the shape of leadership

Hearing God in Unexpected Places

Discern and respond to divine guidance, however it comes

Influence Magazine on April 13, 2018

It’s so important to hear the voice of God. Our ministry depends on it, as does our own spiritual growth. As Mark Batterson writes in Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, “Learning how to hear the voice of God is the solution to a thousand problems.”

Scripture is the primary way we hear from God. When we open our Bibles, we ask God to say something relevant to us through His written Word. And we also learn to hear the still, small voice in our hearts.

But God does not limit himself in how He speaks. There are so many different ways to hear His voice. It’s up to us to tune in.

By tuning in to God on all frequencies, we can better hear Him when He speaks.

Here are four ways we can hear God’s voice that we may overlook. By tuning in to God on all frequencies, we can better hear Him when He speaks.


God loves to use people to speak. Sometimes He gives a word to a person in your life to deliver to you. There are plenty of times in the Bible when that happened. The story of Ananias speaking to Saul is a prime example (Acts 9:10–18).

God’s voice through people is not always direct. During a normal conversation with another person, you may begin to hear God’s voice speaking between the lines. That’s why being in constant conversation with God is important. It keeps you attuned to His words, even when they come through the mouth of another person.


The prophet Isaiah wrote about the Spirit’s prompting. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). Such promptings may come as a stirring or sense you get, urging you to make a specific decision.

God often communicates by nudging our hearts to follow where He is leading. But because emotions can mislead us, we need discernment to determine the difference between God’s prompting and our own feelings. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you and give you discernment and wisdom as you walk daily in Him.


God uniquely designed you as an individual with talents and passions. Perhaps you have a heart for missions, a compassion toward the poor or a desire for racial reconciliation.

God has knit into your DNA a specific wavelength through which He wants to communicate with you. When you feel passionate about something, don’t ignore it. Instead, ask God, “Is this Your voice speaking to me?”


We avoid painful experiences, but we have so much to learn from life’s unpleasant circumstances. C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

This isn’t to suggest God caused your pain. But He can use trying times for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Whenever you encounter a painful situation, tune your heart to God’s voice. What is He saying to you in the midst of the storm? What does He want you to learn, or just know? It may be profoundly life changing, or it may be as simple as, “I love you.”

Sometimes it seems that God’s voice is loud and clear, while other times we sense that we’re out of tune. But communicating with God should never be a one-way conversation. Spend time daily speaking and listening to Him. And be aware of every way He wants to speak.


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