Discerning the voice of God
Before you begin reading this, I want to make a few things clear.
This is my personal experience. This is a part of my testimony. It is my truth, but it in no way is meant to be a comprehensive dissertation on how to discern the voice of God.
To discern simply means to recognize.
Sometimes I think we as Christians can make things seem more complicated than God intends them to be. When I first accepted Jesus Christ, I thought that hearing His voice was something new that I had to figure out. Yes, I did have to learn how to best position myself to hear Him, I’ll explain that later, but eventually I realized that I had been hearing Him my whole life. I had been hearing Him, but I didn’t recognize it was Him. I don’t believe that God just starts talking to you when you accept Him. I think He’s talking to everyone all the time. He is offering salvation. He is offering love, mercy, forgiveness. But not everyone recognizes it is Him.
Looking back on my life, there were so many times as a child, a teenager and even a young adult when He was speaking to me, leading me, guiding me and correcting me. Somewhere deep down I knew it, I heard Him, I felt it, but I didn’t respond. I was a Christian when asked to check a box on a form, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. I went to Church, I said my grace when I ate, but Monday through Saturday He didn’t really cross my mind. I used to be ashamed to admit that, but that’s my story and part of what makes my daily relationship with Him now so precious to me.
In my 20s there was a period of time when I felt lost and confused. I got laid off in the midst of the dot com bubble burst (if you don’t know what I’m talking about thanks for making me feel old, LOL, google it), I had broken up with a boyfriend that I thought might be the one (thank goodness he wasn’t) , I had moved back in with my parents so I could start a handbag business and September 11th happened and changed my sense of security and worldview forever. Basically in the span of about 2-3 years a lot happened in my life that caused me to question what I believed.
It was during this time that for some reason, #thankyouholyspirit I picked up my Bible.
I felt drawn in a way that I still can’t completely explain to read this book that I had opened every Sunday and read a few lines out of but had never read cover to cover. I grew up in a denomination that focuses more on corporate worship than personal worship. What I mean is that in my experience we did everything as a group. On Sundays we all read from a book of pre-written prayers, I didn’t carry my Bible to church, because the scriptures were written inside the program and there seemed to me to be more emphasis on participation in Bible studies and Sunday School at church vs during the week at home. Now let me interject here that I say seemed to me because this isn’t what the church taught, it was just how I perceived it. And I share all of this not because there is anything wrong with corporate worship, but because I never took it upon myself to develop my own relationship with God.
So when I found myself in my lost 20s season, questioning what I believed vs what I had just gone along with because it’s how I was raised, I decided to start by going to the source. Not the pastor or priest or my Sunday school teacher or even my parents. I went to the Bible, the Word of God.
And there began my journey towards being able to recognize His voice.
The more I read, the more I realized that I had heard His Words being whispered to me at so many different times and seasons in my life, but I just didn’t recognize that it was Him. I saw myself and my family and my friends and the world from a new perspective and I saw God in all of it.
For me, discerning His voice began with understanding how He speaks and I could only do that by getting in position to listen.
Getting in position
It started with reading His Word. In my mid 20s was the first time I had read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
I was surprised, shocked and encouraged by what I read. There was so much I didn’t understand and if I’m honest, so much I was like…”wait, what?” But I had such a hunger for His Words and my desire could only be satisfied by continuing to read.
It’s not that I hadn’t read some of it before. I had read certain books and chapters, but this time was so different. I was in a different position. They weren’t assignments from a Sunday school class or confirmation class. I wasn’t listening to a Bible story being read to me by a priest or my parents. I had decided for myself that I wanted to understand this “religion” I said I was a part of. I wanted to be able to explain and defend what I believed. I was in a position of surrender, where I was finally ready to admit I wasn’t in control of my life and that someone else was.
For me that season was the foundation for the believer I am today. 20 years later and I am still reading and learning about the voice of God. I’m still discovering new ways He is speaking to me, leading me and correcting me. But now I’m always listening for Him, looking for Him, seeking His wisdom. He’s my first thought, instead of the person I go to after I’ve tried everything else.
