I have struggled the last year and a half trying to hear God's voice concerning my future and where he wants me. I have sought his direction and have submitted my desires completely to his will. The only problem is I feel I have had no response whatsoever. What would you suggest?
- JM from Chicago
Is God Silent? (Part 1)
Sometimes we make it too hard. I have noticed with myself in the past that I was often "too spiritual" to hear what was actually in black and white before me. For instance, as I was working a job and raising my children I used to constantly beseech God for what he wanted me to do with my life.
Over time I figured out that what he wanted me to do with my life at that time was work and raise my children. Earning a living and paying bills on time was important. Investing in my daughters' character and godly upbringing was the highest item on God's priority list for me. God was very practical and his will was clearer than I imagined.
So, the first question to ask yourself is: what are my current responsibilities and what is my life situation? Are you married? God wants you to be a fabulous, loving husband. Do you have children? "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6). Nothing will have greater eternal significance. Do you have elderly parents? Help and assist them through their end of life.
I often used to see posters that said: "Bloom where you are planted." In other words, right where you are is filled with plenty of God's will for your life. However, perhaps you are at a crossroads and you could go several directions. You want to know which way is God's choice. Maybe you are in college trying to decide on a career or maybe a job offer is pending in another city and you don't know whether or not to take it.
For all the decisions you need to make in a lifetime you need additional guidance. Let's talk about that tomorrow.
Next: Can your own natural desires guide you into God's will for your life?
Your Preferences Count (Part 2)
There is a second way that people often overlook God's will for their life which is right under their noses. What are your natural giftings and preferences? We all have things we are good at, have a passion for, or have a natural affinity with. It is not uncommon for people to zoom right past their gifts and look for something harder or more complicated in order to serve God.
Particularly regarding ministry, it is important to understand your spiritual gifts because that is the area where God wishes to use you. Reading the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11 will give you an idea of the richness of the gifts that Christ gives to the Body of Christ. There are materials and gift assessment tests available which can help you identify the unique way God has gifted you.
So…as you seek God's direction, what would you LIKE to do? Are you really good with numbers? Your career choices should match that. Your ministry may also involve that same thing. Churches need financial advisement and accountability and wisdom with handling money.
Perhaps you get along well with teens. That's a natural then and maybe you should volunteer to help with Youth. If you feel ambivalent about what you have a real passion for, I suggest volunteering wherever needed within your church environment until you light upon something that really strikes a chord.
Sometimes other people can see you much more clearly than you see yourself. Ask a few friends how they see you or ask your pastor or other church leadership what they see as your spiritual gifts.
You mentioned that in asking God for direction you feel you have had no response. I often feel that when God is silent on an issue he is saying that you may go ahead and decide that thing for yourself. He honors our personal preferences. This is a silly example but we don't need to seek the Lord on whether to go to the grocery store if our cupboards are empty - just go.
Next: Yes, but can't I ever hear God's voice?
Learning How to Listen (Part 3)
Beyond all that I have said in the previous two parts, we should all be hearing the voice of God on a regular basis. God desires it; he is not trying to withhold himself from us and he does not delight in our frustration or confusion. God is speaking all the time but we need to learn to tune in to his frequency.
God speaks to us through his Word, through others, though our dreams, through our circumstances. He also speaks to us directly in a still small voice right into our heart. Learning to tune out all the distractions and distinguish HIS voice verses our own voice or the voice of the enemy of our soul is possible and highly desirable.
A good way to begin is through journaling. Journaling is a spiritual exercise whereby you write out your thoughts, questions to God, and impressions from scripture and then also leave time for stillness and listening.
As you still yourself before the Lord and focus on Jesus you will sense his heart and hear his voice. How do you avoid mistakes? You submit your time to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and ask for his help as you begin the process. You submit your journaling to a spiritually mature believer who can help you distinguish voices. You also screen what you write down as God's voice against God's Word. If it does not match it is not God's voice since he will never contradict himself or his written Word.
I highly recommend the materials about hearing God's voice by Mark & Patti Virkler. They are experienced mature believers who have been in full time ministry since 1972. They provide manuals and workbooks which are thorough and easy to use to guide you through the process. Their website is www.cwgministries.org.
Finally I say, rely on God's promise. "…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:4-5)