I was crazy about him. I had never met someone who understood me so well, who loved God so passionately. Everything about it was perfect. But we broke up, and now I’m so confused. God kept giving me all these little signs—like everything about it was right—and I was so sure he was going to be the one.
So why didn’t it happen?
Reading through the email from a blog reader, I nodded along—because I understood the spot she was in all too well. I’ve been there.
Maybe you’ve been there, too. But even if you haven’t faced that exact situation, the core of her question touches on one most of us have asked at some point, perhaps more broadly:
You were so sure it was going to happen. Little things kept confirming it and you just felt it in your bones. All signs pointed to it being right. When you prayed about it you felt peace, and even though you asked God to make it clear if the thought wasn’t from Him, it persisted. But now, it didn’t happen and you’re disappointed. And confused. If it’s not going to happen…why did I feel like God was telling me it was?
I think part of the answer is, when we want something badly enough, we start to see it everywhere. If you like a guy who drives a bright red pick-up truck, you’ll start to see bright red pick-up trucks everywhere. You’ll realize his jersey number matches the reference of your favorite Bible verse, and you’ll think it’s meant to be. But seeing bright red trucks and weird connections isn’t necessarily a sign, it’s psychology.
Another reason you may have felt like God was telling you it was going to happen, is that you’re someone who wants to find God’s hand in things. You’re someone who wants to assign meaning to even the mundane. That’s 100% how I am and maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s a good thing. I think the people who want to find God’s hand in everything are the people who begin to see in everything, God’s hand.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve been right every time I’ve tried to interpret the meaning of one of my God’s-hand sightings. If I was, about five different people would be my husband at this point and well, I’m pretty sure that ain’t kosher.
The thing is, not every intuition we feel is God speaking to us and even when see God’s hand in something, we have to hold onto what we sense Him speaking with an open hand.
Right now I’m reading through a book called Prayer by Tim Keller (highly recommend). In it, he tells the story of one of the spearheads of the Great Awakening, George Whitfield. When George and his wife had a son, George had the strong impression God was telling him his son would be a great preacher—so much so that he named his son after John the Baptist. But suddenly at only four months of age, John died. Amidst his grief, George realized he had interpreted his own feelings as God speaking to his heart, and had given his intuitions the same weight as God’s Word.
This story stopped me in my tracks. How many times have I done the same?
But does that mean all our impressions and intuitions are just imaginations of God speaking to us, not rooted in reality?
I don’t think so.
God absolutely speaks to us through our thoughts and feelings. From my own life alone, I could give you one hundred examples. Those are actually my favorite God moments—when He speaks to me so clearly through the collision of thousand little coincidences with my gut sense.
The point is that we can’t base His voice off feelings alone, because sometimes they’ll lead us astray. When the dust settles, sometimes we’ll look back and see that our feelings were God speaking to us, and other times we’ll look back and see they were just, well, us.
So then, how can we be sure God is speaking to us?
When our gut feelings are grounded in something other than, we can be more sure of them. Two big “other than’s”? Scripture, and prophetic voices through which God speaks into our lives.
Also addressed in Prayer is the biblical story of when God speaks to King David through the prophet Nathan, declaring He would build David a house on which He would establish the throne of His kingdom forever. David’s response is round in 2 Samuel 7:27, “Lord…you have revealed this to your servant, saying ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.” David had courage to pray because of the prophecy that was spoken over him. The fulfillment of his prayer? Jesus—who came through the line of David.
As Tim Keller puts it, the principle here is that “God speaks to us in His word, and we respond in prayer, entering into the divine conversation, into communion with God.”
Hearing from God happens in the intermingling of the intuitions we feel and the coincidences we catch, with the words He’s written in Scripture, and the prophetic voices He’s placed in our lives. It’s a divine dance of spiritual echoes between the three.
A prophetic voice could be something simple as someone saying “Hey, I see this quality in you,” all the way to something so formal as someone receiving a word from the Lord that something is going to happen in your life.
I love the story of David shared in Keller’s book, because it resonates with me. Many times, someone has spoken something over my life, and their very words were what gave me courage to believe it. Even more, courage to contend for it—to pray that it would come to be. That’s why it’s so important we call out the gold we see in others. God has written infinite potential over each of our lives, and it’s ours for the taking to the degree that we press in and pray it to be.
All that to say, if we want to be sure God is speaking to us, it needs to be rooted in more than simply our own feelings.
