What is “hearing God’s voice” anyway?”
One of the biggest problems we religious folk have is our jargon.
Sometimes I wonder if we have any idea what we are talking about. Has it ever occurred to you that our speech might be incomprehensible to our average non-religious neighbor or co-worker?
Probably not. I say “probably not” because much of the time our highly specialized religious jargon is not even comprehensible to other Christians outside of our particular [and sometimes peculiar] Christian sub-subculture.
Take the phrase “God told me” as an example.
I use that expression allot, and I hear it allot in my circles. So much so that the scandalous nature of the phrase has lost its scandalousity …. Is that a word?
Seriously, what do I mean when I say, “God told me…”?
How did He tell me?
And how do I know it was Him speaking?
And was He really speaking? Out loud?
And how often does this other-worldly phenomena happen? Is it the rule or the exception?
So many questions, so few brain cells…
Jesus promised us that His sheep would hear His voice. This suggests that He is speaking but the questions remain, how is He speaking and how do I know it is His voice? Let me try to explain His voice as I have experienced it.
First, let me say that my experience of God’s voice has never been audible. To the best of my recollection, I have never heard the audible voice of God. I have talked to a few credible people who have told me of the experience of hearing the voice of God as a sound in their ears but, all of them agree that this was a very rare occurrence in their relationship with God.
Perhaps a better question is, “How does God communicate with us apart from the Bible?”
I say, apart from the Bible because the Bible is the principle way that God communicates His truths to us. It must always remain our primary source for understanding God’s messages to His children. But, there are many questions that the Bible cannot answer, e.g. which job to take, which house to buy, which city to live in, and most importantly, which person to marry. Many of the questions that keep us awake at night cannot be answered by studying the Bible.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God could simply drop His thoughts directly into our minds? Imagine having a troubling question about something really important and being able to ask God for the answer, then to have His answer come to your mind as a random thought. Wouldn’t that be a comfort! Some say that this is impossible. They argue that God stopped doing that when He finished writing the Bible. The idea is that once we have a book of His thoughts we no longer have any need to hear from Him directly.
Can you imagine a marriage working that way?
She says, “tell me again right now that you love me and are happy you married me!”
He says, “I wrote that in a card 10 months ago for our anniversary, I’m not going to say it again!”
They say the secret to a great marriage is communication, how much more a great relationship with our Father God?
What I find ironic is that the same people who tell me God will not drop one of His thoughts into my mind tell me that Satan routinely drops his thoughts into my mind – many times each day! And we call that phenomena “temptation”. If I am to believe them, I must conclude that Satan has direct access to my mind, but God chooses not to. Why would a good Father allow that to happen? I just can’t see Him doing that. I believe He speaks to us far more often that we realize.
The problem we have is not His lack of communication, but rather our difficulty in recognizing how He communicates to us.
One of our biggest hurdles to overcome in recognizing His communications is overcoming our cultural communication bias. Our culture of communication is big, loud, aggressive, pushy, and manipulative [think advertising]. God’s culture of communication is the opposite of all of these… a still, small voice. We are listening for a message coming with special effects and He is whispering. We expect a message that cannot be ignored, and He is speaking with a voice so subtle that should we be of a mind not to hear Him, we won’t.
When God drops a thought into our mind it usually sounds like one of ours – easy to dismiss. “What an unusual thought… I wonder why I just thought that? Oh well, it can’t be important…” And on we go, missing His momentary guidance.
The truth is that if we are going to recognize His direct communication we are going to have to pay much more attention to our thought lives.
How to do that and what to pay attention to will be the subject of my next blog post.