can I know when it is God who is speaking to me?
we experience a sense of calling from God, we generally receive
that experience with a degree of ambiguity. There are some markers
that I look for in the process we call "discernment."
primary marker is the presence of peace. Do I sense the presence
of deep peace, even if there is conflict or threat overshadowing
is a story of St. Ignatius of Loyola, if I remember it correctly.
Ignatius was seriously injured in battle. During his convalescence,
he found relief from his pain through his active imagination.
Two fantasies particularly occupied him. In one, he imagined
himself becoming a great knight and winning the hand of a beautiful
lady. In the other, he imagined himself doing great works for
Christ. Both fantasies gave him relief from his misery, but in
the time that followed his active imagining, he discovered a
remarkable difference in the quality of his consciousness.
he quit picturing himself as a noble knight, he noticed that
he was left without a sense of peace; he called it a feeling
of desolation. After he quit thinking about doing deeds for Christ,
there was an afterglow of peace, or consolation.
scenario gave him relief while he was actively thinking about
it. But when he quit thinking, quit fantasizing and returned
to regular consciousness, he noticed that one scenario left him
peaceful and the other did not. After the hospital, he chose
to live the rest of his life doing great things for Christ.
you are trying to discern the will of God, quietly sense the
quality of your deepest being. Wait patiently. Maybe use your
active imagination to create alternative choices. Again, wait
patiently. Sense whether there is peace or confusion, consolation
or desolation. Then do your best and trust God.
Rev. Lowell Grisham
central focus of our faith is the belief that God has entered
into conversation with us. The challenge is to be open to what
God is trying to say to us. That is not always easy because we
are bombarded with messages from many sources. Is it the voice
of tradition or culture around us, rather than an authentic word
from God? Determining that requires us to develop a stronger
sense of spirituality. The deeper we go on our own spiritual
search, the easier it is to hear the divine message. This search
involves a lifetime commitment. The joy of the journey into the
mind of God is that more and more we discover what God wants
us to do with our lives. We are being addressed. God is waiting
for our response.
do we know when it is God speaking—that is the question. The
first requirement is to check it out. The writer of First John
advises us to, "
test the spirits to see whether they
be of God." (I John 4:1). The first test is truth. God is
the God of truth—all kinds of truth. The sad thing is that
in the name of God, the church has sometimes done horrible things.
Think of the people who were persecuted because they believed
that the earth was not the center of the solar system. Remember
Galileo? Much harm has been done by persons claiming to have
the only answer to biblical interpretation. Such agonizing situations
could be avoided if we would check out the facts. To do that
requires a continuing commitment to learning. What has been proved
to be true is God's message to us.
way to check things out is to listen to the voice of conscience.
There is within each of us a sense of moral responsibility. One
way of judging right from wrong is to ask the question, "How
would I feel if every person in the world practiced the same
code of ethics that I do?" Some call this the test of universality.
A word of warning—conscience may not always lead us to do the
right thing. In the name of conscience, the most heinous crimes
against humanity have been committed. We have the capacity for
moral decision-making. Our challenge is to cultivate the highest
code of ethics.
the most important check on whether God is speaking is the Law
of Compassion. Jesus gave us the supreme demand, "Be merciful,
even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:36) Whenever we
are confronted with a human being in need, we can be sure that
the call of God is there for us to do whatever we can to help.
our Christian faith, we believe that Christ has set for us the
pattern of a life lived in devotion to God and in dedication
to ministering to human need whenever it confronts us. As we
search for truth and open ourselves to God's presence in prayer
and meditation, we will discover more completely what God is
trying to say to us.
Rev. Dr. Brooks Ramsey
way I "check out" what I believe God is saying to me
is by exploring both history and current events. Studying the
Bible provides historical perspective...keeping in mind Jesus'
message of love. Acknowledging God's hand in my life in times
past is my second historical view. Next I talk with people whom
I trust to be honest and truthful. The most difficult to explain
is my "gut feeling." Is my discomfort caused by a fear
of the unknown or God's leading me in another direction? I believe
that God created our minds and expects us to use them. The scripture
says if we seek we will find, if we knock the door will be opened.
