God Speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear the indirect/subtle voice of God – Part II

Is it really possible to hear the actual voice of God? I believe that it is, and this is part two of a short series on how to actually hear God’s voice. If you missed part one, where I write about ways God speaks more directly, click here: God speaks! I believe God can speak “directly” using the Bible, a clear voice in your mind, an audible voice, and a slightly brighter thought, among other more obvious methods of communication.

God also speaks more indirectly, or subtly, using a vast array of different methods, and this post will only be a skim and a summary, and I will probably fail to mention several categories.  My personal favorite ways of hearing God’s more indirect voice include answered prayer, music, books, peace or lack thereof, and God’s beautiful creation. So let’s get started!

God speaks to us through creation. This is probably my favorite way of hearing the subtle voice of God.  For me personally, whenever I marvel at something beautiful in creation (like a sunset or mountain view), deep praise rises within me and I find myself wanting to thank and praise God for his awesome creativity. I believe that God speaks in creation to both prove his existence and to display how awesome he is!

Yes, this is Finding Nemo. What is so cool about tropical fish is that when the light is shining directly on them, they glow! You can really see the amazing color patterns that make them each so unique.

One time on a mommy vacation, I went to a beautiful tropical island for a few days. One afternoon I had some time to do some snorkeling right outside of my hotel room and saw the most beautiful tropical fish underwater. When the sun was shining on them, they lit up from within and the colors were so beautiful and striking. I kept noticing how perfectly the colors coordinated on these small creatures.  But then these beautiful little fish would travel into the shade and their colors would no longer shine; they would become dull. I could not see their beauty.  In that moment a thought popped into my head: “Heather, you are like these fish.  You need my light shining through you so you can shine brighter for me.”

We went camping this past summer in Wyoming and pitched our tent on this gorgeous lake. Every morning I awoke to this beautiful view! God speaks through creation. I believe what he is saying is “I exist! Check out my beautiful handiwork!”

God speaks through blessings and answered prayer. God will show how much he loves us by blessing us with really cool gifts.  A few years ago my childhood bestie, Hillary, was dying of terminal cancer. I had taken her to a Heart concert where we were enjoying the opening act from the nosebleed section.  Hillary was an atheist but very open to talking about God, and we had discussed prayer and “signs from God” quite a bit. It was announced that there was a “front row seat” contest which we promptly entered from our phones.  Hillary turned to me and said “Heath, you should pray and ask God to let us win this contest!  That way we can see if he exists!” 

“Oh no!” I thought secretly to myself.  God does not always answer our prayers in the manner and timing we would prefer!  However, I decided to give it a shot and bowed my head and said a prayer that God would bless us with front row seats.  Sure enough, we won the contest!  We had one of the best times of our lives rocking out in the front row!

Hillary challenged me to pray that we would win front row seats to a concert we attended together. I prayed. We won!!

Hillary received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior two weeks before she died. The moment she bowed her head and prayed with me is one of the best moments of my entire life.  She’s now in heaven where I believe she is praying for me and watches over me.  I can actually feel her prayers from heaven!

God speaks through Christmas:  Have you ever really stopped and listened to traditional Christmas music?  We all glibly sing Christmas hymns without really focusing too much on the lyrics, but many of the songs clearly and unmistakably share the good news of the arrival of Christ Jesus!  Let’s look at a few verses of some of the more popular songs:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing!

Oh holy night, the stars are brightly shining.  It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!

Hark now hear the angels sing, a King was born today.  And man will live forever more because of Christmas day!

Every year for about a month, people all over the world can hear God speak to them about the good news of Jesus, whom he sent to save the world from their sins and so we can have access to eternal life in heaven!

God speaks through unlikely means, including pain. Sometimes God speaks to us in our distress as a way to draw us to himself and so that we will turn to him for comfort and help, and maybe save us from something that is coming up in our future life.