If you were so sure God was telling you something was going to happen and it didn’t, it could be that it simply hasn’t yet come to pass. Or, it could be that the sign you saw was God’s hand, but you assigned to it the meaning you wanted to see. Looking back now, some of those “signs” pointing me to believe someone would be my husband were really just God’s way of shaping me into the wife I’ll one day be, while others were God helping me get unstuck from where I was by showing me there were good things ahead outside the limited perspective of what my own two eyes could see.
Lastly, if you were so sure God was speaking to you and it didn’t happen, there’s the plain ‘ole possibility those feelings weren’t rooted in something “other than,” and it wasn’t God speaking to you at all—hard as that may be to hear.
But the good news is, even if it wasn’t God speaking to you in that specific situation, He does want to speak to you—always, in every single situation. Don’t stop searching out His voice—you doing so speaks of a heart that is hungry to hear from Him and eager to enter into His presence and commune with Him—and that desire brings Him delight.
When it comes to hearing from God, we’re gonna get it right sometimes, and other times we’re gonna think we heard from Him when really, we didn’t. That’s okay. If you strike out, keep batting. Keep seeking Him out, keep spending time in His Word—where you can best familiarize yourself with the contours of His voice.
Even when we get it wrong when it comes to hearing from God, the beautiful, unshakeable truth is that we have a God who does desire to speak to us and breathe His words of life into our hearts. The God of the universe wants to speak to YOU. And you heard that, right.
Hello I’m Kaci!
I love encouraging and discipling others in the Word of God, and I really love the One it all points to: Jesus.
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This was such a great read! Thanks for putting into words exactly what I’ve been navigating through for the last few years. The key is, and you said it, is the open handedness – that way, we’re courageously taking a leap of faith and simultaneously revering His sovereignty and goodness!
Thanks so much, Lauren! I’m glad you liked it. and yes, open handedness! Because there totally are times God calls us to have faith in things He’s called us to, even when circumstances may cause us to doubt. The way you put it could not have been said any better!
This part that you wrote was absolute golden: "But the good news is, even if it wasn’t God speaking to you in that specific situation, He does want to speak to you—always, in every single situation. Don’t stop searching out His voice—you doing so speaks of a heart that is hungry to hear from Him and eager to enter into His presence and commune with Him—and that desire brings Him delight."
Thank you for that constant reminder. I feel like we get caught up in doing the ‘right’ (or wrong) things sometimes that we forget to search for His voice on "what’s next."
Ah, I’m so glad that line spoke to you Justin! It’s so true – it’s so easy to get caught up in that way. Glad He gives us little reminders to search for His voice.
Thank you so much!! You’ve succeeded well at describing exactly what a lot of believers have to go through when it comes to God’s plan for our lives. Thank you for the advice on following prophetic voices, it’s the first time I read about this kind of way of hearing God.
Ah, thank you so much! I’m so glad that was a new insight for you and that you liked it Thanks for reading!
I am praying about some opportunities in my life right now, and I really feel like God is speaking to me. But, a little part of me wonders if this is just what I want to hear. This message was perfect for me. Thanks!
Praise God it spoke into your situation! Thanks so much for reading, Jessica
This was eye-opening, hard to hear but yet so beautifully graceful at the same time. Thank you
Ah thank you for reading, Erin!
But atheists could have these same intuitions, but they would never attribute them to God, so why should we as Christians do it so immediately? Even if their thoughts happen to line up with scripture because they happen to be “good” or “moral” human beings. That doesn’t mean God is speaking to them. I wonder why our lives as Christians look very similar to non-Christians lives. The exact same thing could happen to an atheist as a Christian and the Christian would say it’s from God and praises Him for it, but the atheist wouldn’t. So how are we to know? Does God bless atheists just as much as believers? This has to be the case if we aren’t to claim ignorance as Christians. I am a Christian but this is something I struggle with very much. I really want a straight forward, undeniable answer to this, but I haven’t seen it yet. I was hoping maybe you could provide insight. Thank you!
I really enjoyed the read but would add one caveat. If what we think God is telling us is not true to his word, then it isn’t God and is our of own desires. When we believe God is speaking to us, even if we have peace, we should first see if it holds true to His word, and secondly seek godly counsel to help us decipher if it is God or our own intentions.
I find it interesting that the author only responded to those who confirmed her beliefs. Those who questioned were ignored. A person who refuses to accept questions is not a person of faith.