“How do I know if God talking to me? What if it’s just me telling myself what I want to hear? Or what if it’s the devil trying to deceive me?”
I get these questions a lot, from my kids and from women who desperately want to hear from God but don’t know how to tell when it’s Him speaking.
Let there be no doubt:
The Lord still speaks to His people.
He makes Himself known, and we can know when it’s Him.
I have a personal example to share that happened just this week, but before I launch into my story, I must ask: Will you bear with what is going to be bit lengthier of a blog today? We all need to hear from God as He speaks into our hearts and circumstances, and I believe He will make it worth your time. I also pray that He has something very specific to say to you as you read about His realness and faithfulness to speak personally and directly to us! (If time is short, skim through and just read what’s underlined in bold.)
Eight years ago, I started writing my first book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, and ever since, I’ve wrestled with doubt about whether or not I’m really called to write. Is it really God or am I trying to force something? If it’s really Him, how do I do it without neglecting Him or my family? What’s my unique voice in a saturated blogging, social media and publishing market? And frankly, with so many talented women with incredible insight and testimonies, what do I have to add? (Not in a self-pity-please-confirm-me kind of way but with regards to moving in the realm of reality and whether or not there’s a need for another voice.) And dear Lord, what if I write something that’s wrong and mislead someone? Talk about fear!
Have you experienced this too? Moving through your days with a constant question of whether or not what you’re doing is actually His will? Fearful you’ll make the wrong move? Wondering if you’re supposed to be doing more or less or just different as a wife, a mom, a friend, a professional, a volunteer, etc.?
I am so thankful for the constancy of God! One thing He always draws me back to is Him – sitting with Him in the quiet of the morning, studying the Bible, pouring out my questions and concerns until He answers. Honestly, I only want His answers, for myself, my marriage, my family, my kids individually and any writing I may do.
Recently, I have talked to Him A LOT about His will for my new Bible study, 30 Days to Walk the Talk: Discovering Grace & Power for Genuine Christian Living One STEP at a Time, specifically with regards to making it more readily and widely available. The world has a lot of answers to offer, but only the Lord knows His will, His timing and His plan for me and for this book specifically.
In the meantime, I’ve had the privilege of piloting my study with several women’s Bible study groups who have graciously completed their weekly study and shown up for discussion and live lessons. Every time I share the study with a new group of women, I crack open a fresh copy for myself and start on Day 1 with them. I must say, I think God had me write it for myself most of all! He is very busy using it to show and grow me in His truth!
This week, He used an exercise in my book to answer my cry for Him to show me how to do this thing and do it well!
The exercise has you record five “by faith” statements from Hebrews chapter eleven that speak most personally to you. This time around, I wrote my “by faith” statements as I statements. I wasn’t even thinking about all my questions for God about writing and where to go from here. I was just focused on the lesson and the incredible encouragement of Hebrews eleven to my faith!
In completing the exercise, this is what I wrote, underlining the words that seemed to specifically describe me and where I was that morning:
- By faith, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, I move with godly fear (verse 7).
- By faith, I obey when God calls me to go out, not knowing where I’m going (verse 8).
- By faith, I receive what God has for me because I judge Him faithful who promised (verse 11).
- By faith, I believe God’s promises and am willing to sacrifice even what’s most dear to me (verse 17).
- By faith, I bless my children (verses 20-21).
Even as I wrote the last one, I thought it was odd. It didn’t seem to fit with the others.
Then, later in the week, as I completed the Review & Reflect section for that week’s study, I made note of the main lesson I learned that particular day, and here’s what stared back at me as confirmation from God to me through His word:
By faith, I can move forward in godly fear, not knowing where I’m going, judging God as faithful, sacrificing even hard things AND blessing my children along the way!
I know in my knower it was God answering me! In the margin, I commented:
WOW! How much clearer could God’s answer be?!?! This is how I move forward in faith and trust God that it’s all going to be good, even for my kids!
You see, in my mind moving forward meant taking from my children, but God has a way for me to move forward AND bless them along the way. I have no idea exactly what that’s going to look like or how He’s going to accomplish it, but I have the assurance of His faithfulness as I trust Him and move forward in faith!
Hearing from Him is exactly what I needed to have the faith to move forward! Romans 10:17 tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
God always confirms His word is true!
So if we want to hear from God, where do we start?
First and foremost, we need to be in a relationship with Him, in conversation with Him and in His word. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
We have to be a part of His flock, by grace having put our faith in Jesus alone for salvation. If we don’t know Him, we won’t know His voice when He speaks. If we’re not talking to Him in prayer, whether out loud, in our thoughts or in the Spirit, we’re less likely to hear His voice. And if we’re not taking the time to open the Bible and read what He has to say, we’re not likely to recognize it’s Him when He speaks to us.
