Once upon a time, I came to the harrowing conclusion God doesn’t really speak to me at all.
I was in my late teens at the time, if memory serves correctly. At the time I was surrounded by what I’d consider “spiritual greats”—people who walked so in lockstep with God it felt like seeing Moses part the Red Sea or hearing Samuel or Elijah give a word from Yahweh when I was around them. Couple that with the fact that I suffered a bit of prodigy syndrome—being told I seemed very wise and mature and spiritually connected as a kid, only to lose that connection as I stumbled through the confusing maze of my teen years—and eventually the natural conclusion seemed to be that God wasn’t actually speaking to me.
I wasn’t blaming Him. I wasn’t blaming myself either, really. It just seemed like God had His ranks pretty well fleshed out with all the teachers, preachers, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and other minister-types He needed. I wasn’t getting a divine download of super-spiritual stuff like they were; I didn’t get pictures or “words” or feel inspired to speak in tongues or prophecy corporately or personally. Usually when those kinds of things came up in workshops or classes at youth camps or groups, I’d bluff my way through them (I know, for shame!). I’d sort of dance around the fact that God wasn’t actually inspiring what I said; I didn’t want to let anyone down or be a disappointment to those who had high hopes for me.
Like I said, I wasn’t blaming anyone. But it was a desperate, lonely time for my soul. I looked around at those to whom God seemed to be speaking so clearly and wondered what went wrong that He didn’t want to speak to me. How come I wasn’t that spiritual anymore? Where did I lose the divine spark?
If any of this sounds familiar, don’t despair. Your spark isn’t actually gone. Turns out, it’s actually so precious and unique to God, it’s the very key to hearing His voice. All it needs is a bit of fanning into flame.
Unique Voice, Unique Hearing
One of the most fascinating things I learned while pregnant with my first son was how he connected uniquely to my voice. A little over halfway through the pregnancy, he started responding when I talked to him. In much the same way, my mother-in-law told me, I’d know his cry from a hundred infants’ once he came into the world.
The people who love us most usually take the time to get to know how to speak to us. For example, my close friends and family know I hate being called by my first name—it always makes me feel like I’m in trouble! Loved ones also know that speaking to me harshly, swearing at me, or speaking in highly technical terms are not good methods of communication; they’re also very well aware that if they were to try and communicate something important to me in, say, Mandarin, I would miss the point completely. Why? Because it’s not how I communicate! I receive and transmit knowledge through respectful, engaged, familiar/casual and emotional language in English, my native tongue.
Our beloved God, who both knows us and built us to hear His voice among all the noises of life, is a million times more respectful and understanding than even our most loved friend or relative; He formed each of us with unique talents, needs, and ways of seeing the world, all of which can serve an incredible part in His plans and purposes. But He is well aware that for us to successfully function requires a method of communication that is unique to the individual.
So, referring back to the example of myself—why wasn’t I hearing God’s voice? Why did it seem He’d gone silent? Because as I got older, I started expecting Him to speak with me the way He did to others. It took a long, long time for me to realize God speaks to us in the way we, as unique individuals, can transact, understand, and act from.
For me, this became abundantly clear in two separate methods: intimate conversation and writing. Once I became keenly attuned to the way God speaks to me through the writings of others and the things He gives me to write myself, I began to hear His voice in everything I wrote and much of what I read. Similarly, there are times when I’m in conversation with people—not a prescribed ministering session, but an organic heart-to-heart—where I feel a sudden rush through my whole body, and words come out that I know came directly from Him. The same giddiness I feel when writing a line I know was God-inspired comes when I speak a word I know was God-breathed.
When I look back at my life now, there are countless times where books and conversations had this effect on me; but at the time, I hadn’t trained myself to recognize these as the ways and means of God, nor did I ever think they were the way He might speak to me. Why not? Frankly, because they weren’t coming from what I considered “spiritual” sources—church/fellowship conversations about God-related subjects or books found on the shelves at the Christian fiction section—so I assumed God wouldn’t speak to me through them
What Are Some Ways God Speaks to Us?
Turns out, God is a lot bigger than we even think we think. He can use so many things to speak to people, and He can inspire so many of His people to speak through so many things! Here are just a few examples of ways I’ve learned God speaks to people, as I’ve had this conversation with fellow Christians through the years:
- Through “secular” music—some written by believers and some not
- Through preachers and teachers of various denominations and beliefs
- Through art and creativity—painting, drawing, writing, reading, etc.
- Through social work—both in a Christian and non-Christian setting
- Through film—both creating and watching
- Through social media—both creating and influence via posts and interactions
- Through nature—working in it, being out in it, exploring, preserving, and observing it.
- Through unique gifts and callings—everything from teaching to creating to dance instruction, childcare, entrepreneurial ventures, engineering, mechanics, technology, and more!
These are just a handful of fields where I’ve encountered people spreading God’s love and experiencing it. Sure, not everything in any of these areas is godly all the time; but for too long, certainly throughout my childhood, there was a sort of mindset that God moves and speaks solely in the things we deem “of God”, like Christian music, Christian movies, Christian fiction, Christian professions, Christian groups, etc.—as if God is limited only to that which already bears His label. But He is not! God speaks to His teachers one way and His writers another. He speaks to His musicians by tones and melodies they understand, and His artists with imagery that captivates and motivates their hearts. He speaks to His social media influencers often in quick, inspirational messages and His preachers in long, flowing speech.
God is Speaking to YOU!
So, how does God speak to us? I’d reframe the question—how does God speak to you? Where do you hear His voice and feel His power most strongly? It may not look how you’ve been taught it would, like from a church pew or in a small group or on a spiritual retreat…that’s okay! The world God created is not small, and the mission He has for His people is not easy. To go and make disciples, to bring people into the family, requires more than the five or six talents I limited myself to seeing as a teen.
In 2017, someone asked me what my function was—my gift, my purpose within God’s plan. From that moment on, my life was never the same. Now that I know how God speaks to me, I will never be the same again. Once you realize it’s not a matter of whether He speaks to us, but how He speaks to you, it opens so many amazing doors.
I can promise you this: God speaks to you, friend. He speaks to all His children. He wants to be in that relationship with us, and He is patient and persistent to reach out to us in ways that we, unique and fearfully, wonderfully made as we are, can each understand.
And when you find that unique way your Heavenly Father speaks to you, it will change everything!