Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Do We Know God's Voice

Recently my precious little Curly has been learning about hearing God's voice.  There are many verses that talk about following Him and His sheep knowing His voice and such.  Since we started reading the actual Bible instead of just the children's Bible, she has been asking more deep questions and learning a lot more.

She has asked me, "How do I talk to God Mom?  I can't hear Him."  We've talked about how God speaks to each person in a different way and how it's usually not like you would hear a Mommy's voice or Gumby's voice, though some people might hear God that way.  Mommy just doesn't know anyone personally who does.  I told her that Jesus promised that if we want to know answers to things and we ask Him, that He WILL give us those answers.  Sometimes it just happens slower than we want it to.  Keep on asking Him until He teaches you how to hear His voice.  Does God ever break His promises?  She quickly replied, "Nope!"

Then tonight when I was reading in John, something grabbed her mind and she said in a very frustrated voice, "I just CAN'T FOLLOW Jesus Mom!  I don't know how to hear Him.  I tried, and asked Him, but I just don't know how."

If only she really knew how many people are fully grown Christians and have this same feeling.  I would imagine that there are many people that really do want to hear Him, but just don't know how.  It's only in the last couple of years, and mostly this particular last year that I have learned to hear His voice on a regular basis myself.  I can't speak for everyone else, but it's not something that I ever felt like I could get information on and I didn't even know where to start.  Now, I have had times when I was seeking specific answers and asked the Lord and fervently sought answers, but I felt like that wasn't all that God had meant for His children to have.  I felt like when reading Biblical examples of people, those that were living for God after the Holy Spirit was part of the picture were led in specific ways.  It was something more than just living by what was given as direction in scripture.  (Which is also very important!)

I started seeking the answers daily.  I began having daily time with the Lord and reading His word.  He taught me how to listen in the "small" things, as well as the big.  He is still teaching me.  And just to make sure that I am not misleading anyone, since we got home with our new daughter, I haven't been so good at that daily time.  I've allowed busy and tired to get in the way.  I'm obviously not sharing that to be proud, but to make sure that I am not misleading.  Because of this, I haven't been focused on the things I want to be focused on quite as much.  (By the way, the first thing I told my daughter about hearing God's voice was that we need to read His words regularly.  That one of the things He does often is bring scripture to mind that we read quite awhile ago, and this can answer questions we might have or tell us if something we are doing isn't what He would like.  Then John 14:26, in our reading, helped me out a bit.  "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.")

I could very easily have given some four year old answers to my freshly four year old daughter, but my desire is never to water down the gospel for my children.  I believe that a child has the right to the same information as an adult.  The Holy Spirit does the same work in a child as He does in an adult, and it's not my right to decide that she is too young for a concept.  Now, I might have to use slightly less complex words with her, but I'm not really the intellectual type.  My kids can understand most of what I am going to say because my mind works on a pretty simple level.

So, I told her that I would share with her how God often talks to me.  It might be totally different from the way He talks to her, but it was all I had to give her.  And I asked the Lord, right there in my quiet mind, "What do you want me to say to her?"  He told me what to share with her and then said to trust Him to fulfill His promise that whoever seeks will find.  Even a child.  So, I did.

My clearest times with Him are through creation.  SO many words are spoken from the Lord when I just sit and watch the natural surroundings of outside.  He especially speaks to me through wind and clouds.  So, I sat with her at her window and said, "Lets just sit quiet and listen to see if God has anything to say to us."  We sat for a little while and she asked me if I heard anything.

I said, "Yes.  Do you see that bird eating from the ground over there?"

"Uh- huh." she replied.

"Well, that bird is eating worms from the ground and it brought to my mind something that it says in God's word.  Jesus was telling his followers not to worry about anything, that God always provides for His children.  He asked them if the birds worry about their food.  Do they worry about their food?"


"That's right.  They just find it.  They know that God will provide it.  And the they think about how they are going to get their food?"

"No.  What do flowers eat Mom?"

(I DO have a four year old here.  Lots of questions that side track.)  "God makes sure they grow and gives them food too.  And then Jesus said that He loves us WAY more than flowers or birds because we are His kids.  Just like I love you WAY more than flowers and birds!"

Then we sat some more.  She told Gumby to be quiet so that she could hear God =).  She listened for quite some time and I was just about ready to tell her that we could try again later.  That it might not be today that God was ready to open her ears.  But then she smiled at me.

Quietly she said to me, "He said something to me Mom."  She smiled at me with a shy little grin that told me she was very pleased.

