Recently, one of my daughters came to me saying that she had finally “heard from God”, something she has been frustrated about over the last couple of years. All around her people were using language like, “I feel the Lord calling me to . . .” and “God is asking me to . . .” and “God wants me to . . .” She hadn’t experienced God in that particular way, and because she was using other people’s phrases as a measuring stick, she felt like something was wrong.
She came to me about sharing a time in her life a few years ago when she made some poor choices, got caught, and has carried a certain amount of shame and pain over it to this day. She would tell you today it is her biggest mistake. Somehow, through her filter and perception, she sensed that God was asking her to not only share this part of her life, but in a very public way, not only among her friends, but her whole school, and possibly on a local radio program. She cried and cried. She did not want to do this, and if any of us recall what being fourteen is like, we understand the deep fear of embarrassment, humiliation, and possibly even social rejection. She agonized. She wanted to please God desperately, but at the same time, did not want to open herself up for mockery and further pain. She looked at me through damp, tortured eyes for encouragement and assurance that it would all work out fine.
The problem was, I did not think it would all work out fine! Her fears were legitimate and reasonable. She most likely would become fodder for the gossip circuit, and find herself on the receiving end of teenage cruelty. She was not healed from this incident, and was still wrestling with forgiving herself and feeling ruined by her choices, despite our reassurances. We heaped grace and love upon this girl, but for a reason I still do not understand, she still has not fully received it. This testimony was not a testimony YET. She was still awaiting healing. And she was filled with anxiety at just the thought of sharing it.
How did I know this was not God asking her to do this? I don’t, not one hundred percent. It sure wasn’t in keeping with the character and nature of the God I know and experience. Her immaturity and brief life experience had left her vulnerable to some not-so-theologically accurate beliefs that circulate among the church about how God speaks to us. I prayed, sought counsel, and re-read some passages of scripture, being careful to keep them in context. I also found some great resources online, looking to explain my conviction to my daughter about the difference between strong emotion and the voice of God. Because we live in such a highly emotionally charged culture, this can get really confusing, and the young in faith (not just in age) can start to think that if they feel something strongly, or can’t get a thought out of their head, then it must be God. This can lead to mistakes that not only cause damage and pain, but give God a really bad rap! I stumbled upon an immensely helpful article in my research, especially this excerpt:
As a child, when I asked my mother for help discerning God’s guidance, she always asked me, “In which scenario are you at peace? Where God guides He gives peace.”
But you’ve probably noticed that when you’re seeking God’s guidance or needing a word of encouragement from Him often you are NOT at peace! In fact, we may find ourselves so torn and distressed about a difficult situation or decision that we are quite anxious. Anxiety is a sign that you have conflicting emotions, about probably some repressed emotions too, like fear, anger, sadness, or shame. It’s not likely that you’ll hear God’s voice when your emotional pipes are all backed up with negative feelings. So the first need is to address your anxiety and emotions. THEN you may be able to hear God’s voice clearly.
Another statement I loved: God’s voice has a distinctive quality; it is weighty, calm, and full of authority. It sounds like assurance and peace and rest.
My girl was so wrecked with anxiety and conflicting emotions — fear, shame, regret, desperation to please God — that I doubted she could distinguish God’s voice from the rest. It also concerned me that she thought somehow God would take pleasure or glory in her tossing the pearls of her deepest heartache to date in front of the 2000+ proverbial swine on her public high school campus. At fourteen.
I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is a gentlemen. He takes great delight in calling His people and it is His joy to place a deep desire within us to do His will, which is to love Him and love others as ourselves. It is our pleasure to do His will when we realize the depth of His love and amazing grace. We do not have to be convinced, intimidated or dragged to do it. This is what I saw in her, and this is what I was so deeply wanting to free her from.
Right now, as her mom, I believe that God’s will for her life is simply to trust and follow the lead of her parents. When the day comes when she is filled with peace and assurance about sharing this part of her story, after it is healed and Jesus gets the glory, I expect the Holy Spirit to give her opportunities to share it, with wisdom and discernment and grace. And she will do it because it is her joy to do so.
Excerpt from Soul Shepherding