If you aren’t familiar with prayer, the concept of “hearing God’s voice” probably sounds suspicious and controversial at best.
And because so many Christians use “hearing God’s voice” as grounds for making what can be life-altering decisions, it’s only natural that a person unfamiliar with the concept would raise explicit questions.
“Well, what does it sound like?”
“Why does God talk to you and not to me?”
“How do you know its God speaking, and not your own thoughts?”
From an early age, I had a relationship with Jesus, and my answer to these inquiries growing up was always the same frustrating, hand-flapping, logic-less reply: “I just know.”
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to realize that for some people, the process of discerning God’s voice feels like digging for a needle in a haystack. Conditions like anxiety, overthinking, depression, constant stress and the hum of a busy life fog it over, and the voice of the Creator becomes just another roll of thunder in the mind’s internal storm.
It wasn’t that these people were inherently flawed, or that they weren’t trying to hear from God; in fact, the exact opposite was true. In the process of searching for him, they tried everything they could think of to tone down their inner dialogue and give God the floor.
Finally, feeling frustrated and unworthy, they’d speak these words: “I guess God just doesn’t speak to me after all.”
As a Christian, have there been times when you yourself have felt this way? When you’ve asked the hard questions, tried to make space for a miracle—only to find yourself alone in the void?
John 10:27 tells us, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” But what happens when a sheep can’t hear the voice, or tell which voice he or she should be following? The remaining choices seem to be either pick the best voice and follow it until you know better, or remain in one spot, indefinitely.
But what if knowing God’s voice had less to do with its sound, and more to do with its overall message?
Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand…” What David is saying in this verse is, being close to God is the equivalent of having joy.
Where God is, despair cannot be. Now, unlike happiness, joy can still exist in the midst of pain; being joyful is a choice, not an emotional byproduct of good times. The first thing to test when you are uncertain of God’s voice is whether the message is one of joy.
Secondly, the Bible tells us that “…perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). If God is love, which John goes on to tell us he is, then God does not communicate through fear. He will convict you of wrongdoing, but God doesn’t speak to us using anxiety, shame or panic. If you are living in dread, know that God’s voice isn’t the one accusing you. His will for you is peace, and He will not attack your mind with thoughts of worry.
Lastly, Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”—three things have to come first: trust Him, lean on Him and give Him your time and attention.
God knows when we try and navigate life on our own, sooner or later we will reach a point of exhaustion.
His offer to us is simple: let Him carry the weight.
And in the process of letting Him bear our burdens, carry our fear and show us joy, we will learn who He is.