“Why can’t I hear God’s voice?” People ask me this a lot. I have compassion for people who struggle to hear the voice of God because I used to be there. The reality is God is speaking to you and wants you to be able to hear His voice more than you do. God gave us His Son so that we can have fellowship with Him. When we see the cross, we see just how desperately He wants to communicate with us. So what’s the holdup?
Here are 5 reasons you might be having trouble hearing the voice of God.
1. False Expectation
We often think about the voice of God sounding like a loud audible booming voice, or we expect to see angels or have some dramatic spiritual experience associated with hearing God speak. We have all probably heard some fantastic story about hearing the supernatural voice of God. We get impressed by those stories and think that every time God speaks it has to be that spectacular. I have found that these false expectations often lead people to miss it when God is actually talking to them.
1 Corinthians 2 gives a very apt description of what it is like to hear the voice of God.
However, as it is written:1 Corinthians 2:9-16 NIV
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
We may not initially recognize this as talking about hearing the voice of God, but pay attention to what is being communicated through this passage; just as your own spirit understands your thoughts, so the Holy Spirit understands God’s thoughts. God has given us His very Spirit, and He reveals what God is thinking to our minds. Paul sums this all up by saying that we “have the mind of Christ.”
Every Christian who has been born of the Spirit has the capacity to access the thoughts of God which He reveals to us by His Spirit! Is it any wonder then, that we usually hear the voice of God as a thought? Of course that is how we hear Him! Hearing God’s voice is simply thinking His thoughts!
Spirits communicate with us by giving us their thoughts. A spirit of fear will plant fearful thoughts in your mind. The Bible identifies satan as a liar. (John 8:44) How does satan lie to us? On a personal level, the enemy lies to us by planting thoughts in our minds. This is why we are commanded to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and to be made new in the attitude of our minds. (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23)
Likewise, the Holy Spirit also speaks to us in the realm of thought. The voice of God often sounds like our own thoughts, but there is a subtle difference that you can discern through attention and practice. (Hebrews 5:14) The voice of the Holy Spirit carries the atmosphere of Heaven. When God speaks to me I will usually feel a very subtle sense of peace, sometimes faith will rise up in my heart, or there will be a feeling of joy that accompanies a thought from God.
If you will get rid of the false expectations, and learn to pay attention to those “God thoughts”, you will realize you have been hearing God speak to you more frequently than you thought.
“JonMark! JonMark, are you listening to me?”
This is a question my wife has to ask me more frequently than I would like to admit. The truth is, my mind has a tendency to wander. I have a habit of getting lost in a reverie, chasing a thought down winding pathways only to snap back to reality and find that my wife had been speaking to me for the last 5 minutes.
Too many of us miss the voice of God because we’re simply not paying attention. This is honestly the most ubiquitous barrier to hearing the voice of God I’ve encountered. People tune out the voice of God by constantly chasing stimulation, focusing on their own issues, and refusing to actually set their mind on the things of Heaven for more than a minute.
The majority of the time we spend meditating on the word of God is on Sunday, and the rest of the week, we have other things to fill our minds. Meanwhile, God is speaking and we simply cannot hear Him through all the noise. We must tend to our inner lives. If we spend the day meditating on the things of the Lord, we will be more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit when he speaks to us. (Romans 8:5, Colossians 3:1) More on this in my article, Maintaining a Prophetic Mind.
3. Trying too Hard
Everything we receive from Christ comes by the grace of God through faith in the work of Jesus upon the cross. Through the work of Christ, our sins are washed away, we have right standing before God with the imputed righteousness of Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit, become citizens of Heaven, and receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. This is the Gospel. It is not our works that get us any of these privileges, it is the grace of God. We could never be good enough, holy enough, or righteous enough to merit these as a reward. While Christians will agree with these truths intellectually, they tend to forget them when it comes to spiritual gifts and hearing the voice of God.
