Have you ever been talking with a Christian, and they tell you something along the lines of “I just didn’t know what to do, but then God revealed it to me”? I’ve even had conversations with other believers where they say that God told them what to do or say. I grew up hearing these incredible stories where God has “spoken to” or “revealed things” to His people, but honestly it made me feel a little left out. For most of my life I believed that when God was speaking to me, I was supposed to actually hear His voice clearly. I used to think that an audible voice was supposed to come from Heaven and tell me exactly what my next steps should be. Then, when I was assured that none of these people actually heard an audible voice either, I was relieved but also confused. If God doesn’t speak to us through and audible voice, how on earth are we supposed to hear from Him?
First of all, it’s important that we listen to God and seek after His voice. A Christian by definition is someone who is in relationship with God because of Jesus’ work on the cross, and news flash: any good relationship has to go two ways. I’m sure this is not a new concept to you! If you want to be friends with somebody, you have to take turns talking. One person can’t do all the talking while the other one listens the whole time! The same thing applies to our relationship with God. We can’t just talk to God without also listening to Him.
“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” John 8:47
Friend, if you have surrendered your life to Jesus, you are totally capable of hearing from God! This is good news for those of us who are in need of some guidance (@me haha)! Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that we will “seek Him and find Him when we seek Him with all our heart”. He is not too far off, and He can be found when we seek Him, so… how do we do that?
God is totally capable of speaking to us in an audible voice (check out Adam & Eve [Genesis 3], Noah [Genesis 6], Moses [Exodus 20], etc.), but that’s not really how He communicates with us nowadays. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was not yet living among the people, but that changed when the Holy Spirit came to dwell with us in Acts 2, which Jesus promised in John 14:16-17. Now God uses the Holy Spirit to communicate with us, which is more good news because the Holy Spirit is actually living IN you!
This can be hard to understand because if a doctor performed surgery on you, He would not find an additional part of your heart called “the Holy Spirit”. It is not a tangible thing living in you. It’s the Spirit of the Lord living in you, and He is always trying to communicate with us. Part of the Holy Spirit’s job is to remind us of scripture (John 14:26), and one of my mentors once told me that “if you want to hear God’s voice, read His Word”. The Bible is God’s words that He shared with His people, and those people faithfully wrote it down. If we want to hear God, let’s get familiar with His voice: the way He talks and what He says! Start memorizing verses (Psalm 119:11), so that the Holy Spirit can bring those verses to mind, which is God’s voice.
And what about the decisions where the Bible doesn’t give a clear answer? When I was a senior in high school, I never found a verse that said “Abby, you should go to APU for college”. And when I graduate college, I don’t expect to see a verse that says “Abby, you should live here now”. And one day when I’m ready to get married, I probably won’t find a verse that says “Abby, this is who you should marry”. It’d be really nice if the Bible worked that way, but it just doesn’t. In these cases, it’s important that you’re reading God’s Word. I don’t know about you, but I could recognize my friends by their voice with my eyes closed because I know them so well. The same thing applies to hearing God. If you know Him well, you’ll be able to recognize it.
Now, his voice does not come like an audible sound, but it comes a little more subtly. When a thought comes to mind, and I am trying to discern if it’s from God, I start to compare it to the Bible. If the thought goes against God’s character (this is why it’s important to know God!), then you know it couldn’t be from Him. If the voice that you think is coming from God (1) aligns with His character, and (2) does not involve sin, then it is probably from Him. I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and in God’s Word. Pray for confidence in hearing God’s voice and let the Lord establish that thought in your heart.
James 1:5-6 tells us that when we ask for wisdom & guidance, He gives it to us when we ask in faith. So, seek Him, friend! KNOW who you are talking to and PRAY for confidence in the answer that you are trying to discern. “Set your mind on things above” (aka God!) (Col. 3:2). If your mind is set on Him, you are seeking wisdom from Him, and you know Him like you would know a friend, it’ll become easier to discern His voice when He speak.
Lean in & listen to Him, friend, because you are so loved by Him <3