By Jennie Xue, MTh
[Previously published by WKICU Warga Katholik Indonesia California Utara.
Read the originally published article in English and Indonesian.]
How often do you ask yourself, “Is this God’s voice or my own thoughts?” If you’re like me, probably quite often, especially whenever we need to make crucial decisions.
First and foremost, let’s rephrase the question. It’s better to ask, “How do we understand God in this?” instead of affirming, “Is this God’s voice?”
Jeremiah 23:35–36 (NIV): “This is what each of you keeps saying to your friends and other Israelites: ‘What is the Lord’s answer?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ But you must not mention ‘a message from the Lord’ again, because each one’s word becomes their own message. So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God.”
We shouldn’t be quick to judge a decision or an action as “something that God asked us to do because we heard His voice.” Why? Because if we actually did hear His voice, most likely, it was in our own mind where our thoughts also resided.
Inside our heads is an entanglement between His and ours, where the line can be quite blurry. However, there is a fine one, which is something that helps us “listen” to His voice.
And we can hear His “voice” in our minds through prayers or other people, such as parish priests, friends, relatives, and strangers. Most of the time, His voice isn’t audible. However, you could listen to an audible voice like Samuel did (1 Samuel 3:1-10) and Gideon (Judges 6:17-22, 36-40).
Thus, how can we distinguish His voice amidst the noise in our heads?
First, God doesn’t contradict Himself.
Any idea that comes from God always aligns with the Scripture. Thus, if you think the “voice” asks you to do something against His teachings, you know it’s not from Him.
In Psalm 89:34, God said, “Do you think I’d withdraw my holy promise or take back words I’d already spoken?” He will never ask you to do sinful or even hurting things to yourself or others. There is always a peaceful way to solve any issue.
Second, God doesn’t confuse us; He gives peace.
Read this verse: 1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” God’s voice may not necessarily affirm our preferences, but it will give us deep peace.
Third, God doesn’t fuel our resentment but asks us to focus on Him.
Whenever you hear a “voice” that fuels your hatred, confusion, or anger, it’s not His. God doesn’t fuel negativity but instead invites us to focus on Him through more profound prayers, reading the Bible, attending masses, or other positively peaceful and God-bound activities.
Fourth, God focuses on the heart of the issue.
God doesn’t fixate on the same problem as we do. Instead, He helps us face hardships with our hearts in Him. This said the rumination in your mind isn’t His voice, so let it go.
Fifth, God may not directly answer your question.
Whatever answer you’re looking for may not be directly answered, but He will guide you toward something or someone that may provide it. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” And be patient because it takes time for the answer to materialize.
Sixth, God doesn’t speak about others.
He invites us to understand our hearts, not others. He wants us to focus on living our lives with faith in Him. Thus, if the “voice” in your head speaks about others, especially in negative tones, it’s certainly not God’s.
At last, may we all face the world with optimism and faith in Him. Christ always guides us in our confusion and uncertainty. For this, no uncharted territory is too scary for us to face. God be with us all.
Written by Jennie Xue, MTh (jenniexue.com)