Discerning….How to tell when it’s God talking to you.
If you’ve got to the spot where you are open to the first question (What is God saying to me/us?), then there is the second question: How do I/we know? Both of these are huge questions, so simple and so complex all at once. For all kinds of reasons, many don’t even ask the first question. (“Wait, you’re telling me you hear voices in your head?”) But, once you do, don’t be scared of the second one. There are ways to help us discern if God is talking to us or if it is someone/something else including just ourselves.
When it comes to testing what we hear/see/experience I like to think of a 3-legged stool. One leg is the Bible. Another leg is community. The other leg is our spirit.
You can put your full weight down on a 3-legged stool and can trust it will hold you up. Sit on a two or one-legged stool and you better keep both feet on the ground and even an extra hand because that stool is going to be wobbly.
The same goes with the 3-legged stool of discernment. If what you are hearing/seeing/experiencing resonates with scripture, community and your spirit you can trust it and put your full weight on it. Only have one or two of these, well it could still hold you, but be careful. And don’t expect anyone else to sit on your stool.
If this all sounds clear and simple, good because it is now going to get a lot more nuanced and complex. How do you test what you are hearing with the Bible, community and your spirit?
For starters, read a Bible. If you are seeking to hear and experience God more and aren’t immersed in the witness of Scripture, to me you are one scary dude or dudette. If you are already steeped in the story of scripture, great more to come on interpreting the Bible and hearing God’s voice in future posts. For now read the Bible and pay extra attention to how God speaks to and interacts with people. What does he say? What does God seem to care about? What do people who interacted with him do and say in response?
In terms of community do you have people you can share what you are hearing/seeing/experiencing and trust they can hear God for themselves and discern with you? Community can be one of the greatest aids and greatest challenges/hindrances to hearing God’s voice. More on this later…
There is also a lot to be said and learned about discerning with our spirit. Even using the word ‘our spirit’ is tricky and needs some more clarifying. God speaks to us through our emotions, our body, our mind, our soul. Are you in tune with who you are, in touch with your emotions, aware of your body, attentive to your thoughts, familiar with how God interacts with you?
This is all the basic stuff of discernment: the Bible, community and your spirit. And there is so much more…