God also speaks through loneliness. I believe what God may be saying is “I know you are lonely. I see you! I love you and I want you to know how much I love you! Open your heart up to having a relationship with me. I will fill up those lonely spots. I see your tears. I have created you for a purpose. I have a plan for your life!”

(By the way, the short paragraph above was not in the original draft. I just added it. I believe someone needs to hear it. Maybe it’s a person contemplating suicide. Why did I write it? It was a thought that would not go away.)

God is also a huge fan of speaking to us in unlikely and unusual ways.  There is even a passage in scripture of God speaking through a donkey! An example of God using unusual methods happened to my mom back in the early 1980’s.  At the time, she was a single mom of two young girls who happened to be a firm agnostic.  She was absolutely not looking for God, but you know the rest!

One day, as she was reading a book by Edgar Cayce, a secular clairvoyant and prophet, there was one sentence that stood out to her about Jesus Christ. Cayce said that Jesus Christ had fulfilled prophecy.  In that moment, my mom says a voice spoke directly to her and said the following: 

“Linda, I exist.  What are you going to do about it?”

That one sentence launched her on a spiritual journey where she eventually came to a place where she ended up believing not only in God, but also in Jesus Christ.  God used an unlikely book to change her life and the lives of her two little girls.  One of those little girls grew up to be a non-famous blogger of this post you are reading.

God speaks through everything: God speaks through other people, technology, books, all forms of media, music, movies, Internet blogs, the weather, dreams, visions, accidents, pain, coincidences (I call them God-winks), blessings,  circumstances, and the list goes on. Another indirect way of God speaking happens to me when I go to church or listen to a sermon online.  Suddenly, the pastor will say something that hits close to home and applies perfectly to what I am going through. 

Here are a few more ways that God can speak to you…

  • You will feel a peace
  • You will feel restless
  • Your way will seem blocked
  • Your way will open up 
  • You will have a burden for something
  • Answered prayer
  • Unanswered prayer
  • An idea that won’t go away 
  • A “divine appointment” with someone
  • One word (or number) that keeps coming up 
  • Something unusual or miraculous that happens
  • Someone will tell you about Jesus Christ 
  • You will feel a conviction of sin

Here is the bottom line of this post: God speaks more than we realize.  He usually speaks a bit more indirectly, although for newbies he actually tends to be more obvious. God will draw people who do not yet know him with both his love and his conviction of sin. He will always be consistent with his word (the Bible). God speaks to everyone a bit differently. It is a process to learn how to hear his voice. 

Here is a hint I learned the hard way on how to hear from God. First, pray and ask God to speak to you.  Wait a moment.  If nothing happens, go about your life.  After awhile, something will happen. It may be a voice, a thought, a circumstance, a blessing, or your mom will say something completely random that applies to something in your life.  You will stop in your tracks and say to yourself, “Wait, was that God?”

Yes, it was!  If you are not sure that God exists or even if he cares about you (or the rest of humanity), why don’t you say a prayer, asking him to reveal himself to you?  And then sit back and see what happens.  Give it a little time and don’t give up.  Keep knocking!  He will answer!

I want to close with a personal story that illustrates the concept of God’s indirect voice.

The blog that you are now reading is over four years old, but it really started nine years ago with an idea that would not go away. The idea was this:

You should start a blog.

That’s it. It was not even spoken in the King James Version. 🙂 I’m not even 100 percent sure the thought was from God. But the thought would not go away. I argued with myself for about four years before I began to pray about it. What stopped me from writing? I was afraid of failure and rejection. I was afraid that not even one person would ever read any of my posts.

This “loser blog” has now received over 15,600 views! I am grateful and humbled for everyone who has visited. My stats are very small potatoes compared to so many well-known bloggers, but my continual hope is that a seed of truth and faith will be planted in each reader that finds themselves on the pages of permission2speakfreely.com.

God is speaking! Be open to hearing his direct and indirect voice. He loves you!

Be open for surprises too!

You just might find yourself rocking out in the front row of one of your favorite bands!

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If you missed part one, where I write about ways God speaks more directly, click here: God speaks!