Hearing God’s voice doesn’t come as some special gifting for extra holy people and it doesn’t come as a reward for being a “super Christian”. The voice of God comes because we are the Lord’s sheep and we recognize his voice. (John 10:27-30)
When we view hearing God’s voice as a reward for being especially good Christians, we become anxious. We work really hard and try to become so extra spiritual that it actually becomes more difficult to hear the voice of God because we are acting out of unbelief. The times I’ve heard God the clearest were times I wasn’t trying to hear Him, I was simply resting and listening.
If you find yourself striving to hear the voice of God, I want to encourage you to rest. Relax and listen to God’s voice. You were built for hearing God’s voice. It’s part of the new nature you received when you received Christ. Rest, be in His presence, and then listen to those “God thoughts”.
Over and over again in the old testament we read about the hard-heartedness of Israel. They would be disciplined for their sin, repent, be forgiven, and then repeat the cycle. We read about them being stiff necked and rebellious. Several times the scriptures reprimanded the Israelites for having eyes and ears, but refusing to see or hear what God was saying.
I have news for you, Israel wasn’t the last group of people to have that problem. Humans are stubborn creatures. We love our freedom, and from the beginning, we have been rebelling against God’s authority. Hard and disobedient hearts simply cannot hear the voice of God.
I remember being led to pray for a young man I saw on the street once who really intimidated me. I didn’t want to do it, and began to try to excuse myself from obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit by pretending I didn’t know it was God talking to me. I began to pray “Lord, is this really You?” The truth was that I knew it was God but I was scared and didn’t want to pray for that guy. I walked away and went home, pretending all the while that I wasn’t sure it was God. I was trying to excuse myself for being disobedient.
I got home, sat down, and began to play my guitar in preparation for when I would lead worship at youth group later that evening. I began to sing a worship song to the Lord when I heard Him speak as clear as a bell, “So you’ll worship Me, but you won’t obey me?”
I repented, walked out the door, found the guy, and talked to him about Jesus. Imagine if I hadn’t heard that rebuke. Imagine I had developed a lifelong habit of ignoring the Lord whenever He asked me to do something I didn’t want to do.
Too many people have a god who, very conveniently, always seems to agree with them.
A good sign you’re actually hearing the voice of God and not just a figment of your imagination is that He is telling you things you don’t like or agree with. If you will submit to His authority in those moments, you will retain a tender heart and will continue to hear the voice of the Lord.
This is a big one. Most people cannot hear the voice of the Lord because they truly don’t believe that God is speaking to them. Maybe they believe they lack the ability, maybe they have false theological barriers to hearing God’s voice, or maybe they just don’t think God would speak to them because they think they are unqualified.
Jesus tells us that we cannot come to Him without the Father drawing us. (John 6:44) Romans tells us that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. (Romans 8:16) 1 John 2:27 tells us that the Holy Spirit is our teacher.
In order for the Holy Spirit to draw us to Christ, bear witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, and to teach us the truth about Christ, He must be actively communicating to us. The Holy Spirit has a living voice. If you have received Christ, you have heard the voice of the Lord.
We mentioned earlier that 1 Corinthians 2 tells us that the Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God and reveals them to us. Paul calls this process of revelation having “the mind of Christ”. This is an ongoing spiritual reality. This isn’t simply referring to the scriptures, because Paul tells us all who have the Holy Spirit have access to this precious gift.
If you have found that you simply cannot hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in your daily life for theological reasons or for a lack of understanding of the Gospel, I have good news for you; you’re wrong! If you belong to Christ you are a candidate or hearing His voice. You have been given His Spirit and have the mind of Christ. It’s time to believe, soften your heart, pay attention to Him, and start to follow His leading in your life.
May God bless you as you continue to hear and follow the voice of God.
If you want more teaching, wild testimonies, and to be activated in your own adventure with Jesus, check out my book, “The Adventure of Saying Yes“.
Photo by Anthony Ginsbrook on Unsplash