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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

How Can I Know God's Will?

Help! Is that what you feel like when you want to know God's will for a specific decision? Cultivating spiritual discernment helps us recognize how God communicates with us in the big and small issues of life. How can we know God’s will if we don’t recognize His voice?

Help from Hannah Whitall Smith

Ever since I read Hannah Whitall Smith's 1923 classic, A Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, I have adopted her four-point checklist. The list helps me sort through the voices in my head and keeps me from listening to the wrong one. Instead, she gives me four voices to listen to.

1, The voice of Scripture. This is always our starting place. We can’t think our way through to God’s will without the use of scripture. Don’t try.

2. The voice of the Holy Spirit. This is the Truth Guide Jesus promised to leave us as part of God’s Emanuel promise. We can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to the voice of God and he will.

3. The voice of our own higher judgment. Some people try to use whatever they think is best exclusively. However, without testing our thoughts against Scripture and the Holy Spirit, this is nothing more than our best idea. Whatever we judge best pales against God’s best. Don’t fall into the trap of “but this is the best I can come up with.”

4. The voice of providential circumstances. This is another trap if you elevate circumstances to equal God’s voice. Of course, we pay attention to circumstances. We look at what they are pointing us toward. However, we still evaluate circumstances by Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

The Harmony Principle

While these steps are nothing new, she also taught a principle that clarified where I misused this list. She taught that we must find a harmony with these four “voices.” Making one step more important than another can be an internal attempt to control the outcome we want.

God’s Voice is . . .

God’s voice is the gentle invitation to change an attitude or obey a direction that God knows will give us peace or stability that we can’t make for ourselves. His voice is never a “pointy finger” voice telling you everything you do wrong. God never shames in order to direct.

God tells us what we wouldn’t tell yourself—that we are loved beyond belief, that we were created to do God’s will. God’s voice reminds us that nothing will make us more of who we really are than His will.

God’s voice doesn’t give us a printout. That would put too much control in our hands. Such control could easily allow us to goal-set our way to a self-directed outcome.

Instead, God simply identifies the next step. Sometimes it is a surprising step, like getting sleep or going for a walk—something mundane or disconnected to what we think we need to hear. When we trust those directives, we see how they take us to another step we might not have found any other way.

A Good Place to Start

Start with the next question of your day. It can be as simple as what to do first or how to connect more deeply with your children or spouse. Give God time to answer and He will help you silence competing voices so that His gentle whisper is the loudest voice you hear.

When you know that His will is your lifeline and best hope, you won’t settle for your best idea. Besides, God pours on the help when anyone is committed to doing His will.

Let God prove this to you this week as you listen more. Let me know what you learn or what your questions are. We were made for this journey, but God never wanted us to attempt it alone.

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