"What did He say?" I asked, actually quite curious to hear what she had to say.

In a very matter of fact way, she smiled and said, "He said that He loves me very, very much."

Now, that very much sounds to me like one of the first things God would say to His child as He is training the ears of their spirit to hear Him.  That moment made my eyes water and my heart feel blessed to know that He allowed me to be there for that special moment when she heard His voice for the first time.

This leads into something I've been wondering a lot lately.  Where are others with this?  I really want to know, is this an area lots of us struggle with?  Or is it just something kept more private?  And if so, why?  Because it seems like it's so much harder to live the life we are called to live when we don't know how to hear His voice.  It's like we are all a bunch of waxy eared, hard of hearing sheep wandering around and we don't know how to clean our ears out.  And I might be in a smaller group than I think here, but when learning something as important and faith-requiring as hearing the voice of God clearly, I'd have felt more confident having the experience of others to learn from.  It just seems like it gives a jumping off point instead of not knowing where to even start.

My question is, for those of you that are followers of Jesus Christ, do you know how to discern His voice?  If you do, how did you go about learning that and cultivating it?  Or did you do anything specific other than praying and asking for that ability to grow?  How have you/would you answer your child's questions about this?  How would you answer an adults questions about how to learn to hear God's voice?  I really, truly want to know your opinions here.  I want to hear examples of how God speaks to different people (because I KNOW we are all different and God is very creative, so there is much possible variety in this area).  I want to know what has helped you learn in this area.  And I would love for those that are still feeling like they need some learning in how to hear His voice to have some point of reference.  Please, please give input here.  If you are more private and don't want to share with everyone, you can post an anonymous comment.  Or if you don't feel comfortable with that, but would be okay with e-mail, you can e-mail at puremommyextract at gmail dot com.  I really hope to get some input here.  If you feel comfortable posting on your own blog about this topic, I think that would be even more awesome.  Just link us to the post in the comments so that we can come read.  Like I said, perhaps lots of people DO feel confident in this area and I just haven't heard about it much.  But, it could be that my curiosity is right and many of us have not known where to start or how the Lord even sounds.  It might also be that some believe that God doesn't speak to us other than scripture these days.  We all have different opinions too.

I want to hear from you!

I will also do a different post soon about what my quiet times looked like in the beginning/look like now more specifically, and what my personal ways of practicing and learning to listen and hear God's voice were.  I think it's very important to understand that it's not the same for every one of us, so the more examples the better...which is just my opinion of course.


Mama D.'s Dozen said...

GREAT thoughts ... ponderings ... questions ...

I agree with you that there are many ways to hear from God, and that it can be a very individual thing.

I also believe that God is actually speaking to a LOT of people that aren't listening ... don't want to listen ... or don't believe that God can speak to them today ... (Believers as well as non-Believers)

First of all ... I have known the Lord for 30+ years. I have grown so much in how I hear from Him, over the years. So, don't be discouraged if you (any reader) don't hear from Him as clearly as you'd like ... just keep growing in your relationship with Him, and you will grow in your ability to hear Him speak.

How have I heard the Lord speak???

#1 God's Holy Word: I believe this is the first and foremost way that we need to hear from God. There is so much that He wants to say to us, if we will only take the time to pick up His Word and read it ... study it ... treasure it ...

#2 Prayer: Just as essential as reading your Bible, is talking to and listening to God through prayer. If you only read His Word, you may become a great theologian ... but you may miss out on a personal relationship with Him. In order to have a relationship with Our Lord, we must talk ... and we must listen.

#3 "Hearing" Him speak to my heart: The first time that I actually "heard" God clearly speak to my heart (like almost heard actual words) was moments after I found out that the baby I was carrying ... had died. My child was dead, but my body had not miscarried. As I walked out to our van (I could tell you exactly where I was standing in the parking lot ... and this was 18 years ago.) I heard the Lord say to me, "I will use this experience for you to minister to others who go through the same things." And ... in the next 6 months, I was the first one that 4 of my friends called when their babies died during pregnancy. (Before my experience, I had not had 1 single friend experience a death in pregnancy.)

#4 Prophetic Words for Others: I have had multiple times where I was in a discussion with a friend when I suddenly felt a STRONG word of exhortation for the person I was speaking with. EXACT words came to mind that I was to share. However ... most often I did not share the words immediately. I went home and prayed about it for a day or a week or a month ... asking the Lord for just the right time to share this exhortation. And, when the Lord did tell me it was time to share, I NEVER said, "The Lord told me ......". No. I just shared from my heart, knowing that if it was truly from the Lord, that He would confirm it for the person hearing from me.

