And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
(Psalm 9:10 ESV)
I’ve been curious about the topic of hearing God’s voice for a long time.
To think that an all-powerful and all-knowing God loves us so much that He desires a personal relationship with us through His son Jesus Christ. The same God who is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), capable of doing the impossible (Luke 18:27), and created all things (Colossians 1:16) sees me, sees you, and wants to be involved in our lives. (I’m in awe of that!)
But I remember being confused about what it actually looked like to hear Him and follow His voice in my everyday life.
When I was a college student, I felt particularly eager to understand God’s guidance. By the end of freshman year, I started questioning whether I should choose the major I had once been convinced about. I couldn’t imagine the career path God wanted me to take. I didn’t feel like I had a group of close friends like everyone else seemed to already have. I didn’t know which church I should be a part of now that I was away from home. Sometimes, I wondered if I even chose the right school.
There were a lot of unknowns, and I would have loved for God to stop me in my tracks and speak to me clearly. To tell me exactly what I needed to do, if I was on the right path, or if I had made a mistake.
That summer, I asked someone I looked up to in the faith a question that had been on my mind for months: “How do I know if I’m hearing God’s voice correctly in my life?”
Things didn’t look the way I thought they should look at the time. It felt like if God was speaking to me, I was missing it.
Here was the answer I received: “If you’re in a crowded room, and your mom calls out your name, you’ll recognize her voice because you’ve spent so much time with her. It’s the same way with God. As you continue to spend time with Him, you will recognize His voice.”
You may have heard this analogy before. But at that moment, when I first heard it, I felt slightly discouraged. I wanted answers right away, and this sounded like a process that would take time.
However, what I would realize as I continued to spend time with the Lord was this:
Hearing from God isn’t about a formula; it’s about intimacy, not instant answers.
There may be times we want a simple how-to guide of next steps more than seeking the Lord in prayer. And yet, 1 Chronicles 16:11 reminds us, “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
There may be times we’d rather have bold signs than scripture. And yet, Psalm 119:105 reminds us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
There may be times we believe we’d feel more secure by knowing the details of the future, rather than knowing God more. And yet, Isaiah 26:3, says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
There may be times we put more hope in specific outcomes than in trusting God’s faithful character no matter what happens. And yet, Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Have you found yourself eager to identify God’s voice in your life? You’re not alone, and you’re not forgotten by Him. I’ve learned that the simple analogy about a crowded room rings true.
The more you spend time with the Lord and delight in Him, the more you will recognize His presence and His leading.
There have been times when going to God first wasn’t my default.
Sometimes, I’d go to my worries first. I’d spend a lot of time going over “what-ifs” and considering how I was going to fix things.
Sometimes, I’d go to opinions first. I’d ask friends and family what they thought, hoping that maybe they had the right answers or the right things to say. (This isn’t to say advice is bad; we do need godly wisdom from others in our lives, but we also need to seek God for ourselves.)
Sometimes, I’d scroll on social media first. Just as a way to pass time.
Have you been there, too?
None of these solutions compared to sitting before the Lord and spending time with Him, even in the most mundane moments. Creating a routine in my life where I’m regularly reaching for Him — not just giving Him extra time when I’m in an emergency.
This regular rhythm with God creates an intimate relationship where you can recognize His voice.
I encourage you to eliminate external voices that aren’t from Him by clearing out distractions, dealing with sin, quieting your heart, and meditating on His Word.
Learn about God’s character and His ways by studying scripture, so you can recognize when something actually lines up with the Bible and reflects His leading.
Memorize scripture to combat the lies and false promises of the enemy.
Pray openly to the Lord and pour out your heart to Him like you’re talking to a friend.
Draw near and stay near to Him — not because you need something from Him but because of who He is.
Can God give us clear signs of direction for our lives? Yes. Does God also speak in a still, small voice? Yes.
Can we get quick answers from God for important decisions? Yes. Does God sometimes require us to wait for an answer? Yes.
God is always speaking in our lives, and honestly, He works in a variety of ways. He speaks through circumstances, He speaks through His Word, He speaks through the Holy Spirit, He speaks through others.
There’s no set formula, but He has a set character. (And there are biblical principles for us to follow so we can identify what’s Him and what’s not.)
However, the point is this: Don’t miss the opportunity you have to enjoy closeness in your relationship with Him. It’s not about cracking the code to finally get God’s attention. He sees you, He knows you, and He will never leave you.
Knowing how loving and relational God is continues to draw me deeper into wanting to know Him more.
The greatest peace comes from His presence, even before an answer comes. The greatest peace is knowing His loving character cannot fail you, even if circumstances around you appear to fail. The greatest peace comes from honoring Him, even while waiting.
Looking back, I know where I went wrong. I believe my college-self was afraid that if I didn’t have specific details, my life would go off track. But I’ve learned that delighting myself in Him meant I was being consistently guided by Him. I didn’t have to hold the weight of the world on my shoulders if I was following the One who has already overcome the world.
So, I encourage you to seek Him first. Seek Him first like He’s the best friend you can’t wait to call to talk about your day. Seek Him like He’s the only glass of water that can truly quench your thirst.
The honest truth is that the most important moments of my life started with me sitting alone, with my Bible open. This is where I’ve been corrected, led, directed, redirected, given understanding, and obtained peace. God’s leading often starts with a willing and surrendered heart that is hungry for Him and His Word.
A heart that ultimately finds rest in Him.
(For further reading about what it looks like to identify God’s voice and His will in your life, check out Part 2 of my Trust Series here.)
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
(Lamentations 3:25 ESV)
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