Hearing God’s voice is a popular topic of sermons, books, conversations, prayers and journal pages. Each person has their own journey when it comes to hearing God, based in theology and mostly experience. In my experience, this is a complex issue which the Sunday-School-answers don’t address deeply. Here are a series of questions that may help you discern how God is communicating with you.
Take a few moments to consider three questions:
In what ways does God speak to His children?
In what ways does God speak to you right now?
In what ways did He used to speak to you?
Are those lists different? How does that make you feel?
If you’ve been in relationship with God for a while, you probably do have different lists. If the disparity between lists two and three makes you feel sad or frustrated or uncomfortable, be assured, my friend, that this is actually a very good thing! I’m about to explain…
But first, a special shout-out to the people with few to nil line items in the second list. When God goes silent, it can be brutal.
We often tend to assign cruel intentions to a silent God: God is ignoring me; He doesn’t care about me. I did something wrong. My mistake was too great for God to still love me. If I could just [xyz], then I will hear God’s voice again. We try to go back to the way things used to be. And when we can’t get there, we grow disillusioned. )If this resonates, you might be encouraged by a poem called Prayer to a Silent God.)
But surely God’s heart is for each of us to grow in maturity and understanding of ourselves and our Creator. He is more interested in moving us forward than moving us backward. Change is painful. The reward for pushing through the cocoon is a new set of wings… new eyes to see God’s heart for us, new touch to feel His faithfulness; new capacity to look at the silent expanse of the night sky and trust God is near.
Another tendency is to mis-interpret the end of a chapter as the end of a book. God may stop speaking to you in one way because He wants to open you up to a new avenue of communication.
“God stopped talking to me,” I said for years, until I realized that was a limited perspective. I changed the language. “God stopped communicating with me in the way He used to” was more true and gracious. I began to give Him the benefit of the doubt. This changed the posture of my heart, and opened me up again to His presence. It moved me toward hope instead of away from it. I decided to expect God to work in me a new way to sense His heart, even if I couldn’t see or hear what that was.
And surely God knows that communication is an integral part of a healthy relationship. Might He be interested in strengthening your listening skills, in broadening and deepening your sense of Him? Could He be preparing you for the next season of your life, when the old way wouldn’t have worked, but another way of sensing God’s direction will be vital to your soul? Do you get bored of the same-old same-old? What if God is keeping it interesting?
I want to encourage you to broaden your definition of “God’s voice.” Consider this: God’s first language is not English. He doesn’t only use words to speak to us! He is so much bigger. What if He’d prefer to be let out of the box of your vocabulary? What if scripture can come alive not just on the page, but on the paddle of your canoe in the middle of the lake?
In what ways do you sense God’s presence? Are all five senses involved? What moves you? What makes you curious? What do you feel in your body? What do you observe in nature? What do you experience in music, or grief, or woodworking, or a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils?
“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure,” olympian Eric Liddell famously wrote to his sister. This is a great example of God speaking in a different way; a sense of God’s pleasure counts as communication. (Isn’t that what we’re all seeking?) So when do you feel God’s pleasure? And could that be enough? Do you really need your lover to give you a five-point speech and exact directions in order to love you?
I also want to encourage you to clear the air between you and God. Being stuck under “God doesn’t talk to me” can take its toll on a relationship. If your self-talk has limited God in any way, take a moment to release God from your understanding of Him. And if your self-talk has degraded yourself in anyway, release yourself, too. Assume the best of yourself and God, and keep moving forward.
An aside: If you’ve tried everything and still have no sense of God speaking to you, It may be that He has you in a season of silence. This is a special invitation, indeed, worth a whole series of books with no words. For now, I’ll just say this: It’s not your fault. He sees you. This won’t last forever. You are not fading away. Don’t give up. God is up to something.
What is the invitation God might be extending to you? Can you allow it time to unfold?
Is there anything you want to tell God about all this? (Assume He is, indeed, listening.)
He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. Acts 17:24-28
I hope these questions, and all the time you need to explore them, will further your relationship with God. Sometimes it helps for someone to hold the space for you and personally guide you through questions like this. That’s sometimes called Spiritual Direction. As a Spiritual Director, I’m available for that. For more info, please comment below and I’ll reach out to you!