Earlier this week, I talked about hearing from God…and it’s a good week to write this article, because He has been talking to me loud and clear. Do you how to hear from God?
Kinda scary, actually.
How can I tell I heard from God? Well, a few simple clues and a little soul seeking and I realized my error, even for a particularly prideful and hard-headed woman like me. You need to learn to listen to God all over again. For all true Christians, the Holy Spirit IS inside you, telling you what to do and we can access that information. Let this post serve as “no excuses” reminder. Here’s how to hear from God when you’re not so certain of what to do next.
1. The Trial is The Message
It’s so easy to forget that God is in control when something crappy or not-what-you-thought happens. While an immature Christian might still be stuck on “why me?” (been there, done that!), those of us who are more mature are more likely to simply forget when we’re busy. I’m tempted to say “that’s fine,” but in reality, it’s not. Whatever is happening to you right now, God knew about it. He knew it yesterday, last year, He knew it when you were born. In fact, He knew this crummy thing would happen to you before you were born.
Ouch. That’s a hard lesson to learn, right? He knew I’d have a stroke in ’99, he knew Mom would have Alzheimer’s that ate away at her brain for years, and He knew my kids would be born with disabilities.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter that He knew. It’s not cruel. Those challenging circumstances He put in front of me ultimately led me to Him, and that ultimately lead me to put Him back in the driver’s seat whenever I’ve taken it over. Those trials are God reminding you to hand over the controls.
It’s easier to do that when you remember God’s promise for believers:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
This is for your benefit, yes, but your growth serves God’s glory. Look at what’s happening as a message from Him to get you back on track so you can serve Him and fulfill your true purpose.
2. Look For Coincidences
God knows what’s up, as I said, and He is the Master architect at creating a plan to get you on the right road. One of the ways He has done this for me is with “coincidences” – something I believe are messages from God, when they are in line with His will. Why? Scripture quotes God as saying,
I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. – Isaiah 46: 9-11
He knows everything and can easily design a series of circumstances to come together right in front of you. Sometimes it works like this: you heard a sermon at church and it referenced James 1:17. A few days later, someone made a lovely meme of this Scripture that popped up on your Facebook thread. Then, hours later, a friend who does not go to your church mentions gifts from God and still later, a book you have opens to this particular passage of Scripture. This has happened to me, and sometimes that book has been a non-Christian novel. The point is God knows how to get your attention and if He’s using scriptural coincidences to do it, be thankful it’s something that simple, rather than His allowing your health to fall so far that you have to notice Him. (Yes, I’ve been there too!)
3. Take Stock of How You’re Feeling
The last time I was completely drained, lost, confused and way off track, God helped me get my priorities in order by allowing me to have a stroke. He did not cause it – I don’t believe He does us harm – but I needed that wake up call because I was so far off track from where I should have been, spiritually and in terms of maturity. He let this happen, with my best interests in mind, the way sometimes you need to let a friend go and fall so far down the hole because it’s the only way they will wake up about some problem or addiction. You do it in love, but you know that sometimes the bottom is the only place that will cure someone.
God knows that about you too.
Right now, I’m getting a message through my health again. I’ve got no energy for my kids. I get to bed too late, I can never get through all my work tasks in a week and care of my home and my own health (or my husband’s) are barely existent. The end of the day comes and I’m just as tired as when I woke up. This physical drain leaves little time for self-care, such as working out, or spiritual nourishment. If you’re overwhelmed and wondering how you got here and why you have time for nothing, you can take that as a wake up call from from God that you are doing way too much. Busyness is a curse of our modern day, FOMO, keeping up with the Jones’ lifestyle and we need to get rid of it. This is another hard lesson:
Surely every man walks about like a shadow;
Surely they busy themselves in vain;
He heaps up riches,
And does not know who will gather them. – Psalm 39:6
If we’re doing lots of things to satisfy our Type A personalities or build our bank accounts or are 24/7 healing or teaching our kids but those are not in God’s will, it will be for nothing. Sure, we may “heap up riches,” but we’ll be burnt out and miss out on the things that truly matter. And God cannot bless those things that are not in His Will.
4. Slow Down
Another problem for mature Christians is that we can easily get distracted by the busyness of life. Sometimes that busyness is ministry that we actually haven’t been called to, and sometimes that busyness is doing so much for our work or our loved ones that we find little time for God. God has told me in no uncertain terms that I need to slow down. The catch-22 of it is that I have to plan to slow down. I can’t just stop certain things. I’ve taken some baby steps, but again, He’s clearly told me it’s not enough. How do I know that?
