We want the answers, but do we truly seek the God who gives them? Here are some steps to take in determining if that voice is really God’s or if it is your own.
We know that prayer is a conversation between us and God, and as such, we seek wisdom, direction, and purpose in our interaction with our Heavenly Father. While we should be practicing this discipline daily, there are times when it feels more vital than others. Like when we are in a romantic relationship, or when we are unsatisfied at our jobs, or have been trying for so long to have kids. At these cross roads, our faith is put to the test. We seek the answers, but do we truly seek the God who gives them? Here are some steps to take in determining if that voice is really God’s or if it is your own.
1. Be aware of your own agenda.
In situations where you are deeply invested in the outcome, take time to discern what your voice is – your desires, your thoughts and feelings on the matter. And then lay them down. It’s easy to pull the “Oh, God is just giving me the desires of my heart right now!” card. It is much harder to hear “No, I want you to stay in your dead end job so that you can be a light in a dark place and learn about patience,” or, “You will not have kids of your own, but you need to trust that I am good anyway,” or, “that is not a wise financial investment.”
2. Be prepared to hear whatever it is God has to say.
Surrender your heart – it’s wishes, it’s hopes for the future, it’s desires – completely before the throne of God. It is completely terrifying to be that vulnerable to anyone, especially to the one and only Being who controls your future. But remember that God is good, and He wants good things for you (Romans 8:28), and He already knows your heart (Psalm 139), and even if His answer hurts right now, we know God’s character, and we know He is worthy of our trust.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
3. Submit whatever you think God is saying to the wise counsel in your life.
The first two steps in this post are a bit subjective – “discern your own voice from God’s,” and, “get ready for anything,” but these next two are pretty concrete. Do you think God is telling you quit your job and move to Hawaii to minister to the tourists on the beach? I bet your pastor has some other thoughts for you, and more importantly, he probably has some good questions to ask before you take the plunge. Surround yourself with the wisdom of others who have made mistakes and humbly sought forgiveness, who went out on a limb and it turned out well, who just point blank have more life experience than you. Proverbs tells us time and time again to seek out advisors, and it warns us of the pitfall for those who ignore counsel and arrogantly continue in their way.
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:20-21
4. Use common sense.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. Yes, yes, God works in unimaginable ways, and He can do anything, and He is too big to be put in a box. True. But He also asked Jesus to die on a cross; He told Moses to wander around the desert; He withheld children from Abraham and Sarah until old age, He allowed unthinkable trials to fall upon Job, the list goes on and on. The point I’m trying to get across, is that if the answer is easy, and the path ahead is paved with the least resistance – well, maybe you should go back to step one. This is where studying the scriptures, and knowing the heart of your Creator is so very important. This is also where you can use that wonderfully capable mind God gifted you with. Most of the time, God isn’t found in those mission trip highs, He’s found in the day in and day out discipline of loving and serving even when it isn’t exciting. And perseverance isn’t usually cultivated by jumping from one ministry opportunity to the next, it’s found in waking up every morning and choosing to love your spouse, setting a good example for your children, and putting the needs of the church above your own.