Hearing God’s voice is not about developing some sort of elite mystical skill. In many ways, it’s easy.
Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, to remind us of things we’ve learned and to speak of things to come (John 14:26;16:13-15). It’s God who takes the initiative—all we need to do is listen. But, nonetheless, we face some areas in which it’s particularly difficult to discern God’s voice. My top three are romantic relationships, family and money.
In these areas of life, we care very deeply about the outcome. And when we come to God with our questions about that relationship or that desire to conceive, we come loaded with agendas.
Our desires can muddy our ability to hear God’s voice. This makes it all the more difficult to differentiate between our voice and God’s. Who wants to hear the voice that says, “No, this person is not for you?” or “You won’t bear children,” or “This financial decision is likely to fail.”
Yet, the challenges of hearing God’s voice in these areas does not mean God can’t or won’t speak to us about them. After all, romantic relationships, family and those pressing practical needs usually constitute the most important parts of our lives.
You’ve probably already heard some of the testimonies. That time God brought two perfectly matched people together in a strikingly sovereign way; the story of the couple who received a life-giving promise where IVF had failed, or that young entrepreneur who heard God speak about an idea that led to resounding success. There are stories like these throughout the Bible and there’s no doubt God is working in similar ways today.
But in listening for His voice we must recognize that at these times, it’s easy for us to get it wrong. That means we need to be more careful about making claims about what God may have said. We need to learn to distinguish between our voice telling us what we want and God’s voice telling us what we need.
Here are some cautionary tips for hearing God’s voice in the most sensitive areas of our lives:
Prepare to Hear Whatever God Says
A surrendered heart that is ready to respond unconditionally to the voice of God is without doubt the best prerequisite for hearing the voice of God clearly. Jesus said that revelation comes to those who are willing to follow God’s ways (John 14:21). If you’re not able to keep your heart open for an answer you don’t like, perhaps it’s better not to ask!
Submit Your Hearing God Experiences to the Wisdom of Others
The Apostle Paul reminds us that we only see a poor reflection—like looking through a fuzzy mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12). That’s why we need to hear God’s voice in community (Acts 15:28). Your friends and leaders often know you better than you know yourself. They will be able to see through the fog that is created by your preferences and longings.
Use Common Sense
Whether or not you feel God speaking directly into some area where you’re trying to make a decision, apply wisdom and do your research. Don’t use the faithfulness of God as an excuse not to do your homework.
If it’s a business venture, study the markets and listen to the experts. If it’s a barren womb, investigate the medical options. If it’s a romantic relationship, look at pre-marriage counselling courses to check that your values are in alignment. Walking with God doesn’t mean we abscond from the responsibility of making our own decisions.
God speaks into our lives in lots of different ways, but we need to remember that while God’s revelation is pure, we are not. Like water flowing through a rusty pipe, our desires and needs contaminate the flow. So in listening for God in the areas that matter most, we need to do what we can to quieten our own voices and allow His to be the one that is most clearly heard.