Secondly, we need to understand that there’s no magic formula or answer for how to know when it’s God talking to us. He may speak one way to one and another to another, and He may change the way He speaks to us from one time to another! There’s no box for God, but He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, so we can expect that He is still speaking to us today in the same ways He’s spoken to His children throughout time!
So how does God speak? In scripture, He uses:
- His audible voice
- His angels
- Dreams and visions
- His word (as in my example)
- His Son
- Other people
- Sermons and teachings
I have never heard the audible voice of God or encountered what I know to be an angel talking to me right before my eyes. In my experience, I’ve learned to recognize God is speaking to me when His truth results in:
- An “Ouch!” Someone says something that immediately pierces me through with conviction, and I know the Lord is showing me my sin and redirecting me into His will.
- An “Ooooooohhhh…” I read or hear something that brings understanding about God’s truth where there once was none.
- An “Aha!” All of a sudden I have clarity about something where there once was confusion.
- A knowing in my knower. I just know that I know, and it’s Him making me know it’s Him, especially when the knowing has to do with something I’ve been specifically praying about.
- A “random” confirmation of something I already sense God is telling me. I might have a conversation with someone or hear a sermon or teaching and it’s as if it’s just for me, even though the person talking has no idea what they’re saying is speaking directly to me. They might not even know I am listening to or reading what they have to say!
A few summers ago, I attended She Speaks 2014, a conference for speakers and writers. One of the keynote speakers talked about the importance of spending time in the darkroom with God (see In the Dark Room with God), where He develops the image of Jesus in us so the spotlight doesn’t destroy us or His image. Sitting in that room with hundreds of other women, I sensed the Lord speaking directly to my heart: “I cannot take you farther until I take you deeper.”
I knew in my knower it was Him.
Since then, He’s repeatedly confirmed Himself as He’s taken me deeper than I ever knew I needed to go with Him, revealing deep roots of sin in my life and teaching and empowering me to walk in the freedom Jesus bought for me on the cross. He’s taken me deeper in crucifying my flesh. He’s ordered my steps and circumstances, bringing people into my life to help me go deeper with Him. To help me heal and forgive. He’s used His fire to refine me and skim off impurities that could destroy the integrity of what He’s given me to share.
While my knowing was immediate as I listened to the speaker that day, sometimes the knowing comes later, and we have to step forward in faith that we’ve heard from Him before He gives us the opportunity to look back and see that it was Him. Either way:
We need to have more faith in God that He is faithful to lead and keep us
than we have fear of the devil’s ability to deceive and derail us.
Regardless of how or when God chooses to speak to us, we can know this, ALWAYS:
What He says will be consistent with who He is and what He says in the Bible!
God doesn’t change, and neither does His truth, no matter how much this world wants to convince us all truth is “relevant.” It’s not. If His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105), then what He speaks to us will be in line with what His word already says. If something or someone is confirming or permitting what is in direct opposition to scripture, we are wise to question whether it’s God speaking.
When we’ve been praying and we sense God is answering,
and it’s in line with who He is and what He says in His word,
we can trust it is Him and trust Him in it.
God is not a God of confusion. When He speaks, He’ll make sure we know it. We can trust God to confirm Himself to us in our spirit; we can know He will answer because He says He hears and answers.
HOWEVER, we must understand that sometimes we “feel” confused or unsure because He’s spoken and we don’t like what He says. We try to talk Him and/or ourselves out of it so we don’t have to be accountable to obey Him. We’d just rather not. So be aware that our flesh will attempt to muddle God’s clarity and truth.
And every time when we hear from God, we have a choice to make:
Ignore, excuse, argue and/or negotiate, or obey.
My deepest desire is that my response will always be obedience! In Genesis 22:18, for a second time an angel of the Lord calls to Abraham from heaven (verse 15), saying: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
My friend, in obedience there is much blessing!
In what may be one of the most oft-quoted scriptures, Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Verse 12 continues, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
But it’s verse 13 that holds the key to finding God, including hearing from Him:
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
We can’t cry out to God, turn to the world for our answers, and then expect to hear His voice (see Christianity Cocktail or Jesus on the Rocks?)! When we listen to too many voices, we risk drowning out His.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful”
In a nutshell, do this:
- Go to His word.
- God to His people who go to His word.
- Listen to men and women who follow Jesus, teach and live His word.
- Seek counsel from those who seek counsel from God.
To hear God,
we must tune out all other voices but His.
Let me close with a word from the Word: don’t take my word for it! Be like those Acts 17:11 speaks of, who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
Read the Bible. Check out what I say, and let me know what you find. I’d love to hear how the Lord speaks to you!
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).