In my years following Jesus, I have spent a lot of time pondering and trying to answer this question… “How do you hear God’s voice?!”  No matter what age or stage of life, there is this desire in us to hear, to know the voice of God who says things like “Call to me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3.

Really? Me?

I  don’t know about you, but enough people throw around the phrase, “God told me…” in such a cavalier manner, that it makes me a little skeptical. How do you know it wasn’t a thought or a whim or bad pizza? I know my emotions are fickle and my mind is distracted… so how do I tease out of the mess that is in here, HIM?

Years ago, I was pregnant with my #2, and serving on assignment at a Young Life camp. Our speaker was Bill Paige, a most dear man and most gifted orator. He is bold, hilarious, and honest; he has a way of cutting to the heart of the matter and connecting with young people that is unreal. I was in a season of insecurity in my faith and needed answers and had become close enough with Bill to believe that he might have some insight for me. I pulled him aside, fumbled through my current conundrum, and essentially posed the question:

 How do I know if I am hearing God? I just don’t know if He speaks to me…

Bill looked at me with what I think was compassion mixed with a tinge of exasperation, and what I thought would be a long conversation teaching me about how he learned to discern the voice of the Lord ended a few shosheeprt seconds later.

He looked at me and with the utmost seriousness, asked, “Are you His sheep?”

“Yes,” I cautiously answered.

“Then you hear his voice.”

And that was it.

That was it. End of story. I hear his voice. It took me years to recognize the significance of this simple, stilted conversation. But it changed everything.

Scripture says that the sheep KNOW the shepherd’s voice. It wasn’t about whether or not God was talking to me, it was about whether or not I was quiet enough to listen, brave enough to trust His whispers that seemed intermingled with my own inconsequential thought life.  To learn to discern His voice was first to obey what I thought it might be: to call a friend who popped into my mind, trusting it was the holy spirit’s prompting; to drop my chores midday when God seemed to have tapped my shoulder to spend time with Him; trusting His interruption when I went to lash out at my husband in frustration and James 1:19 flashed across my heart: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” {Yep, pretty sure that was God’s voice.} Frankly, it wasn’t major life decisions. It was the everyday stuff.

I began to memorize scripture, simple verses like James 1:19 that God could use to direct me. If God’s word is in us, then He can pull it out of us and USE it for teaching and instruction and wisdom and direction.. Books like Priscilla Shirer’s “Discerning the Voice of God” and numerous “interviews” with mentors and friends who I knew were further along in their faith journey taught me what it was to listen.

It was not that I always got it right; perhaps not every random thought about a friend or a way to show love or cleaning interruption was from God. But as long as the idea wasn’t in direct opposition to loving God and loving others, then I began to do the work of trusting… I did a trust fall right into those promptings, and His voice began to emerge from the rest. It was as if the thoughts that originated with Him presented themselves in my own thought voice, but they were heavier; His voice had weight to it and lingered and wouldn’t be dismissed quickly like most of my fleeting thoughts.

While this is merely scratching the surface of this topic and there is surely more to come, I would love to hear from you… How do you hear the Lord’s voice? What wisdom have you gleaned from friends or mentors on the subject?  I’ll be back tomorrow to continue the conversation… 🙂

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