Recognizing God’s Voice

How do I know I am following God’s voice, His instruction? Isn’t it just as likely that I am following the devil or my own desires, not God’s will?

 

Here is what I have learned over 35+ years of following that “still, small voice”[1] of God’s.

 

  1. We have to know what our own thoughts are first of all—the repetitive, driving thoughts that came out of our childhood which try so hard to make up for those old guilts and shame. One of the best way to get acquainted with these thoughts that determine our own self-image is to journal as Julie Cameron suggests in “The Artist’s Way”“morning pages.” A way of journaling that is essentially a “mind dump” without editing or thinking about the thoughts in any way. She recommends three pages a day of just whatever is the content of your mind. After two or three months of this mind “dump” you will begin to recognize the patterns in your thinking. You will begin to realize the sources of each thought.

 

For example, there is enormous pressure in me to be on time. My parents were adamant about timeliness and I can still feel the pressure to hurry up even when I know I’ll be 10 minutes early. Now that I know that this is an old adaption of my early training, I can relax even when the thoughts and pressure  come up.

 

Other thoughts that are no longer relevant to today’s situation and to today’s self mostly start with “You have to…”, “You should do this…” or similar constructions. They are still trying to get you to make up for those childhood deficiencies. As you continue to do these morning pages, you’ll see that they are not relevant to the present time, only to the past, and you’ll be able to name the source of each thought. “Not spending any money!” from my Aunt Grace who had so little to spend. “Poise is most important in social situations” from my mother. And so much more.

 

When we can just observe our thoughts and not be driven by them, we can recognize God’s “still, small voice” more easily.

 

These voices from the past are the loud ones in our minds.

 

  1. God doesn’t think like I do! The first time I recognized God’s voice was in my early 40’s when I heard loud and clear in my mind this thought: “I have an agenda for my life!” Being a product of the 40’s and 50’s and a woman, there was no sense of an agenda for my life except to take care of everyone else. “And if you have a bit of time left over, you can do something for yourself, but it’s selfish!” This is the message that all women of my age were taught. So, taking that totally new thought seriously, I had to first figure out who the “I” was who had an agenda. And then, what that agenda was.

 

Another thought of God’s in my mind: “How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” I certainly wasn’t looking at what was wrong in our relationship, much less my part in it. After hearing this clear message from God, it took two years of me trying unsuccessfully to establish a better relationship with her, but then the Lord just bathed us in a cloud of love one afternoon on a railway platform where she was seeing us off onto the next leg of a journey. That cloud could not have lasted for more than a minute or two, but it totally changed our relationship. She no longer complained about me at all; from then on she was grateful for every single thing I did for her. And I could love her as she was. Later she came to live within 10 minutes of us and was a great part of our family for the last four years of her life.

 

  1. When God suggests something that I could do, it often leaves my breathless, just a few steps beyond what I think I can do. And then when I do it, I find it is effortless—with His help! He sees me so much clearer than I see myself.

 

  1. Sometimes He thinks thoughts right in my mind, and other times it’s like feeling nudges to do this or that. A lot of the nudges have to do with what to do next, like take another way home, or eat lunch at this restaurant and order this, or now your work is done today…and many other instances every day.

 

  1. Practically, as soon as I started following the Lord and His suggestions, I was committed to doing it, because, from the very first, they were always in my best interests. It only took a few tries before I was hooked. One of the first was to leave a cult that my husband and I had joined some 8 years previously. What kept me there was my tremendous need to belong, not ever thinking about leaving. One evening, though, one of the leaders was at our group meeting. No matter what she said, I was arguing with her. Finally, she suggested that we might want to take a leave of absence and think about our involvement with the group. She made sure we left—in the middle of the meeting—with the group’s blessings.

 

I cried for three days and then felt totally relieved. I hadn’t known that I wanted to leave. I didn’t know that I no longer needed the group’s approval or belonging anymore. It took my husband a little longer, but he, too, was relieved. That was the first time in my life I had done something just for my own best self.  Then I made a list of things that I had wanted to do but wouldn’t allow myself. That was my first task—to complete the list without judging it. A few months later I had a dream in which several of the leaders, including the one that night, approved of my leaving. So I felt affirmed for what I had done.

 

  1. For each of us God has a plan to heal our sorrows, guilt and pain and to transform us into the people He created us to be. I think of it as a curriculum, that if followed, leads us to our own true selves living in His arms. He will heal all that stands between us and God if we will follow His suggestions, if we will work with Him on the issues He highlights for us. All He needs from us is our permission for Him to enter into our challenges one by one—He does all the work once He has our permission. My experience is that I can feel the lessening of the guilt and pain, shame and fear in me, while there is also the growth of humility, love, peace and joy. I think of this life on Earth as a school until the day we die that teaches us how to love and to live to the fullest.

 

I would love to hear what you have learned from heeding God’s suggestions, from following His plan as revealed to your own thoughts.

 

[1] 1 King’s 19:12

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