#5 Miracles: The Lord has spoken to our family so many times through His miracles. The very first specific miracle that I realized the Lord had performed just for me, was when I was just 18. I bought a $10 ski coat at Nordstroms. Driving home, I was seriously praying whether or not I should return it ... whether or not it was a need or a want ... whether or not I could afford it. Even though it was a STEAL of a DEAL ... I wanted to hear clearly from the Lord whether or not to keep it. When I got home from the mall, there was an envelope in the mail ... it was postmarked in Minnesota (I know no one in MN.) ... and it held a crisp $10 bill. No note. No explanation. Just a gift from the Lord, answering my heart felt prayers.

Ummm ... hope you don't mind the novel I just wrote. I think I should probably write a post about this ...

Big Hugs!


Josette said...

For me, I didn't begin to hear God's voice until I had studied the Bible a bit. There was a long period of time when I was a Christian, but didn't grow in the Lord. At that time I didn't hear or know how to listen for His voice. I 1st did the Bible study "Experiencing God" which was the beginning of digging into God's Word and finding Him. After that I fell in love with Beth Moore Bible studies. I don't think it is that is was an organized Bible Study so much as it was that it was Bible STUDY. As I began to learn more of God's character, I recognized more often His voice. I was uncertain a lot in the beginning but as I grew closer to the Lord I began to feel and know that I always had His presence as certainly as if I could see and audibly hear Him. It was through His Word reading His experiences with other people and knowing He is the same yesterday, today and forever that gave me the confidence in knowing His presence with me. Having that feeling, that awareness all the time makes me a better listener.

I loved "listening in" on the conversation you had with Curly. So precious. I have always, talked from a young age, with my children in the same kinds of ways. My two oldest are now 15 and 14. For a WHILE, my daughter (12-14 at the time) SO desired to hear God's direction and felt that God had revealed future plans to some of her friends and why not her? I do think for the kind of direction she is looking for, it takes time learning the character of God and time in relationship with Him. It is coming for her and she is DELIGHTED! She has waited and listened and questioned and cried and studied...truly sought Him with her whole heart and although it is slow she is feeling more certain of hearing His voice. She did a Beth Moore study with me last year, her first, and she fell in love with Beth Moore too. We are going to a BM simulcast tomorrow and are both so excited.

Both my older kids, now 14 and 15 were lead to know the Lord at age 6, at home, as part of our homeschooling day. Curly's sweet innocence and beginning to seek the Lord is so precious. You have so much to look forward to!

Cilla said...

I just want you to know how inspiring this post is.

Thank you so much for posting it.

Jenilee said...

As always, I love reading your thoughts about these things!! I think what you shared is perfect.

I remember a time with Elayna when she was struggling with right and wrong. She asked me why she thinks about doing or saying the wrong thing and knows in her heart that it is the wrong thing. I started from that moment talking to her about how God is in her heart and He is helping her know right from wrong and that listening to that "feeling" of right and wrong is a way to hear God speaking to you. He will help you do the right thing or know what to do because He speaks to us. Sometimes with a feeling, sometimes in His word and many times through Mommy. :) One time in Chickfila she was up in the play area and someone was crying so she helped them. She came running to me and said, "I listened to the Holy Spirit!" It was exciting for her because she knew by obeying and doing the right thing, she was listening to God.

Making God's Word come alive like with the worms is another great way to show them how God's word speaks into our lives today.

:) I might post about this topic too!

Vicky said...

Wow... Curly has had quite the week of spiritual growth. She went from asking me on Tues "how can I follow Jesus if I can't SEE him?" to "how can I follow Jesus if I can't hear him?" And then she HEARD:) LOVED LOVED LOVED the story. I teared up, too. She is so precious to me, and I am blessed to get to see her grow!

Of all the things God says to His people, I think the one Curly heard is the most important. If everyone were secure in the knowledge that God loves them "very, very much" I think the world would be a much different place (like, ya know, HEAVENLY).

You know my answer to your question, but I'll write it here for other commenters... Most often, I "hear" from God through Scripture. And, when I think I've heard in other ways, I refer back to Scripture for confirmation. In reading Laurel's comment, I would say I read the Word prayerfully. It's not just reading, but more like a conversation. Nevertheless, prayer is definitely an area I would like to grow in more.