believe someone as great as God would bother to talk to someone as unworthy as us!

For years I thought I actually wasn’t supposed to talk to God at all.  I thought I was supposed to talk to Jesus and have him speak to God for me.  I know Jesus was sent to reconcile us with God and, I believe, that means He makes it possible for us to speak to God directly.

Jesus died to pay for my sins so they won’t keep me from being with God.  Jesus is the bridge I walk across to get to Heaven but, while I am on earth, He is also the bridge I walk across to commune with God.  I’d be stuck on the other side of a chasm unable to hear God except when He yells if not for Jesus but I see Jesus as a bridge not a messenger boy!

God wants to talk to us and He does talk to us but our wants, needs, desires, hopes, wishes, fears, wrong beliefs and sins create static that we need to overcome to hear him properly.

Most people don’t recognise His voice when they hear it because it often sounds just like our own thoughts.

The first time I was certain I had heard from God was after the birth of my son.  I had become a Christian very recently so not much had changed in me.  I still had the bad temper, the lack of tolerance for frustration, and many other less than desirable personal qualities.

My Mother had become a Christian too and she visited me to persuade me to start going to church.  I was convinced if I went to the wrong church the pastor would lead me straight to hell so we went and interviewed church pastors to see if we could find one I could trust.

I ended up, as was the norm for me in those days, in an argument. It was with one of the pastors.  The one who took the most time and was the most patient with me in fact.  I was rude and arrogant to him and tried to convince him he was on his way to hell because he did not believe what I believed!  I was so rude I shamed my mother who took me to task about it after we got back to my place.

When she left I complained to God about how she always criticised me and assumed I was wrong.  I said there was no point being a Christian if I was going to be wrong even when I was right.

I snivelled to God that all I had been trying to do was save the pastors soul so it was unfair of Mum to pick on me like that.

My internal voice was filled with anger and self-pity so, when a thought came to me in a calm, quiet, non-judgmental tone, it stood out as a stark contrast.

“Were you trying to win a soul,” it said gently, “or an argument?”

As soon as I heard that question I knew the answer was that I had actually been trying to win an argument and that was the first time in my life I ever questioned the things I tended to tell myself.  I really did believe I had been trying to win the pastor’s soul until that question came to me.

Psychologists would call it insight.  The ability to see through, or question, the lies you tell yourself to get at the truth.

I had less than zero insight prior to that moment.  I never had any doubts at all about the many and varied lies I used to tell myself to excuse my bad behaviour.

There was no doubt at all in my mind that I had heard God because I knew I would never, not in a million years, have questioned my own motives that way.  I also knew I was so emotionally worked up that even if I had thought to question myself I could never have done it in such a calm, gentle, unemotional tone.  If I had thought to ask myself that question it would have been asked in an accusatory tone not a conversational one.

It was always easy, in hindsight, to tell God’s voice from my own thoughts in the early days because the two were so completely different from each other.

God was always calm, nurturing, triggering insights and offering help where my own thoughts were always turbulent, self-destructive, and critical.  Over the years I learned to be a calm, nurturing, and even insightful person so my internal thoughts grew more like God’s voice in their tone and content and it became much harder to tell the two apart sometimes.

This led to a crisis when, many times, I thought I had heard God only to discover it was just my own thoughts.  Predictions that did not come true for instance and things I knew, even as I thought I heard God say them, that God would never say.

I agonized over this until, one day, God said it really doesn’t matter if what I hear is not always His voice.  It’s better to stay open and hear him sometimes than to close off because of fear and never hear him.

“There’s a lot of static on the line,” He said, “it’s caused by sin so cleanse yourself before trying to hear me.  Clear the line as much as possible but no human being can achieve a state of complete purity and become totally sinless so sometimes you will hear me but often you will hear the noise of your own mind.  Sometimes I will have nothing to say so all you will hear is your own voice.  Other times you will hear your own voice along with mine and that’s OK.  There is no sin in having an active mind and the more you stress about silencing yourself the harder it will be to actually do it!”

He told me to simply apply some precautionary measures and relax.

Test what you think you have heard against a range of things.

How does the voice of God sound?

