How well do you know God’s voice? How do you know when you’re being led by His voice and not your own?
When I read the question, I had a leap in my spirit—an unction is what the elders of yesteryear would call it, a bearing witness of sorts, a physiological response to a spiritual concept.
I have been in search of this question for many years. I was taught that the still, small voice that points you to doing right is God. And that we have to be still and silent enough to hear it, humble enough to obey it, and trust it enough to follow it. I remember years later a teacher using that same definition to define one’s conscience. For me, I recognized the voice of God had evolved; I too evolved. I experienced this and I recognize this as God.
I remember hearing a phrase that says, “God speaks to us in languages we understand.” That’s why in the Bible, Jesus told parables of fish to fisherman and crops and seeds to farmers. God will use experiences we can personally relate to to speak to us. My mother would tell my brothers and me as children that a parable is nothing more than “God using earthly things to give a heavenly message.” I experienced this and I recognize this as God.
God also told me that He will speak to us in voices we recognize and oftentimes respect. Through meditations of my heart, I hear direction and encouragement in the voice of one of my late grandparents, or my departed mentor, or my late childhood bishop. I shared a thought that for an infant staring helplessly and in need into his mother's eyes, gazing in awe at the figure behind the haze of new life, the first voice and face of God he will know is of that of his mother. Even before realizing it, a child knows his parents' voice and parents know the voice of their child. I have experienced this and recognize this as God.
I live by the phrase, “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.” For me, that means God will allow situations to align synchronously for our well-being --running late and ended up missing a car accident, or taking a different route to work and seeing your friend on the side of the road, or even saying a person’s name aloud or thinking of them, and they call you. These are all examples of a larger plan in action designed for your good. I have experienced this and recognize this as God.
In my late twenties, I was a part of a musical theater production of The Color Purple. During the final scene, there is a lyric in the reprise that goes, “God is inside me and everyone else that ever was or ever will be. I came into this world with God and when I finally looked inside I found it just as close as my breath is to me.” And I remember those words speaking to me. I pictured God, perhaps for the first time, as not only being outside of me, but a presence that was always there and everywhere-- a force that was inside me and outside of me at the same time.
I thought about when I prayed within, I heard my own voice, and when my prayers were responded to inside of me, I heard my own voice. And when I finally allowed myself to lean into—not the sound or the language or the timbre—but the experience, the relationship, the surrender, I’m reminded that God was their all the time. God in all of His omniscience and sovereignty can and is able to get a message to us however He sees fit and however we will best receive it. Is it a constant pull to sing again? Do you hear your departed grandmother reminding you to do right? Or did you drop a book and it fell open to a passage you needed to see? Maybe "something" just won't leave you alone about a certain issue? Might these be the voice of God?
I think in any regard, knowing any voice is about intentional relationship. Spending quality time, talking less, actively listening, setting self-serving motives aside, and prioritizing the relationship—all things to be said also when getting to know God and the voice of God.
Leaning into God’s voice rather than one’s own, I think reduces to a few principles. One is slowing and stilling oneself to hear and respond. I believe the quiet place is where God finds us. I also believe that God whispers before the thunder, so if God found you in clamor, a helpful exercise might be to trace back the lines to see where God's voice might have been drowned out.
I believe God’s voice will also be right; that is, steeped in, defined by, and coursed in being and doing the right thing. There might be a lot of questions and uncertainties, but we all know right. That little piece of right in us that connects with the big rightness of God, I believe speaks the concept of God being in us.
All in all, I think it’s a multi-prong series of questions to ask when asking, "How do you know when you’re being led by His voice and not your own."
1. Do you know God?
2. Does God know you?
3. Do you know God’s voice?
4. Does God know yours?
And when it comes to being led—simply put, do you trust God? Does God trust you?
You're more connected than you realize. Purpose yourself to hear the voice of God in whatever form it finds you. Anybody committed to His voice? Hear, hear!