The most difficult part is having the courage to move forward
through the open door. Sometimes moving forward is simply taking
one small step and then remaining open to God's leading.
I was growing up, people around me received messages from God.
Then these holy savants would tell everybody. Some heard deep
booming voices, as if God were calling from inside a hole. Others
saw what I imagined as a huge billboard, flashing with lights
like a Broadway marquee: "You've seen the Lord. Go forth
and brag about it." In smaller print beneath the headlines: "For
the Jesus hotline dial 4-h-e-a-v-e-n." Others heard celestial
music and claimed to have seen Jesus hovering over them like
a Blackhawk helicopter, perhaps calling, "Join Jesus' army
today!" These vision-seeing, voice-hearing people quickly
informed me that unless I was experiencing similar phenomena,
I was not a Christian. If God had not swooped down and yelled
for me— like the announcer on the Price is Right, "This
is God. Come on down!"—then I could not call myself
one of them, a Christian.
wanted to hear God speak to me. I wanted to say with certainty,
the certainty of seeing visions and hearing voices, that I was
a Christian. I imagined God in a game of chase, tagging me as
one of them, a Christian. But the fact is I didn't see flashing
lights, I didn't hear deep baritone voices, and I didn't see
a flying Jesus.
I figured that I did something bad, something wrong, not to be seeing things.
I tried hanging at home more; maybe He had been calling while I was out. I
said extra prayers in case there was a prayer quota to meet before you were
let in. I gave extra in the offering plate, hoping my generosity would speed
up the process. I even dragged myself to a tent revival, but I couldn't go
down the aisle to the screaming, baptizing evangelist because I wasn't seeing
lights or hearing voices or feeling the spirit. I stopped listening for God's
call and stopped waiting for a flying Jesus.
Instead of a holy transmission over some intergalactic PA system or that flying
Jesus calling out to me in a stopped moment of time, I finally heard God's
call swell up from a forgotten place, inside me. After all the waiting and
wanting, the voice that called was my voice, soft and weak, crackly and unsure,
hesitant and afraid. I knew this forgotten voice was indeed God's because it
rose above the noise around me—the noise of our culture's dos and don'ts
and shoulds, the noise of my making plans and controlling situations, the noise
of others saying who was Christian and who was not.
a moment that resolved all past confusion and discouragement,
I realized that this voice, God, had
been having a conversation with me all along, like Dorothy of the Wizard
of Oz having on those red shoes, all along. Because I was focused
on the call
coming in a Hollywoodesque way, on wanting to know when it would happen,
on thinking with my head instead of my heart, on getting what
I wanted when I
wanted it, I couldn't hear God's voice deep inside of me, all along.
God's voice was like being beaten up in a back alley. I fell
into a dark empty place wrought with hangovers and unsoothable
sadness, out-of-control anger and tears, mixed-up thoughts, lost
smiles and forgotten happiness. This stormy place laid bare in
me the raw understanding that I would need help to resurrect
myself, to find me. The journey of learning to recognize God's
voice was exhausting, and confusing, and humiliating, maddening,
frustrating, and embarrassing. I didn't have time for these problems.
This detour was not part of my plan, my carefully scripted scheme.
dark disturbing experience stripped away the deafening noises
dampening His voice in me. By giving up my plan, my answers,
my timetable, my agenda, I was able to create enough space in
my thick, hurting head to remember that I am a child of God.
I was tagged by God when I was born. God's visions and God's
voices came into being with me, as part of me. My back alley
mugging allowed me to stop living my plan; to listen and to hear;
to see the present; to live this day.
I knew that it was God speaking to me because I could hear myself call back
and my spirit became light. Years of heaviness were lifted from me. The burdens
of doing the right thing, of being chosen, of forcing my way down a path ceased,
and I was stilled. A new yet wobbly courage started to live in me, and I became
comfortable in my own skin, in my own circumstances. I felt safe and certain
and grateful. Nothing around me had changed, but everything was different.
knew that it was God's voice speaking to me because I could smile
do I know when it is God who is speaking to me? By testing the "message" against
Christian tradition, Biblical understanding, and talking about
it with trusted friends.