God speaks through sunsets: “Another day has quickly passed. Time is flying. Think about eternity!”

God speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear God’s direct voice – Part I

God speaks both directly and indirectly – directly through his Bible (pictured above, the small purple book), his audible voice (rare), and clear thoughts to our mind, among other ways.

Several weeks ago my husband found himself in a pickle: he could not locate his inflatable camping mattress anywhere.

He asked me if I had seen it and I told him I had not. Being the Godly wife that I am, I sweetly asked him:  “Have you prayed about it?”

No, he had not.  Typical male not asking for directions.  

He bowed his head and said a quick little prayer asking for God’s location services. Within a matter of moments, an answer came back in the form of a clear thought in his head:

“The mattress is at your office underneath your desk.”

He couldn’t believe it. Why would his camping mattress be there?  He did not even remember bringing it to his office. 

He grabbed his keys, got in the car, and drove to the office.

Sure enough, he quickly located his camping mattress, right where God told him it would be.

When he returned with his camping mattress in tow, it got me thinking: 

Does God really speak to us like that – so suddenly and directly?  I know that for me, God usually does not. 

This post is my attempt to help you, my Dear Reader, to hear the actual voice of God. If you have followed my writing, I am a fan of both qualifiers and bullet points.  Bullets help my brain to think properly, and qualifiers are excellent ways to include many angles and possible outcomes.  They are also great outliers of information that need to be considered when forming an argument or thesis. 

A few qualifiers in bullet form before we get going:

  • First, I do not pretend to have a corner on the market for hearing the voice of God.  I would say I am fairly sure I am hearing from God about half of the time.  The following post is a summary of what I have learned over 30 plus years of being a Christian and wrestling with this topic.
  • Second, in my experience, God tends to be more indirect rather than direct. It is extremely rare to hear a loud, booming, audible voice from heaven – although it’s not impossible.
  • Third, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, the number one thing He will be speaking to you about is that he loves you and would like to have a relationship with you. 
  • Fourth, God speaks a bit differently to each person.  He is more subtle with me; he may be more obvious with you.  God may give you amazing visions and dreams in the night.  He may give me nudges and slight impressions. Try to be open to the unique ways he may speak.
  • The Bible says that God is our Shepherd and his sheep (his children) will learn to hear his voice. We have to believe that God wants to speak to us because He is a communicative and loving Father, Shepherd, and King.  It is a process to learn to hear his voice.
  • God desires us to walk by faith, and not by sight. I suspect that this is why he speaks to us in more subtle ways. God tends to speak to us in a still small voice because he wants us to work at our relationship with him, and that means working at learning how to hear his voice. 

God speaks directly and clearly:

The following are several examples of ways God can speak more directly to each of us:

Audible voice: This is how everyone, at first, believes God is supposed to speak to people. I quickly googled “hearing the audible voice of God” and apparently, according to one study, up to 10 percent of Christians have reported hearing God’s audible voice. I have never experienced this and it is my understanding that this is a very rare experience.  Let’s look at the life of Jesus himself.  There are only two recorded instances of God speaking audibly to Jesus in front of other people. On the first occasion, Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist and is on the cusp of beginning his earthly ministry.  Suddenly, a voice is heard from heaven proclaiming:“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) God again audibly spoke later in the book of Matthew saying the same thing, but added in a command:

“Listen to him!”  

So although it is possible to hear God’s audible voice, it is not very likely.  However, there are several other ways that God tends to speak to humanity.  

Through the Bible: I believe the number one best way to hear God’s voice is to actually read his word to you – the Bible. Not sure where to start? Start with the book of John or Mark in the New Testament. They will both give you a bottom line version of Jesus and his earthly ministry.  When God speaks to me using the Bible, a verse or two will leap off the pages at me and will impact me more than the other verses.  That, or a specific word will stand out to me.  Oftentimes I get a “fragment of a verse” in my head.  When I look it up in the Bible, it is extremely helpful and encouraging and very applicable to some situation.  I believe this is God’s way of speaking to me through his word.

