I longed for a clear sign. My husband and I were about to make a life-altering decision, but all I felt was uncertainty and confusion.
Should we stay or should we go? And if we stayed, what would that mean for our family?
In scripture, we’re told that the God we serve is not one of confusion. So, the chaos I felt in my head was not a result of him but of looking to other sources for my answers. Internet searches. Weighing pros and cons. Consulting with family and friends.
All these voices telling me what or what not to do soon became a source of endless chatter. But rather than feeling informed, I felt overwhelmed.
While all of these methods of decision-making weren’t necessarily bad, I realized one day that I’d spent very little time sitting before God, praying, and seeking. If my heart’s desire was to know his will, wouldn’t prayer and time in his presence be a good place to start?
When we want to hear from God, I think we often make it more difficult than it actually is. Lord knows I do. Last spring, I led a women’s Bible study about becoming unstuck in our spiritual walk, and the single most common frustration I heard from women was that they had difficulty discerning God’s voice.
The good news is that God wants to communicate with us. His ways of reaching us are limitless because he is infinite. But how do we know we’re hearing from him and not conjecturing something out of our own heads? When we step out in faith, how can we be confident we’re following him and not our own wants?
The more I get to know Jesus, the more I learn he does speak to me. Although I’ve never heard an audible voice, I have to filter out the noise to sense him speaking to my heart. Here are a few characteristics of God’s voice that I’ve come to recognize:
- It’s not hurried.
I believe when danger is imminent, the Spirit often warns us. And there are seasons when there will be more deadlines and busyness than others. While we are to be diligent and make good use of our time, our God is a relational being. His Word uses terms like “rest,” “abide,” and “still,” but I don’t recall the gospels telling us Jesus rushed to get places, even when he had a lot of work to do.
When we make people feel like check marks on our to-do list, it stings. And to be honest, I think it hurts God too.
If we want to hear him, we have to stop scrolling and rushing long enough to listen.
We sit. We wait and slow down because his presence is worth it.
- It’s consistent and steady.
When we see the Lord change his mind about something in scripture, it’s about withholding judgment. We see this in Exodus when Moses convinces him not to destroy the entire nation of Israel after worshipping a golden calf in place of their God. (Exodus 32:14)
However, when it comes to God’s ultimate will for our lives, it remains unchanging. We’re to love him and honor him. We’re to be an extension of his love to those we do life with and draw others to Christ through our words and actions.
If we follow this simple command, we don’t have to stay in limbo, wondering if we misheard him. We take the next step forward, and when we’re ready, he’ll reveal more of his plan to us.
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV
- It’s a voice that propels, not threatens.
I’ve made a lot of poor decisions that were based on a fear of missing out rather than seeking God’s will. I’ve overcommitted, spread myself too thin, and made people-pleasing first on my agenda.
But here’s the thing. Saying “yes” to God often means saying “no” to others. It often means saying “no” to activities that seem good and worthy of our time. However, upon closer examination, they’re not the best God has for us.
To produce the best fruit in us, God has to prune the good fruit too. (John 15:2)
He does this not with anger and vengeance but with love. Not with threats but with an invitation to more.
By lifting the burdens that are weighing us down, he’s able to propel us into the future he has for us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
Hebrews 12:1 NIV
Remember our big decision? Well, when I finally got alone with God, I saw the answer. His leading was clear, and my husband and I made the choice without reservation.
It wasn’t easy, but we knew it was the right path. And in time, he affirmed it, over and over again.
Following God doesn’t mean our roads won’t be difficult. Sometimes, there are turbulence and bumps that make us question whether we heard him at all. Other times, there’s pain and heartache.
But in the midst of the highs and the lows, there’s also peace. There’s a soul-deep knowledge that no matter what, he’s right there, holding us close as we move forward in faith.
It’s an irreplaceable feeling. It’s an unspeakable joy.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Abby McDonald.