I see Him in everything. I hear Him in the words that come out of my mouth, in what I write, in how I encourage, in how I forgive, in what I design. I remain daily surrendered to Him always listening.
A wealth of wisdom
Okay, get ready for a random Jamila thought….
My husband calls me “google fingers.”
I’m that girl who grabs her phone multiple times a day to google random stuff.
I often think about before the internet when the best source we had was a set of encyclopedias that were basically outdated as soon as they were printed. And now, most of us carry around a device in our pockets that allows us to access more information than our brains can even handle. (Not all of it is accurate….but that’s another conversation.)
And you know how your phone or your smart speaker can silently sit right next to you seemingly off and you can say “Hey Siri” or “Alexa” and ask a question and get an answer?
That makes me think of God.
He is the ultimate well of wisdom. He is all-knowing. Omniscient. And all of His knowledge is accurate and true. We just have to say “Hey Lord” and He’s listening, faithful to respond to our questions and prayers. His response is always immediate. You might be saying, well, no it’s not….but I challenge you in that. He always responds, but. it might not be the response we want or expect. If I ask for wisdom in a situation, I’ve found that I always receive it…..but the immediate response might be “wait on Me” or “keep doing what you’re doing until I reveal you should change direction.” That’s what I mean by immediate. In my personal experience, God always responds, but what I sometimes perceive as “no answer” is the answer.
Yep that’s Him
I talk to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all day long.
Like literally. I “talk to myself” but often what I’m actually doing is talking out loud to God. I talk to Him when I wake up, my first words most mornings are “Good morning Lord.” I talk to Him as I sit and spend quiet time with Him before I start my day. I talk to Him as I work, praying for wisdom on how to prioritize what He’s given me to do, I talk to Him while I drive, praying for others as I listen to the radio new in my car. I talk to Him when I’m standing in a long line, asking for patience. I talk to Him as I say long and short prayers for ladies in our community throughout the day. I talk to Him as my day winds down, asking Him to relieve any anxiety over what I didn’t get done. I talk to Him when I sit across from my husband at dinner and ask Him what to say to lift his spirits and be a good helpmeet. I talk to Him before I go to bed and thank Him for hanging out with me throughout the day.
That’s a lot of talking, but just as much as I talk, I’ve learned I have to listen.
Even though I think I’m pretty good at discerning the voice of God in my life, I continually have to surrender my ears to listen. Because sometimes I hear Him loud and clear, but I don’t like what He’s saying.
Can you relate?
In this season of my life I can tell the difference between the enemy’s voice and the voice of God. I can tell the difference between my human fleshly desire inner voice and the voice of the Holy Spirit within me.
What I struggle with is obeying His voice.
When I say struggle, it’s not every day or with every thing. But there are still times when I know exactly what He’s telling me to do and I don’t want to do it, so I avoid it, I say I’m still waiting on Him, but I’m not. I know His answer and I just don’t like it. I hear Him, but I tell Him, hold on lemme try this first.
But I have no excuse. I am not a horse or mule without understanding. In most circumstances He’s given me access to the wisdom I need for the step that I’m on. He’s given me enough wisdom to trust Him to take the next step or to turn in the direction where He is leading me to go. Don’t take that so literally that you think you always have to be moving. Sometimes His next step for me has been sitting down and being content with where I’m at for a while.
I’m just grateful I’ve reached a place in my life where I’m not asking “Is that You Lord?”
I know it’s Him. Now the question is how will I respond.
I hear you Lord, I feel You Father. I thank You for sharing with me the wisdom I need when You know that I need it. I pray You would give me patience when I seek more wisdom that my situation calls for. Please help me to trust You more and more every day. Thank You for giving me ears to hear and eyes to see You at work in this world. It is a privilege to be your daughter and be a part of Your flock. May I always hear Your voice and know You and follow You. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Jamila is the founder of loved+blessed. On her personal mission to leave a legacy of encouragement, she blogs about her own life lessons with the hope that it will bring joy into others’ lives and help them find the courage to keep walking in faith knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Read her testimony of how God turned her misery into ministry.