How Does God Speak?

Grace 101


If I gave this post a title like, “Three Steps to Make God Talk to You,” do you think it would be popular?  We want that kind of approach, don’t we?  God does xyz so, to get Him to do xyz for you, all you have to do is abc.  A nice formula.  Formulas are great.  If this, then this.  Works every time.

Except that God is not subject to a formula.  He doesn’t always do xyz, so all your abc may not get Him to do what you want.  Formulas seem right and they seem easy, at least understandable, but formulas have no place in a relationship with a real person.  Real people are far less than predictable, and without serious deception or coercion, far less than controllable.  And God is a Real Person who cannot be deceived or controlled.

Because God is a Real Person and greater than us and in authority over us, it isn’t for us to make Him speak to us our way.  We need to learn to listen as He speaks to us His way.  Under grace, we are free to stop looking for formulas and control.  We are free to listen and trust.

The title I did give this post asks a question that really cannot be answered.  How does God speak?  Well, I don’t know how He speaks to you.  I am barely beginning to understand how He speaks to me.  I suppose there is a generic answer where I could list as many ways of communication as I know from God.  I know He speaks to us through the Bible, although I also believe that the Holy Spirit connects with the truth of the Bible to get that message into our hearts.  He speaks to us through circumstances, through other believers, and through that small voice in our hearts.  And, yes, sometimes He speaks in audible or nearly audible words.  But sometimes He speaks in odd ways.  In the Bible He used donkeys and birds and a whirlwind.  And some people see visions or dream dreams in which He speaks to them.  And, at times, God has spoken through prophets and elders and preachers.

But none of that is particularly helpful if you don’t know how He is speaking to you.  And I can’t tell you that.  What I can tell you is that one of the most important activities of the Christian life is to listen.  He is speaking.  Trust Him and listen for Him.

The past few years have been a season for college in our home.  I am amazed at the breaks these kids get with their professors.  If they don’t like a test grade, they negotiate.  They might be able to get a few points added to the grade or they might get a chance for some extra credit or even some sympathy points.  (I don’t remember anything like this when I was in college.)  I can just imagine a student walking into class on the first day and telling the professor, “Well, I am a visual learner, so you will have to use a lot of visuals to get your message across to me.”  Who knows what the prof would say today, but I know what mine would have said:  “Well, son, you are going to have trouble in this class.”

Those who wait for God to speak their way might be waiting a long time.  I have heard people complain about this.  “I never hear God’s voice.”  “I don’t get anything out of the Bible.”  “I can’t listen to a sermon.”  Well, maybe you should ask God how He wants to speak to you.  Have you ever asked?  He may never speak audibly to you.  That’s true for almost all believers.  Nor is it extra special or superior when He speaks to someone that way.  It’s just one of the ways.

So, how do you discern God’s voice in whatever way He desires to speak to you?  Ask Him!  Tell Him you want to hear Him, you want to follow Him.  If you look to Him as a sheep to the shepherd, you will learn to hear His voice. (John 10)


Filed under Grace 101, Relationship

8 responses to “How Does God Speak?

  1. Tammy

    Isn’t it wonderful that our Creator, the Almighty God, WANTS us to talk with him? He speaks to me through my heart. I ask Him to guide me in what He wants me to do, give me the thoughts and words that He wants me to speak.

    He has shut doors that he didn’t want me to enter. He allowed negative circumstances into my life, guiding me to where he wanted me to be.

    I have learned that I don’t need to “hear” His voice. My job is to seek him with all of my heart. He tells me through His word that whomever seeks, finds.

    I have seen Him engineer and conduct a massive orchestra of other people and circumstances to put me right where he wants me to be.

    So I am saying that one of the ways He communicates with me is through life circumstances. He is real and amazing and I want to hear Him speak to me more!

  2. UnForsaken

    In the midst of pain I asked God over and over for this, but hardly realized I was asking or that He was answering.I had to be in the right place in just letting it go to begin to see His strength. The book “A Grief Observed”by C.S.Lewis was one way I began to look for Him because the people aound me considered grieving to be un-christian. I discovered it was the people I knew who disgusted me, not God, and that I needed His mind adn love, not thiers. The varied and individual ways God speaks to each of us must be one of His greatest gifts!

