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How to Hear God’s Voice (part 1)

If you’ve grown up in a controlling religion, you may have been taught that your intuition is bad. Your heart is deceitful. Your feelings cannot be trusted.

Adding anxiety and OCD to the mix makes it extra confusing. Your feelings really can’t be trusted all the time. You feel like giving up in despair.

Is it possible to gain an understanding of God’s will? Can you feel his Spirit guiding you in everyday life?

Mark Thibodeaux, in his book, God’s Voice Within, believes that we can hear God’s voice speaking to us about our everyday decisions. He quotes Ignatius of Loyala, who did extensive research about how to tell the difference between God’s voice and the voice of the enemy—or our own anxious thoughts. Ignatius says,

“The good angel touches the soul gently, lightly, sweetly, like a drop of water going into a sponge. The evil spirit touches it sharply with noise and disturbance, like a drop of water falling onto a stone.”

Mark Thibodeaux summarizes Ignatius’s teaching like this. When I’m on the right path:

o “I feel a little nervous, but deep down, I’m at peace

o I don’t have all the answers, but I feel confident God will lead me step by step. Despite my lack of certainty, I feel I am walking in the light.”[1]

This sounds a lot like walking by your values… even if OCD is telling you something else. You don’t have to feel completely free from distress to move forward. Even if you don’t have certainty, you can trust God to lead you. Even if you feel tormented by OCD thoughts and doubts, you can head toward the light God is giving you.

But what about those times when you’re in a downward spiral of doubt and anxiety? During those times, Ignatius comments that “often the person will do something—anything—to get out of this discomfort.”[2] But Ignatius says that during those times, we need to continue on with our original plans—not making big changes or decisions.

This sounds a lot like the concept of continuing in the direction you have decided with God, your therapist, and your trusted guide… even if your mind seems to be telling you to change course.

What are some signs that the voices you are hearing are not from God?

o “I feel fearful, anxious, or disquiet deep down

o I am agitated and confused. I am fretful about the future. I’m groping in the dark.

o I do not feel God’s presence.

o I feel paralyzed. I feel tepid, bored, slothful, lazy. I feel unattracted to faith, hope, and love.

o I am stirred to inaction or to action that severs ties and burns bridges with good things and people in my life.

o I am moved to neglect healthy, well-established relationships and to neglect prayer, church, and healthy behaviors. I am attracted to bad influences in my life.”[3]

Doesn’t that sound a lot like the voice of OCD, anxiety, or controlling religion? If your deep disquiet, agitation, fretting, and moving away from good things in your life, this is not the voice of God guiding you. You can safely ignore it. Continue with the plans you made when you were thinking clearly. Stay true to your values.

[1] Mark Thibodeaux, God’s Voice Within, 198 [2] Mark Thibodeaux, God’s Voice Within, 69 [3] Mark Thibodeaux, God’s Voice Within. 198

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