When you’re going through something difficult, you want to tap into a source that calms the storm and brings wisdom. This is a practical guide to assist you in learning and practicing hearing God’s voice in your everyday life and when navigating those tough times.
As a child, I would seek out and enjoy time with a loyal best friend. Someone who would understand me, was a lot of fun, and who would play with me all the time. And as someone who loves quality time, I wanted someone there who I could always talk to. The reality is we are all wired and created for deep connection – and God loves to have that with us.
While I was blessed with some beautifully close friends growing up, my dream for a best friend began to be fulfilled in the most satisfying way when I really gave my life to Jesus. He became the “loyal best friend” I had always sought after. The difficulty along the way, though, came with communication.
The Quest for Connection
I knew He was drawing me close to Him but I didn’t always know how to relate to or understand what He was communicating to me. How could I really connect with God? How do I know when He is speaking? Is what I am “hearing” me or actually the Lord talking? These are questions that we’ve all asked at one point or another in our relationship with God. The truth is God loves to communicate; His relationship with us is His number one priority. And the best part? We get to enjoy finding out what He is like in the process!
My quest for connection with God really exploded when I was introduced to the teachings and writings of Mark Virkler in the late 90’s. This new tool called “journaling” revolutionized my time with God. I practiced tuning in to the “spontaneous flow of thoughts” that came into my mind when I asked God an open ended question, and engaged my imagination with the eyes of my heart.
For instance, I would envision myself walking on a beach with Jesus – this gave my mind something to focus on as I listened. During this time, I learned about the significance of the sanctified imagination God intended for us to engage with, and while it can be used by the devil, that was never its original intent. The teaching was solid, with the checks and balances of submitting your journaling to spiritual oversight and the guideline that what you received was in line with Biblical truth and the heart and nature of God displayed in His word.
Fear was replaced with faith as I journeyed on this new adventure. It was like someone opened the curtains to a window of communion with God that I never knew existed before. My spiritual life took off and I never looked back. During this whole journey of infertility, connecting with God and perceiving what He is communicating to me has been one of the single most invaluable elements in surviving and eventually, thriving. He has truly been a most loyal, loving and life changing best friend.
Here are four vital ways to perceive what God is communicating:
There are two avenues in hearing God; one is from the outside and the other is from the inside. Though I have never heard God audibly with my physical ears, this is a legitimate way that God speaks to people. More commonly though, He speaks through the thoughts of our minds. Perhaps you’ve seen a TV show where there is a character with an angel on one shoulder giving good advice and a devil on the other shoulder giving devious advice. That TV show scenario is actually quite true to reality. We have thoughts influencing our minds from three sources- God, ourselves and the enemy. One of the simplest ways to discern if what you are receiving is from the Lord is when the words are encouraging, affirming, full of love, and delivered with the Spirit and heart of God that is displayed throughout the Bible. If the thoughts bring heaviness, condemnation or discouragement it is clear those are from the enemy and we must not agree or entertain them. What you hear from God may bring conviction but it will NEVER bring condemnation (Romans 8:1). Also, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy but God brings abundant life (Mark 4:5). These scriptures give a filter through which we can discern where the thoughts are coming from.
Jesus said, “My sheep HEAR my voice” (John 10:27). For a little fun, try this exercise to help familiarize yourself with what “hearing” could seem like: Sing the “Birthday Song” in your mind without any physical utterance or motion. Easy, right? Just as you can hear your own voice in your mind, you can just as easily hear the voice of the Lord speaking. People often ask, “How do I know it’s the Lord and not my own thoughts?” Great question! We believe that when we are seeking and asking God to speak to us, He will (Jeremiah 29:13-14, Matthew 7:9-11). We believe more in who God is and His desire and ability to speak to us, than we do our own weakness or in the devil deceiving us. As with anything, the more you practice the more you “hear”!
There are seers and there are those that see. Seers have a gift to see the spiritual realm like others see the physical realm. They can see angels, demons, colors and atmospheres. They are very aware of what is unseen and it seems natural to them because they’ve always been that way. Then there are those that see. All of God’s children have eyes to see, and our ability to see increases with trusting and believing, and of course, practice! Everyone can “see” because we all have an imagination given to us by our creator God and we have the Holy Spirit who communicates through the “eyes of our heart” (Ephesians 1:18). With the Holy Spirit, we can see with our spiritual eyes using our sanctified imagination.