  3. Renay

    Pastor Dave,
    As I sit here crying after reading this I realize I do hear Him, sometimes I just don’t want to listen. My husband died three years ago and I still struggle with the basic why take a good, loving husband and father? I do know God has spoken to me through dreams. That might sound crazy, but it’s true. A few weeks after his death I had a dream that I was talking to my husband and told him how happy I was that he was alive because I had a terrible dream he died. He told me it was no dream and I said to him, “I don’t understand you look so happy.” He then went on and on about how happy he was. He looked great but I just couldn’t put my finger on how. It was so clear I still can see and picture the entire dream. About a week after the dream I stumbled across a book called Ninety Minutes in Heaven. If you haven’t read it, it’s amazing. This book describes a man’s visit to heaven. Sure enough what he describes in this book is exactly what I saw in my husband. This book described the happiness I saw in him and what he was trying to describe to me. Ever since I have felt a sense of peace, still very painful, but joy knowing where he is.
    Since then I have met someone who has turned my life upside down just when I was ready to move forward. I’ve posted about him quite a bit on your narcissists pieces. I feel strongly that God led me to figuring him out before further destruction, but am still devistated. I guess I figured surviving a nightmare would earn me some life freebies. I don’t feel I have the strength to deal with this, but found the strength to deal with the loss of my husband who was the greatest guy ever. Maybe the lies and manipulation are too much. I feel I was brainwashed and can’t stop obsessing over it. How do I stop? God stepped in and saved me from this monster, but part of me wants to ignore it and go back to the way I felt when he was in my life. I feel like God is yelling, “Are you kidding, what else can I do to make you see how bad he was?!” I know I was tricked into loving him, but not even God has convinced my heart it was all a scam, even though I heard it loud and clear.

    • Renay, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing your story. God is greater than our hearts. I keep saying that over and over again. I know the verse was originally referring to how we continue to condemn ourselves even after we’ve received God’s forgiveness, but I think there are many ways in which our hearts deceive us and hold us there–especially in cases like these. There was real love, depth of human emotion, and those are GOOD things, things made by God and intended to bring fulfilment and joy. But we are all so corrupt. Every good thing gets touched and tainted and sometimes devastated by that corruption–the abuser as well as the one perceiving the abuse. I just know what you’re saying. My own heart is terribly conflicted and I don’t know how to love safely. I know God calls me to love. I have, in the last few days, been focusing on trusting him to protect or provide for me as I attempt willingness to be vulnerable for the sake of loving in these desperately difficult situations, patterning my choices on C.S. Lewis’ comments that the only heart-safe place is the place free of emotions, otherwise known as hell. I felt God was calling me to be less self-protective and walk with him through the pain, because love never ends. But I can’t tell up from down. Nothing works. Everything is broken, and it seems beyond repair.
      I think I died again inside. I feel as cold and dead as I did three years ago when I had my breakdown.

      • Renay

        I’m so sorry for your struggles. There was a point after my husband’s death when I would lay in my closet for long periods of time smelling his clothes. I could not get up. I don’t know how i got up, but I did. From there, my faith pushed me along. Some days I feel powerful in my survival, yet other days I feel weak and helpless.
        All of our stories are so different, but we all seem to have someone in common. And your CS Lewis comment describes my someone to perfection. He is void of all emotion. But can you imagine living like that? Pastor Dave also made a great point, he said he added nothing to me and he is right. He only took and I won’t let him keep what he stole from me. I will no longer allow it. (I’ll try anyway).
        Take care. You’re in my prayers. I always look for you, so let me know how it’s going.

    • Renay,

      What an amazing dream! And what a blessing that must have been. God loves you.

      I believe that much of the pain and confusion of grief comes from one question: Who am I now that he/she is gone? The loss we feel is a loss of a part of ourselves. Finding ourselves again is becoming healthy, but it takes time.

      This is not the kind of counsel that can be shared well over an open forum online, but it sounds like you are in the process of finding yourself again. What you found is that you want to be loved and to share your life and heart. For most people, after loss, that is a revelation – both scary and wonderful. Yes, there are those who would take advantage of you in that moment, but what you learned about yourself is good.

      Again, this is way too blunt and I hope you will forgive me. You were protected from the monster, at least from a long-term relationship with him. You don’t really want him. You want what you had discovered in yourself. He was the scam, the phony, the lie. But what you found in yourself was real and good.

      So, acknowledge the separation of those two things. Embrace your heart and its desire. God has made you to love. At the same time, be thankful that you learned the truth about the user. Reject any idea that he was your answer or hope. God is your answer and hope. In Him you will continue to grow and find health.

      One of the main effects of the narcissist is the loss of self in the victim. This feeling is normal. But now, you must find the way to grow and love and be who you are apart from him. In fact, he added nothing to you. He just took what was already coming alive. This is the evil of the narcissist.

      Please don’t despair. God is doing something very good in you.

      (Repol, FellowSurvivor, Unforsaken, Troubled, and all – these thoughts are for you as well.)

      • Renay

        I can’t thank you enough for your lovely words. I have come so far, further than I thought possible. I will not let this man get in the way of my true happiness. I know God has carried me through the last few years and have much faith that He will continue to do so.

  4. Maggie

    Wow, I missed this post somehow and this morning when I am doubting my reality because of some N spouse issues I am brought to exactly what I needed. I empathize and relate to all that has been discussed here. It is hard to accept “he added nothing to you ” when there were years and years and children, and life blooming all around us. It is hard to accept the rigorous work of grief around this reality and the cycles we are brought in and out of but it is always comforting to know that God is with us always. He is trustworthy and true love. Thank you for all the honesty and directness I experience in these postings.

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