Is that little voice in your head God, or is it just a mild case of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)? People ask me certain questions quite frequently:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
“How do you hear God speak?”
“How do you know when it’s God and not your own thoughts…or Satan?”
One friend even asked, “Does God really speak to you or is it just your hopeful imagination?”
Excellent questions! First, consider this verse:
“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14 (NASB)
I think of learning to hear God speak like this: When I was a newborn baby, I’m confident my parents looked at me and said something like, “Isn’t she the most adorable little thing?”
Dad probably said to Mom, “She looks just like your side of the family, honey (I had thick black hair and colossal bunions)”
Mom said to Dad, “No, she definitely takes after your side (I also had skinny bird legs and huge triceps). Anyhow, they probably oohed and aahed over me for hours. Did I even hear them? Did I know they were talking to or about me? I don’t think so. My senses hadn’t developed enough to know I was even being spoken to.
Fast forward 3 months. In my crib I hear noises but it sounds like, “Blah blah blah blah…” I can’t perceive this noise as anything understandable, but I can at least look in the direction of the noise, showing that I’m aware of the source of noise. It could be coming from anything—the T.V. repair guy for all I know.
3 months later…this is what I hear. “Blah…blah…Julie…NO! Blah blah, mommy says…blah blah.” So I’m learning how to recognize bits and pieces, but I still only get a very small portion of what she’s saying to me. But by now, I’m beginning to be able to distinguish who is talking—sweet Mom’s voice, or big strong Daddy’s voice, or even mean ol’ jealous brother.
And so the progression goes, until I have grown up into a language that I perceive, hear, and understand. I know WHO is talking, and WHAT they are saying.
I think it’s a lot the same with God. I LEARN to hear Him speak. I have, through trial and error, through exposure and following the different voices over time (God, my own flesh, and Satan) had my senses trained to discern the difference. And just like in this life, my parents aren’t always speaking to me, but I still recall their words often. It’s the same with God. He doesn’t speak constantly to us, but often times He expects us to go back to what He told us before—to keep His words echoing in our hearts when He is otherwise silent.
My journey: When I was a kid, I never thought I heard God specifically. In college, I had my first conscious experience where I knew, without a doubt, I heard His voice. In my twenties, I heard him periodically—the rest of the time I thought He might be mad at me (since He wasn’t saying anything).
In my thirties, I learned that when He’s silent, He’s not mad—He doesn’t have anything special to say to me right then AND He’s teaching me to walk in faith and to stay devoted to Him even in silence. But He’s still right there, listening to me and working in my life, regardless if I perceive Him or not. But nowadays, in my just barely “ahem” 40s, I hear Him frequently. But then again, my senses have been trained to perceive His voice. For me, a lot of it came through prayer journaling through the years—what a special education!
How does He speak to me? Mostly through His Word and as I said, through my prayer journals (usually reading back, not so much recognized at the time). Or He speaks in my thoughts as sort of a foreign thought dropped into my thinking when least expected (Satan speaks this way too, be careful). Sometimes through other people. Often through nature. A few times through dreams. Learning to discern when it’s His voice or your own or Satan’s is just a skill that comes over time with lots of patient practice and trial and error.
The best advice is that, if you think God is telling you something is going to happen, write it down and wait. Don’t tell anyone, just keep it between you and God and see if it happens or how it plays out. If you think God is telling you to DO something, ask Him to confirm it. In my experience, He always confirms something He wants me to do at least 2-3 times, unless it’s a no-brainer commandment already (like loving people, duh!).
A book could be read on this topic because it’s not a three-step process, so exercise lots of caution. But know this: God DOES speak to you and He WANTS you to learn to hear His voice.
So what about you? Tell how you have learned to hear God speak, or about a time when He did. C’mon. Share your wisdom and experience with the rest of us!
Psalm 32:38: The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”