Do you ever wonder if you have ever heard God speaking to your heart? Really heard Him for yourself? Or have you ever had a thought come into your mind out of the blue and thought, "Is that my own imagination? Is that God speaking to me?" Those are questions that I think we all ask. How can I know when God speaks to me? Or, on the other hand, what if I THINK God is speaking to me, but really it's just my own thoughts?!
The verse we hear most often in reference to "hearing the voice of God" comes from Jesus in John 10:27 where He said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." This has often led me to wonder why it is that I don't always know when I am hearing God speak to my heart. I'm left wondering how I can be His sheep and still not know His voice. But notice that Jesus said that not only do the sheep hear His voice, but He KNOWS them.
Jesus knows how to speak to each one of us, and He does this differently for us all. For example, in the Bible we can read about how the Lord spoke out loud to Abraham, but a burning bush is what caught Moses's attention when He first heard from God. He directed the children of Isreal with a pillar of fire at night, but He called Samuel in a familiar voice when he was sleeping.
It is important to know that God doesn't want to play games with us--He is not a God who wants us to struggle to hear Him and then laughs when we make a mistake. You can read in Matthew chapter 7 how Jesus compared the love of our Heavenly Father to that of our earthly dads. He wants to bless us, He wants us to hear and know Him, and He delights in His children. You can trust that God will speak to you as a loving Father who intimately knows the way you think, the doubts you may have, and the inmost person of your heart.
Another important thing to consider is HOW we come to recognize His voice. Just as with anyone, we LEARN to recognize His voice the more we listen to Him. And the primary way that we can hear God's heart, His voice, and His words is through the Bible! As you spend time reading His Word, you will become accustomed to the quiet way the Holy Spirit teaches you in it. When you read a passage of the Bible, and sense God's conviction and are reminded of His promises to you, this is the voice of God speaking to you!
To become familiar with the voice of our Savior is to let His Word penetrate our hearts on a daily basis that we might begin to recognize His voice!
Another beautiful part of spending time in the Bible is that we also receive a firm foundation of truth--Jesus said to His Father in Heaven, "Sanctify me by your truth--Your WORD is truth." So as we read and study the Word of God, the truths He teaches us will also resonate with us when we hear His voice outside of our reading time. You may be at the grocery store on your way to the car when you see an item in the cart that you forgot to pay for by accident. And a voice in your heart says, "Go back. It doesn't belong to you. Be honest." And perhaps this may follow with in inward dialogue on the ethical benefit of paying for the item--"Really is it worth that much anyway? I mean, Walmart already has bazillions of dollars, do they really need the $2.27 for this dish soap?!" (may or may not have been me stalled with my cart in the middle of the blazing parking lot debating this with myself last week :)
So, in those moments (that we ALL have, I know) we will be able to recognize the voice of God in us as the same voice we hear in His Word! Does the voice in your head match the heart of God you see in the Bible? When you feel "prompted" (a Christian word for a hunch or thought that isn't exactly your own) to go and tell someone God loves them, or maybe to ask your waitress if you can pray for her, ask yourself, "Is this consistent with the heart of God?"It would certainly make sense for God to want to use you to share His love with someone, or to reach out and pray for a stranger. However uncomfortable that may be! :) But the truth is, because God is such a loving Father, even IF it were only your own thought and you acted out of obedience to what you believed to be God speaking to you, He loves you! God is never disappointed in us for acting in faith!
We won't be perfect--that day is saved for Heaven, but take comfort in knowing that you have a Father in Heaven who has made His voice known to you in His Word, who KNOWS how to speak to you, and loves us even when we make mistakes. There will certainly be times we hear God telling us to take a step of faith in our heart (like speaking to a stranger or even returning dish soap) and we may not always obey. And as the Holy Spirit gently convicts us of our lack of faith or our unwillingness to listen, He always restores us and speaks to us again.
Be comforted knowing that Your Father in Heaven delights in you today. And spend time getting to know Him and His voice in His Word today. He always speaks to us there. :)