Throughout the last year, I have been trying to understand what it means for a person to hear the voice of God. In the Bible, there are a lot of stories of people and the ways they hear God. A lot of people see visions, especially prophets like Daniel and Ezekiel. Though Amos had prophetic visions, he was just a normal farmer when he heard God say, “Go prophesy to My people Israel.”Peter saw a vision to go talk to Cornelius and begin the ministry among Gentiles. While Jesus is among his disciples, I suppose he is the voice of God among them, since he and the Father are one. And once he leave, he promises to provide another counselor, the Holy Spirit. The voice of God is still speaking, then, to his people.
However,I still struggle with the concept, for a couple of reasons. In reading A Celebration of Disciplines, I definitely came to the conclusion that silence is a huge part of hearing God’s voice. Richard Foster, and other contemplative writers like Thomas Merton, points out that we have to be silent and empty ourselves of us and ask to be filled with Christ’s presence. Meditation is not emptying oneself of everything, but rather the filling of oneself with Christ. My first struggle is the knowledge that my own thoughts and desires can so often get in the way of God’s voice. How can I be sure that what I’m hearing is God and not just an echo of my own desires, especially when what I hear as God’s voice is what I want? And even if on the surface it appears that it’s not even what I want, what if there are deeper issues that I’m not willing to admit even to myself, and so all I’m really doing is masking my desires with the voice of God? The discernment of the Holy Spirit is tough. And that’s why I think he gave us community with other people. I feel like God knows us so well that he gives us a community to help us confirm what we’re being led to by Him. And maybe that does not always happen, but I tend to feel like that’s a big part of community-the idea of being one body and mind in Christ, so that he does lead people to the same place to help one member of the body make a decision or discernment.
My second struggle is related to the first. What happens when two different people or groups of people feel like God is leading them to opposing things? Both groups are earnestly trying to pursue God and hear his voice but hear opposing things. One hears “no” and the other “yes.”Say you had a community house and you were trying to decide whether or not to buy a car for the community. Five people feels “yes” the other five “no.” Is one group holier than the other? Is God speaking to one but not the other? I don’t know what the answer to this question is. It’s a complete mystery to me. The two groups just feel led differently, it’s not that one group didn’t trust the other’s discernment or listening. What is right thing to do at this point?
I guess the point of all this is that I’m still learning what it means to hear God’s voice. All I can do is trust that God is working things out and let go of my own desires.
Arg, life is tough.