God is never angry or impatient or judgemental so, if the God you are hearing sounds more like a critical parent than a loving God the chances are you are hearing from your internal parent not God.

Is there potential for harm?

If you think God is telling you to do something that could hurt someone it’s probably not God.  He does not tell us to hurt anyone and that includes ourselves!

“Vengeance is mine” says the Lord so to punish anyone, including yourself, for sin is to take a role you have no right to take.

If you think God is telling you to pray for someone, on the other hand, He more than likely is since there is absolutely zero chance that praying for someone could ever harm them in any way!

Does it seem like something a loving God would say?

Telling you to pray for someone is most definitely something a loving God might say where telling you to tell someone God wants them to lose weight because they are too fat sounds more like the sort of thing a bitchy person might say.

It is possible for God to want someone to lose weight, of course, excess weight is a health risk but God never asks us to hurt others so it’s unlikely he would tell you to say it to someone.

If God thinks someone is too fat and needs to lose weight He is more likely to tell you to pray for them to overcome whatever is making them overeat than to tell you to criticise them.

This particular example also fails the potential for harm test since there is a lot of potential for harm in telling someone God thinks they are too fat.  To tell someone God does not accept them as they are is taking a risk with their salvation that you have no right to take!

Does it pass the test of time?

God doesn’t change.  If He wants you to do something He will want you to do it as much tomorrow, next week, next month or next year and He is patient.  If He is saying something to you He won’t stop saying it unless the time for doing it passes but He is not likely to overlook anything so He will start telling you long before the time is likely to pass.

The whole “you must do it NOW or it will be too late” said in a frantic, urgent tone, is not of God.  He doesn’t get frantic!

If, on the other hand, God seems to have been telling you to do the same thing for ages (and it passes the other tests) there is a good chance it really is God talking.

Can you get confirmation from others that it could be God speaking?

You will be hard pressed to find anyone who will agree that it is God telling you to kill someone and, even if you DO find someone to agree with you, this fails most of the other tests including one very important one I have not mentioned yet!

Even non-believers, on the other hand, would agree that God is very likely to tell you to pray for someone if, of course, He exists.

Does it pass the bible test?

This is a critical test and it MUST pass this one.  If it passes all the other tests but fails this one it is not of God!

It is way too easy to convince yourself God is OK with you breaking his commands when you really want, or believe you need, to break them.

Like I did when I found all sorts of confirmation for my decision to have an abortion.  Having the child would harm it.  Everyone said so and God did not give me a sign or message telling me not to have an abortion.

I learned the hard way, as that blog entry shows, that God will never tell us to break his commands.  Thou shalt not lie, kill or steal, are rules that apply just as much today as they did in the old testament days.

Does the Holy Spirit within you confirm it?

I asked God for a message to give to someone who asked me to talk to him on her behalf because she was having trouble hearing him herself.

“I want to talk to my children myself,” he said, “I don’t want you talking for me.  You are not qualified to do that.”

In my heart I just knew that was true.  Just as I knew it was true that I had been trying to win an argument rather than a soul back when that happened.  Sometimes you can feel the truth.  Sometimes you just know.

The only message He gave me that was really from him to her, to all my readers actually, was that He wants to talk to you himself not via me.

The final test God gave me for checking whether I am hearing from him or not was in the form of a question.

Does it matter?

I was agonizing over whether the things I was hearing were from God or not and that’s what he asked me.

Does it matter?  If I think I hear God say “I love you” and it is not really Him does it matter?  Everyone needs to hear they are loved so does it matter if I hear it from me or from God?  Does it matter if I believe it is from God?  Chances are it was from Him because he DOES love me but does it really matter if, this time, it was not him speaking?

If, on the other hand, I think He has told me He does NOT love me it matters.  It matters because it fails the other tests for a start since it has potential to do harm and goes against what is written in the bible!

“For God so loved the world…” – that means me, and you, too!

Testing what we think we have heard can help but, even with all the tests, there is never any guarantee you won’t get it wrong.

God knows there is a lot of static on the line of communication between Him and us.  He knows we are not always going to get it right.  He doesn’t expect us to.

“I’d rather have you talk to me and get it wrong,” he once told me, “than never talk to me for fear of getting it wrong.”