“My sheep hear my voice…” John 10:27 Sounds simple, right? If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and I am his sheep, then I should hear his voice. One plus one equals two.
Well, sometimes it doesn’t seem that easy.
When I entered college, this thing of hearing God speak to me was entirely new. I’d never really thought that it was possible before. I figured he could do some weird things to get my attention, like send one of those planes with a banner behind it reading, “I love you, Savannah.” But when I got to college, I met people that talked about hearing from God like it was no big deal.
Surprisingly, the thought that God could speak to me wasn’t at all scary, it was wonderful! It was freeing. It made him seem so much more personal, so much more real, like a friend.
As I have learned to hear from God, there have been a couple of things that have really helped me on this journey.
Know His Heart.
I need to know that my Shepherd really is good. He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 145:8). I need to be convinced that he really cares about me enough to take time to speak to me about my life, that he loves me so much that he would share his thoughts and secrets with me. If I don’t believe in the goodness of His character, it is difficult for me to be expectant that he wants to speak with me.
When someone told me I should practice hearing from God, it seemed so unspiritual. For some reason, I thought you didn’t have to practice spiritual things, they just happened. But just like anything else, I have found that I improve my ability to identify and interpret God’s voice the more I try and the more I know him. So don’t give up so quickly. Think of it more as an acquired skill than some magical ability a person either does or doesn’t have. Give yourself grace and time, it’s something you can grow in.
Writing down what I feel like God is saying helps me in two ways. One, I am forgetful, and as a forgetful person, it is helpful to have a record to go back to and reflect on. Two, I often second guess myself. Is that you, God, or is that just me? But when I simply write down the first thing that comes to mind, it helps me eliminate overthinking and reevaluating. I just write down what I hear and choose to have faith that it might indeed be from God.
Like any great conversation, good questions lead the way. If God seems silent, try asking him some good questions: Jesus, what do you think of me? Jesus, what does my heart need most from you today? Or even get straight to the point: God, why am I having trouble hearing from you? “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5).
But how do I know if it’s God? Great question! If you are like me, you have a dozen thoughts going through your mind at once, and it’s hard to discern which are true, let alone which are from God. So I have learned to test the things I hear from God. I’m not putting God to the test, but I’m testing my own ability to hear him (1 John 4:1). Some indicators for me are: Does it easily align with Scripture? Does it affirm the names and role of the Holy Spirit (i.e. Helper, Encourager, Comforter, Teacher, Guide, Life-giver, Strengthener, Empowerer, Liberator, Revealer of truth, Gift-giver). Does it reflect the fruit of the Spirit (i.e. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness...(Gal.5). Also, I will read parts of my journal to a trusted friend and ask, “Does this sound like God?”
Take his words to heart. Choose to believe them. Try declaring them aloud or thanking him. It also helps me to frequently revisit them to keep them fresh on my mind.
Remember his promise to you, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me.” (John 10:14) You are loved and deeply known by Jesus. His promise is that you will know him, too. And I’m sure he will reveal himself to be even more beautiful and worthy than you can imagine.