Spirituals, mystics, prophets, and every-day people across the world claim they can hear the voice of God. Can you?
I believe you can. I believe we all can.
First, why listen for the voice of God?
In my experience, God’s voice injects a peace and power into my life that’s simply infectious. He puts thoughts in my mind to guide me and words in my mouth to help others.
A few days ago, my aunt, Elizabeth Bristol, asked me to write a guest post on “how to hear God.”
When one lives tuned into God like she does, this question ends up attached to a leash, following you everywhere. For good reason, I might add.
Because when God’s voice hits the target of humankind’s heart, forest-fires of joy ignite, truth’s flowers bloom, and lives are changed miraculously for the better.
Simply put, it’s worth it to listen for the voice of God.
Scripturally, the voice of God is dynamic.
It’s powerful, like in Exodus 20 when God gave the Ten Commandments. His voice was so loud and downright frightening, that the Israelites begged Him to stop and talk to Moses instead.
God’s voice is also gentle, like in 1 Kings 19 where God wasn’t in the hurricane, the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but spoke in a soft and quiet whisper.
The voice of God is shocking, like a bush that refuses to stop burning (Exodus 3:1-17).
It’s comforting, like a kind promise to a lonely and forgotten woman (Genesis 21:17-18).
And it’s humbling, like a reminder of the smallness of mankind (Job 38:4).
Throughout the Bible, we see that when God speaks, His voice is insightful (John 4:1-29), encouraging (Zephaniah 3:17), filled with warning (Hebrews 12:25). It’s loving (Jeremiah 31:1-5), fair (Romans 2:11), proud (Matthew 3:17), creative (Jeremiah 10:13), and forgiving (Luke 7:48).
When I listen for the voice of God,
I filter what I hear through those truths from Scripture.
By looking at what God’s voice IS, I can often deduce what it is NOT:
- In Christ, God’s voice is not condemning.
- It does not encourage overthinking.
- The voice of God does not quicken me to anxiety.
- It’s not unkind.
- And it is not perfectionistic.
This list could go on, but those are just some examples of the thoughts I battle which aren’t sourced in God. I use these reminders to discern whether I’m hearing God’s voice, the voice of evil, or the voice of my own insecurities.
You may ask, practically what is it like to hear God’s voice?
Well, I’ve never heard it audibly, except through the kind and truthful words of a loving friend.
And I’ve never seen it written before me, except through the words in my well-worn Bible.
When I hear God speaking, I hear His voice just like a normal thought. Because I am a big journaler, I sit with pen and paper and write what comes to mind.
Frequently, I end up with paraphrased or direct Scripture.
Here’s an example from my journal today:
“Baby girl, I’m so proud of you. What I’m creating in you is profound.
I’m giving you peace, contentment, soft smiles, abundance, sufficiency, enoughness.
Remember the verse in Isaiah? In quietness and in confidence are your strength. The two are tied together. Security, peace, and enoughness all give you groundwork.
Confidence is groundedness. So I’m teaching you My soft, warm, loving affection to rest your feet on.”
To bring you context . . .
God and I have been talking about confidence.
About three years ago, I started a practice in which I ask Him for a word every year. Last December, He told me that the word for 2020 would be endurance (if that’s not proof that God talks to us, I don’t know what is!).
This year, God told me my word is confidence.
This past week, as I’m on break from college, I haven’t had much to do. I’ve thought a lot about how to be content in mundane moments and counted the quiet times as beautiful even if they weren’t productive.
In my journal, I see God making connections. He is showing me that a quiet, relaxed, content heart is part of the groundwork for confidence. We can’t be confident if our heart is busied, worried, or all out of whack.
God is really smart.
In her book Mary Me, my aunt talks about “one-liners.”
God doesn’t always speak to me in a big paragraph. When I’m journaling, or just thinking with Him as I walk to class, God gives me one-liners, too. I think the most practical way to think about them is as the next line in your conversation with Him.
For example, I was talking to God yesterday about my blog. I told Him:
God, I love to write. In my blog, I want to be humble and helpful and write as an offering to You. But I fear that it isn’t enough and with so many books and blogs and posts out there, nobody needs more content.
I heard: “Yes, but you’re not putting out more content. You’re putting out your content.”
When I shift my focus onto God, and trust that He’ll speak to me, I almost always hear His voice. Lots of times He gives me words like the ones I mentioned, which are intended to help me out.
Other times, He reminds me of a friend who’s struggling, and shows me a specific verse or encouraging phrase to uplift them.
What if I don’t hear anything when I listen for the voice of God?
In 2019, I was graduating high school and couldn’t decide which college I wanted to attend. I’d only applied to two, Gordon College and Messiah University, but I agonized over which one to pick.
Lists of Pros and Cons littered my bedroom floor. Dozens of tabs were open on my laptop, with campus maps, majors, and Niche ratings for the two schools.
Picking a college was all I thought about.
I begged God to show me what to do. I cried. Then I fasted. I prayed. I took hour-long walks, trying to bait Him into talking.
At the end of it all, I had no word.
God refused to make the decision for me.
Since then, I’ve learned that God really likes to do this to me.
And I get it now.
He gives me the freedom to pick what I want.
But at the time, I doubted Him. I was incredibly angry that He wouldn’t show me. Eventually, throwing my hands in the air, I clicked accept for Gordon College and furrowed an eyebrow at God. “Thanks for the help. That better have been the right choice.”
When it comes to decision making and God doesn’t talk, I think it means that there might not be a right choice. It might mean we get to pick and He’ll bless and use whatever we choose.
What do I do when I don’t hear the voice of God?
I stop looking up and I look around.
I look to God’s Word and what He’s said before. Then, I look to the people I trust, the ones who love me. And I look for people who need help. I look at nature and the passions God’s put within me. And I trust that if I really, really needed to hear something direct and specific from God, I would.
Other than that, I thank Him for being with me, and I continue on with my life.
I believe God wants you to listen for His voice, too . . .
. . . because He wants to make connections for you like He does for me.
He wants to encourage and help you. He wants to be with you as He gives you the freedom to make choices. So here’s a question:
Are you willing to listen?
•The post is written by Savannah Howland. When I asked her for a bio, she said:
I could tell you where I’m from (Massachusetts) or I could tell you about my family (it’s complicated), but I think the best way to get to know people is through their passions. So who am I? I am PASSIONATE about Jesus, community, creativity, adventure, and justice. I aim to encourage, inspire, and offer a safe space for the hearts of all.
Related post: In this new season, can I bless you?
Here’s another one Savan shared with us: What Do You Do When All This Happens?