What’s God Saying To Me?
Faced with major life decisions, we would really like to know God’s will for us. We hear a cacophony of voices influencing our decisions including parents, professors, and peers. Ancient Christians teach us that three main categories of voices compete with God’s voice: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must learn to recognize God’s voice to get wisdom.
How do you hear God’s voice? Many books have been written on this subject, so I will only touch lightly on it. I heartily recommend Willard’s Hearing God, which has helped me tremendously.
God speaks in many ways. But if we do not expect him to speak we probably won’t hear him, like a radio that is not tuned in to a station. It may broadcast day and night but never be heard.
So how does God speak to us? Elijah looked for God in the hurricane, earthquake, and fire, but God spoke in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). A friend of mine visited several college campuses to discern where she would work on InterVarsity staff, but she kept getting an impression of the name of a far away Muslim country. She spent two years there planting a new student movement, and met God powerfully during that time.
Jonah also heard the still, small voice—and went to a far away country to escape God (Jonah 1:1-3). Sometimes I wonder why I can’t hear God’s voice, then realize that I have not obeyed what I have heard God say.
God speaks to us in other ways: the Bible offers the clear, sure wisdom of God, and though it’s not usually be tailored to our specific situation, we gain confidence by knowing the clear boundaries of God’s will it lays out.
Advisors, mentors, and our community have incredible wisdom, but we seldom seek it. “Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisors they succeed” (Prov. 15:22). Don’t overlook your parents as advisors! You may not like their wonderful plan for your life, but they will probably surprise you with perspectives, questions, or experiences which turn out to be gems for you.
Our passions, gifts and personality often offer more personal clues as to God’s leading. God will tend to lead us, over time, towards what he uniquely crafted us for, though it often feels like we’re on the scenic route. The pattern of God’s work in our lives can bring clarity about the next step; spend some time reflecting on your life to see what patterns emerge. Life circumstances, such as what job offers we get (or not), certainly provide direction as well.
In 1994 Dr. Elizabeth Glanville, assistant professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, started a list of different ways that people hear God, both in Scripture and in contemporary life. As of 2005 she has listed over 40 ways God speaks. Why should we be surprised? God is a person, and more creative than any human being. Of course he is not limited in how he speaks!
Someone has said, “You can’t go against the grain of the universe without getting splinters.” Learn the rules of crafting a life that works well! Get wisdom. In the end it doesn’t really matter whether you’re the CEO of Citibank or a Subway sandwich artist. It matters that you are a servant. It doesn’t matter whether you earn $7,000 or $700,000. It matters that you’re a steward, that you live sacrificially, that you store up treasure in heaven. It doesn’t matter whether you work for Arthur Andersen or InterVarsity as much as it matters that you work with integrity, that you work for justice.
A friend recently told me about a friend of his, hired as an accountant for a major firm. As he progressed up the corporate ladder, he was taught “how we do things here”—little ways to make the bottom line look better. He refused to compromise his integrity. At first his company applied increasing pressure, and then persecution, hoping to force him to quit. Finally, they fired him. Two years later during the recent spate of high-profile accounting scandals, the firm rehired him to clean up its mess. He asked the man who had fired him, “Why are you hiring me?” He answered, “You’re the only person I know I can trust.” Wisdom means learning the universe will not change to accommodate my desires. In the end, character counts.