Three Questions to Help Discern if it's God's Voice
by Jenna Legg
Whenever I talk to young women (or men) who are discerning any major decision in their life, the number one question I receive is "How do I know if it's God's voice?" In our desire to grow as disciples and find true joy, we often fear that we are confusing our own voice for God's voice speaking to us.
Based on Ignatitus' Discernment of Spirits, I've summarized a few questions that may help you discern if the voice you are hearing is from God.
1. Does it align with Scripture and Tradition?
As Catholics, we have wonderful treasures in the Scripture and Tradition of the Church. In our discernment, Scripture and Discernment act as signposts pointing us in the right direction. God would never invite is into something that directly contradicts His Word in Scripture or
Church teaching. God may ask us to re-think our perspective or dive deeper into certain aspects of our understanding. (It's important to note the varying levels of Church Teaching. There's a difference between teachings on fasting during Lent and the teaching on the Immaculate Conception. Learn more here.)
In your discernment, consider studying what Scripture has to say about your situation. Research church teaching or tradition. Whether it's official dogma (rules or guidelines) or just spiritual encouragement from Popes or Saints, look to the advice of those in our community of faith. If all of these voices seem to echo the voice you are hearing, it's a possibility God is speaking to you.
2. How does it make you feel?
When you think of God, what characteristics come to mind? God is loving, just, compassionate, peaceful and encouraging. Therefore, if we are hearing God's voice, some of those sentiments should rise up within us. In hearing God's voice, we may feel uncomfortable, but Moses certainly wasn't relaxed when he encountered God in the burning bush! God's voice may cause us to be nervous, but we must examine the reason for those nerves. Are we nervous because of what the world will think of us? Or are we unsure of how God will respond?
The voice of God is often associated with peace whereas the voice of the evil one may cause us to be angry, worried, or in chaos. Even if we don't understand what God may be asking of us, His voice will usually be accompanied by a sense of joy or contentment. God can certainly instruct or correct us, but it will leave us feeling humbled, not ashamed. The Holy Spirit is at work in us so, we can pay attention to our feelings when we are listening for the voice of God.
3. Is it drawing you and others closer to God?
God is always inviting us to a closer relationship with Himself. He constantly invites us deeper into the paschal mystery and the relational mystery of the Trinity. In discernment, we must always ask ourselves if the proposed action will invite us deeper into the mystery of God. How will marriage help me grow closer to God? How will a career change aid me in my quest for holiness?
As disciples, we are also called to evangelize and encourage others in their walk of faith. Following God's call will often inspire others to do the same. In listening, we can ask ourselves if our decision will invite others to pursue a deeper relationship with God. How will my vocation to religious life inspire others? How will my move to another city invite others into a deeper relationship with God?
Overall, discernment is an act of faith. We can never be 100% sure if that voice in our heads is from God or our own desires. However, I've found that God usually repeats Himself to me and encourages me to follow through. He isn't some divine puzzle master trying to trick me. If you've asked yourself the questions above in prayer and discerned that it is likely you are hearing God's voice, test it. Take a step forward in faith. God will respond, either inviting you further or correcting you.