The Bible is a very special book.  When you open its pages, you are handling the medium — the physical object — that God will use to speak to you.  There are other objects out there used by people to communicate with the spirit world: the Ouija board and tarot cards being two examples.  These other objects are all counterfeits and poor substitutes for trying to satisfy the spiritual connection that we all long for.  

But the Bible is God’s.  It is somehow alive and works mysteriously when you read or listen to its pages.  There is a verse in the Bible that speaks to this:

Hebrews 4:12, NIV: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In my many years of reading testimonies of men and women who have come to believe in God and Jesus, they cite something along the lines of the following thought:

I opened up my Bible and read it, and discovered that it opened me up and read me.

Clear voice in your mind: Sometimes God speaks to your spirit in clear sentence form, as he did with my husband at the opening of this post. This has happened to me probably seven times in my life.

I just finished The Phantom Prince, written by Liz Kendall, Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend back in the late 60’s and 70’s.  One story from Liz’s daughter Molly uses this principle.  

One night Molly found herself in a dangerous situation with Ted.  She writes: 

“At that moment, having seen a physical change in the naked man who was no longer my trusted friend Ted, I started to hear something.  Maybe hear is the wrong word; it was like an invisible typist was typing inside of my head.  The words came out as knowing.  Somewhere deep inside me this quiet presence was feeding me instructions on how to remain safe: “Laugh and smile.  Act as if nothing is wrong.  Tell him you love him.  Tell him this game has been really fun but that you are tired, and you would like to go to bed now.”

Molly survived Ted Bundy that night no doubt due to the mysterious instructions that came to her so suddenly out of nowhere, and she attributed this voice as being from the Holy Spirit himself. On a side note, I studied serial killers and wrote a three-part series on my research.  I read many stories of women reporting a “voice in their head” warning them to ‘not do this, do that, go here, don’t go there’ type of thing. I believe that this is the voice of God attempting to help and protect them.

Still small voice/slightly brighter thought:

Another way that God speaks to people is by putting thoughts in their mind. The thought will always be consistent with God’s word. You’ll never have God telling you to go out and murder somebody, for example. But how do you know it is God speaking to you and not your own human thoughts?  This is probably my number one challenge but this is what I have come to believe paraphrased from a book I read:

The thought will tend to be a little brighter than all your other normal human thoughts. Think of your human thoughts as a 40 watt lightbulb. God’s voice tends to be an 80 watt lightbulb that will pop into your head. The thought will bring you peace and a sense of knowing.  

God also speaks in a small voice to your heart.  It will be quiet but you will hear it.  I know that these two ways seem opposite (a brighter thought and a quiet voice) and I will admit I have not quite figured this out yet.  But both seem to be true.  

In conclusion, my amazing friend Ragan (who is the Editor in Queen of this blog, along with my husband) once had a beloved cat that went missing for over a month without a sighting.  Ragan prayed day after day with no apparent result.  Sadly, Ragan had to move to a different home and was in the process of doing that. One day, she was on her way to a doctor appointment when the Lord spoke to her and told her to go back to the house. Ragan obeyed the still small voice and pulled up to the house.  She was delighted to see her missing cat waiting for her on the front porch!  Her cat was suffering from either a snake or spider bite and was badly wounded. She rushed him to the vet. Ragan later surmised that he was unable to come home because he was recovering from his wounds.  

What I love the most about this closing story is that God showed how much he cared about both Ragan and her kitty cat.  God spoke to Ragan with both a still small voice and a blessing.

God is speaking!  Let’s lean in and take a listen.  

For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. Job Chapter 33: 14

Stay tuned for part II of this short series where I reveal ways that God speaks more subtly and indirectly.

God speaks in a wide variety of ways indirectly – including speaking through his creation! Yes, that is yours truly,
enjoying the beautiful view. In part II, we will dig into the indirect voice of God. Stay put!