Many people far more qualified than I am have tackled this question in extensive depth. My initial thoughts were, “who am I to add my voice to this?” The answer I settled on for myself: I am a person who has been living an ever-growing faith journey, making decisions based on what I believe God was speaking to me. I have had to figure this out for myself. I know what it is like to wrestle with this question and likely will continue to wrestle with this over my lifetime. My first piece of encouragement is that it is ok not to know immediately; it is no reflection on your faith.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God speaking to us was a big booming voice or a flashing neon sign? I crave huge clear directions. My experience has taught me that it is so much subtler, in general. It can be so hard to distinguish what are only our thoughts and what is that still, small voice to pay attention to. In some instances, it is clearly me. When that voice is based in fear, judgement and anything contrary to the nature of God, it isn’t Him. If you are anything like me, it may still take some pondering to recognise the root of the thought in order to rule it out.
I find it so hard to articulate the exact nature of how I know it is God. The truth is sometimes I don’t know and you won’t either. I have learned to trust and take a chance. The more I do that, the more I learn that I have heard Him and can trust more easily the next time. I have come to recognise this deep sense that cannot be put into words. It may not feel the same to you. I can sense more easily when I have been connecting with God throughout my days and am tuned in to His presence in my life.
Reading Scriptures regularly helps too. That is where we learn about the character of God. That is how we can test out what we are hearing. I have times when it is reading in Scripture that I get an answer. A verse or passage may suddenly seem “highlighted” and its meaning seem so clear and direct to me. Caution is needed in seeking confirmation or answers through Scripture though. I know that I have been guilty of finding a verse out of context that justifies what I want to do and claiming it as confirmation. One way I find that helps confirm the Scripture is the repetition from multiple sources. It will seem in that week that every book I read, every podcast or sermon I listen to and even the songs that come up contain the same verses. That helps me to feel more confident in what I am hearing too.
For life’s bigger decisions, I check out what I am thinking is from God with a few trusted friends and family. So often it is through discussions with them that I clarify in my mind what I am hearing. If you don’t have those friends and/or family members that you trust and that have an active faith, you need them.
Learning to discern if it is God’s voice or your own is a very personal and individual journey. It requires trust, relationship, time and sometimes failing. What it looks like for me may be very different from how it looks for you. That doesn’t make your experience any less true. One thing I love about God is that He is infinitely creative and meets with each one of us uniquely. May you feel encouraged to tune in and find out what His voice sounds like in your life.
This post is part of a series for Write 31 Days called "For Your Encouragement." I am taking requests from readers on what they want encouragement about and responding to the best of my ability. I would love to hear from you.
You can read the rest of the posts in this series here.