How to Hear from God

When the story of life receives an enormous plot twist, it’s only natural to want a word from the author. The headlines of this year have driven most of us to our knees, seeking God’s answers to our confusion, doubt, discouragement, and fear.

God, where are you leading our nation?
God, how do I live when justice feels partial?
God, how do I respond when I feel slandered and misunderstood?
God, what kind of financial decisions should I make?
God, how do I protect my vulnerable child/parent from illness without going crazy with worry?
God, how do I parent my children through uncertainty?

Some of us may be hoping for dramatic revelation, confirming signs or miraculous wonders. But a lot of us are just looking for direction. We want to know God sees us. We want to know we’re doing the right thing.

We’re assured through scripture that God speaks and we have the ability to hear his voice (John 10:27). We’re also told we can discern the will of God by the renewal of our minds; “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2
So how do we avoid conformity to the world and take hold of a renewed mind? How do we attune ourselves to God’s voice, a voice that’s so “still and small” in a world of rushed and loud (1 Kings 19:12)?

We Show Up

Most of us would never voluntarily skip a meal, but we skip time in God’s Word more than we’d like to admit. There have been times I’ve treated my bible reading more like a mediocre exercise habit than soul food. Many of us struggle not to treat God like another commodity, a source from which we pull benefits. We don’t need daily time with God because it’s “beneficial”, we need it because without it we starve. Without regular communion with God through his word our spirits will grow stagnant, grotesque and will begin looking for food elsewhere.

Reading and studying God’s word can be wonderfully refreshing, fulfilling, and inspiring… but it can also feel plain dull at times. There are seasons when reading God’s word is more like eating broccoli, than cake. Showing up time and time again will not always be easy, natural, or convenient but there is nothing as powerful as God’s written word. Show up, and then do it again. Have faith that depositing truth to your soul till it’s fat will yield a harvest of transformation…maybe when you least expect it.

We Open Up

It’s important to approach our relationship with God in a spirit of awe and humility. Sometimes I think I’m listening to God but I’m really just trying to confirm my own suspicions. I have thoughts and experiences that hold significant meaning in my life, but God’s word is made to inform these things, not the reverse. When we open up to God we can lay every part of ourselves before him unhindered. Then, like a child watching a parent, we expectantly study Him as he has revealed himself through scripture and start becoming familiar with his character and his ways.

“Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Philippians 4:13) If we let our experiences, feelings, and understanding rule the day, the more God will start to sound like an echo of our own voice. The quirky author Anne Lamott once wrote, “you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” God’s voice will be consistent with scripture and the character of Jesus. It will push against our self-seeking desires and prompt us to be more like Christ.

Opening up also means getting honest with trusted Christian friends and receiving their feedback. If you hope to hear from God or you think you have, tell another believer or a leader from church. Ask them to pray with you. Open the Bible together. A trusted friend can help discern God’s voice in our lives.

We Hold Up

Slow down, wait on the Lord. Hearing God’s voice is an exercise in patience and surrender. In waiting we test, consider, and ponder what we think God is saying. The world tells us if we don’t act now, we’ll miss out. But God refuses to participate in our rush, he’s more concerned with keeping company than producing results.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I created the “24-hour rule”. We decided we’d try not to take major actions, make commitments, or have important conversations without waiting at least 24 hours first. This helps safeguard our impulses and reminds us why we’re waiting. We pray and ask God first, no matter what. His confirmation often comes in the form of unity and peace, if we don’t have these we wait a little more.

When we’re in a season of waiting, God has not left us unequipped. We can worship, fast, meditate, and pray together with our church family.  These practices aren’t rituals to manipulate God’s response but simply exercises in aligning our souls to receive God’s voice.
Hearing God’s voice is a great and glorious privilege. As we become more and more accustomed to letting God lead the way, we exchange our grumbling for joy, turmoil for peace, and directionless wandering for anchored hope.

So this week, keep calm and ask God. He can be trusted to lead you through life, one season, one moment and one choice at a time.
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