Well, it’s that gut-wrenching feeling you have inside when you need or want to do something or say “yes” to something, but you’re full of anxiety every time you think of it. You do need to slow down. Postpone your deadlines. Say “no” to a few things. Take a break, even if you need to take that break right now. Jesus was a man who attracted big, big crowds. (Can you imagine if God showed up down the road healing people? You’d pick up your kids RIGHT NOW and wait on line, wouldn’t you?) Yet, even though He was God Incarnate, He made sure to take time out of His busy schedule to be with His Father:
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ – Mark 6:31
Too busy to eat – I’ve been there and I bet you have too. It happened to me just today. By the way, I’m not talking about a “season” of skipping meals for good reasons, like those first few months adjusting to a new baby. What I’m talking about here is the busyness that has made your life a nonstop treadmill of “doing-ness.” Slow down enough to build that most important relationship in your life: the one with your Father God.
5. Pray For Guidance
You’d think I’d wake up and smell the coffee, given that my life today was something like this when I had my stroke, but I’m particularly dense in this area. If I need to drop things, which ones should they be? Hard to answer but I know that He can answer it. I need to pray for guidance. Sometimes, messages will be everywhere. I have been there when I could not shake the words I saw all around me, from subway signs to Sunday sermons. But other times, God’s voice will be like a whisper from the sidelines. Here is how God spoke to one of His greatest prophets, Elijah:
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13
God doesn’t always sweep in like a hurricane or consume us like a fire. We need to be trained to hear Him when He’s speaking in a whisper. There is a reason He is doing that. We want God to be all might, all the time, but that’s not what He always needs to be for you. Sometimes, you can barely hear Him because He wants you to know that He’s always there. You can always trust Him, even if the flood is coming. The thing is, you cannot hear that whisper if you have not taken the time to slow down and pray for direction and guidance. Your mind will be too cluttered with the daily hectic schedule to hear His words and seeing His leading. It can be easy to miss if you don’t make time for Him.
6. Be In The Word Daily
Praying for guidance is great but hearing from God in concrete ways is easier if you read scripture daily. Here’s the reality: this will be bumpy. Some days, this means you’ll look at your Bible, completely stumped on what to read. While it’s tempting to play “Bible Roulette” by letting the page fall anywhere, don’t do that. What will happen is it will fall open to the same places (that’s the physics of your Bible structure and what you read in it) and you may take that as a message when it’s really not. Here are some tips on where to get help on what to read.
8 Ways to Hear From God Using The Bible
- If you’re in a Bible study, review your notes. If you don’t know where to start a review , start at the beginning of any notes you have.
- If something stands out in a Sunday sermon, pull out that piece of Scripture. Read the whole chapter and/or surrounding passages. Research who is talking/narrating in the Bible. For example, Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, and Paul signed many of his letters to the new church like Ephesians. Then think look up who is the audience, what the purpose of this Scripture is for the intended group, and then prayerfully consider how it might relate to you.
- A life application bible is a great way to start learning the who, what, where, when and why, because it has an intro to each chapter, lots of footnotes on the culture, themes, notes on famous people in the bible, and cross-referenced related scriptures.
- Research critical topics of interest to you scripturally. My favorite resource is John McArthur’s Grace to You that closely address my faith as a Reformed Christian.
- Ask people who you know walk closely with God for scriptures that address something that’s weighing on your heart.
- Look up answers to just about any question you might have, like “who are the Hebrews” or “what is justification,” in Got Questions.
- Read Psalms and Proverbs. Psalms are encouraging and often make great prayers, especially if you look for verses that praise God. Proverbs are short bites of wisdom that you can digest and mull over in terms of your own growth. Both of these make great short, daily ventures into God’s word that you can use any time.
- Download the YouVersion Bible app. It’s free and it comes with devotionals as well as various versions of the bible so you can look up scripture on the fly.
How can this help? Simple:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
You need that daily reading of God’s word to grow the way He wants you to, and to understand what steps to take next. If all that seems to fail, just keep at it and make the best choices possible. Sometimes you’ll make the choice because you know what’s NOT right or not pleasing to God. That’s your easiest answer. And sometimes, you’ll make a bad choice and
What other ways do you hear from God? How do you make sure His Word and Will are in your life?