Try this exercise with me: Close your eyes and imagine your bedroom at home. See your bed, your closet. Now imagine walking to your bathroom; can you see the shower, the sink, your towels? Now ask Jesus to show you what the Holy Spirit is doing in your room. Write it down. This is a great exercise which allows you to use your imagination and then give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to reveal Himself to you.
When I was a child, I was sensitive to spiritual and emotional atmospheres but I didn’t understand it. Being an “atmosphere sponge” was so normal and a part of who I was in my everyday life that I couldn’t discern if what I was feeling was me or the environment around me. Because I was focused more on “hearing” and “seeing” in the beginning of my journey in connecting with the Lord, those are the muscles that have been strengthened in me the most. But intrinsically, I am a feeler. I’ve come to realize this was a main connection point to God as a child, although at the time I didn’t realize it. Now, as an adult, I have found connecting to God in this way to be invaluable.
After I learned about spiritual sensitivity and discernment, it provided a grid through which I could process my experiences. Now I look back on much of my history and realize how significantly the various atmospheres I was in impacted me. Have you ever been in a room where you felt agitated or anxious and you weren’t feeling that way before you entered that room? People who are “feelers” may be easily affected by their environment, but through the Holy Spirit, you don’t have to be a victim to it. Instead, you can learn to victoriously shift the atmosphere in partnership with the Spirit of God.
People who carry and steward this gift of discernment also often connect with God through sensing His presence and acknowledging whatever He is doing in a room, a home, a city, region, or country (1 Kings 8:10-11, Luke 1:41). If you want to grow in this area, next time you are in a church service, pay attention to the spiritual atmosphere in the room before and after worship. Take note of the specific thing the Lord is doing in the room by feeling and sensing what has been accomplished during worship.
4) Inner Knowing
Ever had that feeling where you just know that you know? My dad has a strong “inner knowing” gift. I’ve seen him many times working on a project where he’ll run into a problem without an easy solution when, all of a sudden, he’ll get a strong impression or have an idea in his spirit; before you know it, the problem is resolved and everything comes together beautifully! People who have this inner knowing often know things are going to happen before they do. They just know someone is going to have a baby or that a time of change is coming soon. They can’t explain how they know but they just do. And it happens just as they knew it would.
People who major in “inner knowing” often have a hard time realizing that it’s God’s way of speaking to them and through them because it’s such a normal part of their life and it has always been that way. This connection with God may not always come in a moment of worship or prayer either, but at random times throughout life. This can sometimes make people feel that it is disconnected or unrelated to God, but the truth is that this is a very legitimate spiritual language that one can grow in, steward, and strengthen as your relationship with the Lord continues to develop. Your spirit will bear witness with God’s Spirit in you as He communicates (Romans 8:16).
An Example of Each
Here is a simple example of how all of these ways to perceive God work together: Let’s say that lately I’ve been stressed about time running out, I’m still facing infertility, and I have a big decision to make soon. I might be spending time with God and in a time of worship I start sensing His Presence in the form of His peace and rest in His faithfulness. I was feeling tired and stressed out before but now I’m feeling confident in God’s sovereignty and a sense of peace washes over me. As I start praying about infertility I see a picture in my mind’s eye of the story in the Bible of Abraham and Sarah looking up at the stars night after night being reminded of the promise that God gave them. Some thoughts enter my mind and I hear something like this: Remember my promises and look back over all that has been said about you having children. Remember my faithfulness and how my word is true. Then I have this gut knowing that the Lord is moving on my behalf in this area. These are some common ways that God speaks to us and we can use them all in one moment.We may find that we are stronger in one of these areas than another, but the goal is to increase our capacity in each of the four areas so that our language and connection to God is fluent and fluid in our everyday lives.God loves connecting with you! I bless you to enjoy a deeper and clearer connection with God than you’ve ever had before. May you experience fun, friendship and His deep love as you explore the realms of relationship with your Best Friend – the one who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
If you would like to try hearing from God today, here is an exercise to kick start your journey:
Sit down in a quiet place. Still yourself before the Lord. (Optional: put on some quiet instrumental or distractionless worship music)Imagine yourself in one of your favorite peaceful places- what does it look like? Imagine that the Lord walks up to you and asks if He can join you. His love toward you is evident. You ask the question: What do you want to say to me? Take your control off the picture and let whatever next thoughts come into your mind. Write down whatever you see, hear, sense/feel etc. Enjoy your time!
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