I used to think that people who claimed God had spoken to them were crazy. With some people, I still do, depending on what they claim they’re hearing. But over the years I’ve rubbed shoulders with all sorts of Christians and gleaned from them what makes their faith so vibrant and relevant. Those whose faith I came to respect the most are the ones who both speak to and hear from God on a regular basis. And so, taking many of my cues from these spiritual mentors, I tried learning how to cultivate that ability to hear the voice of God.
Early on in this process I learned that extra wisdom and caution is necessary in the areas of romance, money, and power. When we want one of these things we tend to want it so badly that we can easily superimpose that desire over what God is actually saying. The desire itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a misinterpretation of God’s will regarding that desire can lead someone to do or say something really stupid. That’s why sometimes a random guy will walk up to a girl he doesn’t know claiming that God just told him that she is his future wife. I mean, some girls go for that, but most rational women will object. One of my favorite responses I’ve heard to that line is, “Well, he hasn’t mentioned you to me!”
It is wise to test the claims you hear from others, as well as the things you think you’re hearing yourself from God. (For helpful testing criteria, click here for chapter 4 of Bill Hybels’ book The Power of a Whisper.) It could prevent you from making decisions that cause you or others unnecessary (and un-“called”-for) pain.
So when I started dating my long-distance boyfriend, I asked God for wisdom and guidance. Since my boyfriend and I were so different from one another and because long distance adds a lot of strain to a relationship, I periodically asked God whether it was better for us to stay in the relationship or to end it. And when I made space in my life to be able to listen, I heard from him a lot regarding my relationship.
The first thing I heard, even before starting to date, was in response to my question of whether I should even consider talking to a guy that lived that far away from me. The answer was, “Proceed, but with caution.” What wise words. So take caution I did.
Through the next year or so, God brought images and words to mind that encouraged me in moving forward slowly. I tested what I thought I was hearing, using much of the criteria found in the link above, and it all added up. I always took these encouragements as “for the time being,” continually re-evaluating with each step whether the relationship had run its course or if there was still another step forward to take.
With each step forward, both my desires and the assurance I’d received from God gave me the confidence to keep saying yes. Within a year I’d not only decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man, but that God was delighted to bless me to make that choice.
I’m so thankful for all those people in my life who taught me how to hear God. I pray that he would soften my heart each day to listen to what he has to say about me, my marriage, and the choices set before us throughout our life together.
May you, too, be blessed with mentors to teach, space to listen, and courage to follow God’s leading.