Discerning God's Voice When Emotions are Involved
Some of my most embarrassing failures to hear God’s voice have been the greatest opportunities for learning to discern His voice. Learning to hear God’s voice is not a science. There are some keys that will help you, but ultimately, it is one of those things that you learn through experience. And failure. Learning to hear God when emotions are involved is especially difficult and where I find the most difficulty in discerning His voice. So, not surprising, it is in those emotion-charged situations where I have learned the hardest way...
Let me tell you a secret. I have shared this with a few people before, but honestly, it is something that still hangs over me mocking me for my immaturity and lack of wisdom at the time!
Let me paint the picture. We were fresh out of a month of learning to hear God’s voice and growing in praying for miracles and healing. Mark and I had been married a couple of years, and knew the basic wisdom in terms of giving prophetic words - avoid prophesying about ‘mates, dates and babies’ for example, as they are notoriously difficult to prophesy about with accuracy.
Anyway, a couple (they were the Pastors at the time) at the church we were attending were at risk at miscarrying their first child. Mark and I were ‘faith’/presumption filled and prayed with them about the child. We went home and continued to pray for them. I was emotionally affected by the wife’s obvious distress at potentially losing the child, and we both declared in prayer that the child would live. Shortly after we returned to the couple and told them we felt the child would live. It wasn’t that I felt peace about saying it to them, but I took the uncomfortableness I felt as just fear of being wrong and in trying to be faith-filled it must be ignored so I wouldn’t be wavering in faith. I think we felt that if we declared it, it would happen - presuming verses like ‘if you ask for anything in my name it will be done for you...’ would turn our words into action from God.
Yep, you guess it. They lost the child shortly after and I was thrown into turmoil. Not only did I feel very stupid (we had ignored much advice about the prophetic - don’t prophesy about babies, and always offer prophetic words humbly, with words such as ‘I think God might be saying...’ etc.) I also had no idea where I had gone wrong in terms of hearing God. Perhaps I couldn’t hear God’s voice after all. Did we not have enough faith? Why hadn’t the baby lived? I was brave enough to go and speak to the couple concerned and apologise for any false hopes we had given them and for giving them false prophetic words, and they were very gracious and forgiving, but I still had the battle on in my mind over what had gone wrong.
Over time I have realised some of where I went wrong:
Firstly, faith isn’t something you muster up. It isn’t words declared out loud because we want something to be a certain way. What difference is that to occult magic spells? No, faith is something that comes out of relationship with God and grows over time. It is a confidence in Your Best Friend. Just as you learn to predict with increasing accuracy how a friend or partner would react in a certain situation as you get to know them, so you begin to learn God’s perspective too. Yes, there are times when we have a gift of faith that happens for a certain thing, but on the whole it is a mustard seed faith - starting off tiny but full of potential.
Secondly, knowing what God’s divine will is, is not the same as knowing what is going to happen. We know that God’s divine will is that no one is sick. How do we know that? In heaven there is no sickness. We know that God’s will is that His Kingdom would come to earth, but that does not mean that the person in front of me is going to be healed right now just because I want them to. Knowing God’s divine will is not the same as knowing what is going to happen right now. That is presumption. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for people to get well. In fact, probably we should do it more so we can learn how the Spirit guides us in those situations! And so over time we can grow in praying for healing. Few gifts are developed without practice.
Thirdly, I didn’t actually have a strong peace at that time. I just had emotion mixed with presumption. I felt compelled to do something and in prayer I equated the strength of my desire for something to happen with it being what God was going to do. Dangerous mix.
Fourthly, because of my presumptions about God’s healing, I was unable to hear any other response from God at that time. I was unable to deliver a true message of hope to that couple, because I couldn’t get past the idea that the baby might not live. This is something that takes time and a growing trust in God. When Kaleb was about to be born, I was determined to have a natural birth and assumed that that was God’s plan for me because I wanted it so much. I refused to hear anything else. But as I have learned to trust God more since then, I have been able to hear things that seem contradictory to faith, and realise that there is a hope message there too if I can get beyond my perspective of things.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.
- Isaiah 55:8
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