My sons are now teens. It seems like just yesterday I put them down for a nap after lunch, and now, my youngest is 6 foot 1. Not only are the boys growing in size and intellect, but they are also growing in faith. I pray over them as I watch them struggle to make the faith I have raised them in their own.
Among the many questions that surface is, “How will I know which voice is God?” This is not an easy question to answer. Even us grown-ups who have long been immersed in faith have a difficult time discerning God’s voice within.
I tell my sons there is no shortcut; one way to attune your ear to the sweet voice of God is to spend time with him. When we spend time in prayer, in the Word and in worship, we begin to understand what God’s voice sounds like. We cannot fake this. It is not just a Sunday habit. It is a daily surrender.
I also want my sons to know that it is not God who makes us feel ashamed. Shame is a result of sin. Shame separates us from God and from each other. I remind them how Adam and Eve never felt ashamed of their nakedness until they sinned. Only then did they cover themselves.
I remind them of one of my favorite verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (2:4) He wrote this to Romans who wanted to judge those in sin around them. He said that even God in his righteous judgment does not draw us to repentance in such a way but in kindness. If the voice sounds like a schoolmarm wagging her finger or an abusive spouse, that is not God. For centuries, Moses, King David, and the Apostles described God as “merciful and gracious, / slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15) This is who our God is.
When I was younger and trying to discern the voice of God, my seminary professors reminded me that God’s voice will always align with Scripture. This is why knowing his Word is so important. Spend time in God’s Word, and his voice becomes loud, strong, and clear.
When we know the voice of God, it is so sweet and loving that we are filled with gratitude and want nothing more than to love God back. We want to become holy like him. Our actions, desires, and faith follow.
I hope my boys will quiet their own noise long enough to hear God’s voice. It is the voice that changes our lives.