People often ask my wife and I how it is that we hear God when He speaks to us. “Is it a voice in your head, a waking vision, a rumbling of thunder?” “Is it a verse of scripture that pops out to you?” “How do you know it was Him?” they ask. “How do you know for sure?”
I know that there are many out there who hear Him plainly and have a wonderful relationship with Him and could answer those questions well in their own way. However, there are also many that we’ve encountered who would claim that He simply doesn’t speak to them, or at least that they do not hear Him if he does. I know personally the pain and the feelings of abandonment that surface when it feels like God is silent or has withdrawn from me.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time establishing the fact that God does indeed speak to people; one needs only to read THE BIBLE for a bit or to study the lives of recent or current leaders who have walked with Hm to come to the conclusion (or at least be challenged by the fact) that He speaks to, guides, draws, or otherwise communicates plainly, symbolically, or prophetically to human beings in ways that sometimes respect and sometimes push past the limits of our physical and mental faculties.
So, the best question to ask is not, “Does God communicate to people?” The better question is, “How does God speak to me?”
If you are one of the number of people who find yourself asking this question, I would humbly offer a few simple suggestions and/or guidelines for your consideration.
First of all, God speaks to you because He is the God of relationship, he is not a theological construct. He is real. He is passionate. His heart is set on you. And so it follows that the way He speaks to you as an individual will reflect His intimate, intentional affections towards you and His deep, personal knowledge of all your internal workings and framework. He knows your thoughts, your history, your ticks, your convictions and doubts, your struggles, your strengths, and absolutely everything that has shaped you and made you who you are, and He will use that database of knowledge about you to draw you close to himself. God speaks to you in a very natural and personal way. He speaks so often and so naturally that at times it’s easy to overlook His advances. Maybe take a look at the book of Psalms, chapter 139.
Secondly, God has established times and seasons in the earth and in our lives that affect all aspects of creation and our interaction with Him. Ecclesiastes chapter three verse one states that there is a time for every delight, event, and purpose under the sun. Let’s say that God communicates with us, He doesn’t just speak to us. And to take it further, let’s say that God communes with us, He doesn’t simply communicate. God doesn’t send you emails, He whispers in your ear. Depending on the season of life that you are in or the season your region is in or the season the world is going through, God will commune with you in different ways.
If you are now or ever have been a mother or father, you will understand, of course, that children crawl before they walk, and they walk before they run. Oft times they want to be carried or have their hand held when traversing difficult terrain. I might tell my seven-year-old to carry her own water-bottle and look out for her brothers when we go hiking together, my four-year-old might be responsible for his hat, and my two-year-old might spend half the journey in my arms. No good parent would hold the two-year-old responsible for losing a shoe or a hat or a toy along the path. Most of us would, however, expect the seven-year-old to obey the simple instruction of not knocking one of her brothers down a hillside.
God holds us accountable to the words we understand and the season we are in with Him. To understand the unique way that God communes with you, you must understand the unique way that God thinks about you. Spiritually speaking, we do not retire from learning after God has taught us to crawl, then walk, then run. He is not done with you because He alone knows that of which you are capable. If you are a great runner, perhaps it’s time you allowed him to teach you how to fly.
Perhaps there are those of you reading this now who have followed Jesus for some time and now are experiencing difficulties and hardships and setback and disappointments. I would challenge you to not give the devil any credit for such things, (he is not that powerful and is certainly no match for our King) and instead consider that you are transitioning from a season where you have learned all you can and now God is teaching you a new thing. In other words, don’t blame the devil for God wanting to give you more responsibility. Receive the affirming words of your Father that you have been promoted and entrusted with harder relationships, larger territory, and a deeper place of rest and trust in Jesus.
Practically speaking, spend some time with Jesus, ask Him what he thinks of you, ask Him what season you are in together, and ask Him how he may be leading you to new depths and heights. Then, just sit and listen. Tune in to His voice, focus on His goodness. Be mindful of any thoughts or memories or videos playing in your head. Maybe a scripture reference will flash in front of your eyes. Even sensations as unexpected as a particular smell or taste or feeling on your skin. Simply allow God’s affection for you and acceptance of you to guide you deeper into relationship with Him.
I will end with a quote from Jesus during a time when He was tested on the very essence of His relationship with His Father: He answered, ‘Bread alone will not satisfy, but true life is found in every word, which constantly goes forth from God’s mouth.’