Can you hear the voice of God, and if you can are you sure it is really His voice? If you have this difficulty you are not alone. Most Christians have difficulty distinguishing between soul and Spirit. This makes it easy to confuse the voice of God with your imagination, feelings and emotions and become easily deluded, falsely thinking you hear His voice. When His voice is not clear you are acting only out of your pride filled will. Because your aim is to be united with God and do His will, you need to hear His voice and be sure it is the authentic voice of God guiding you. You cannot allow your will to be misdirected. It is easy to become accustomed to relying on your emotions, feelings or thoughts from your imagination instead of God’s authentic voice.
God speaks to us through our conscience. This is the key to hearing God’s true voice,
Saint Dorotheus of Gaza tells us:
When God created man, He breathed into him something divine…which showed him the difference between right and wrong. This is called the conscience which is the law of nature.
Saint Theophan the Recluse tells us,
The conscience has a voice of God that tells us what is right and wrong, what pleases or displeases God, what we should or should not do. It’s the legislator, judge and executor, the voice of God. Conscience is how God attempts to rule the soul through the Holy Spirit.…Conscience is a great thing. It is the voice of an omnipresent God in the soul. He who is in the world with conscience is also in the world with God.
Hearing the voice of God speaking in our conscience is a high virtue. His voice is always there, but we don’t always hear it. When we ignore conscience for a period of time it becomes silent. This discernment is difficult due to our fallen nature where our soul is consumed with worldly worries and duties. We are not aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We live immersed is a society lacking reference to Spirit. We are oriented toward worldly things, not spiritual ones. Our soul is working on its own, self-directing the actions of our body.
Saint Theophan the Recluse describes the soul like this:
The soul is
entirely directed towards the ordering of our worldly existence, our earthly one…the soul’s knowledge is built only on the basis of that which is gained through experience from life around us. The activity of the soul is directed towards the fulfillment of the demands of temporal life.
Since the soul’s work is ordering our worldly existence, when it acts separated from God this is serious. Without higher spiritual direction we are not capable of following what God intends for us. It”s important that we hear His voice clearly and accurately. God created the soul so He could work through us to do His will. It needs direction from above, from God, so we will to do His will. Without recognizing God’s voice we are only fulfilling our own desires.
Since our aim is to become united with God, we must listen to His voice. We also need a pure will to follow what we hear. We cannot be confused by our feelings and emotions or thoughts from our imagination. This is a struggle all Christians face.
We need to engage in spiritual exercises like Saint Paul so our conscience is clear:
“And in this do I always exercise myself, to have a conscience clear of offense towards God and toward men.” (Acts 24:16)
These exercises are all part of what we call an Orthodox way of life. This involves daily prayer, fasting, regular participation in worship services and sacraments, reading Scripture and the lives of saints daily. As you engage in these practices as recommended by the Church, you will naturally find the voice of your conscience getting louder and louder. You will will also become stronger.
In one way it’s simple. For example, when we feel God calling us to confession, don’t procrastinate. Just do it! Exercise your will congruent with that inner voice. When you follow the voice of God you will only discover joy and true freedom.
Note of caution: If you ever think God is telling you to do something that is not consistent with what you have learned through the Scriptures, be sure to first discuss this with your spiritual father. Do the same if it will involve a major change in your life. He can help you discern if what you experience is the authentic voice of God.
The Spiritual Life, p 277 St Theophan the Recluse
Homily on the Conscience by St Dorotheus of Gaza