7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life

How do you actually know God is talking to you?

Every believer wants to hear from God. Why would you follow God closely if you didn’t want to know His voice or hear what He has to say? We want to know…Is this God?…Is this what He is telling me to do?…or…Am I being swayed by the circumstances of my life?

One thing I’ve observed is that we often listen for the grandiose voice of God. Sometimes God speaks that way, but many times God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through life’s circumstances. In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. How do we take the circumstance of life, as mixed up and confusing as they can be, and figure out what God could be saying to us?

Here are some guidelines to hearing God speak through the circumstances of life:

Mirror your circumstances with the truth of God’s Word – God will never contradict Himself. He will never speak to us through our circumstances in a way that will contradict His written word. I hear people at times claim God is telling them to do something that is in violation with what God has already said. That’s never God.

God uses people to confirm His voice – God often sends people into our path to confirm His will for our life. People who attempt to follow God with their life can help us to hear from God. Every time God has called me to something, there have been others to confirm they are hearing the same calling. I’ve often had to cycle through the naysayers to hear them, but they are there.

Recognize that God operates from a plan – Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Rick Warren has sold millions of books telling us that we should live our life with a purpose…God’s purpose. Looking back over my life, I could never have scripted it, but I see how God has used me according to an overall plan. He’s used my life experiences to shape me for where I am today.

Examine your circumstances in light of God’s overall plan – When trying to hear from God through the circumstances of life, we should not try to make a decision on one event or set of circumstances. Circumstances may or may not be God speaking to us. We should look at our life over a span of months or years. Jeremiah 29:11 indicates that God has a definite plan to proper us and give us hope, but it would take the people 70 years to get there. :) When we look at our life over time we will be able to see what God has been doing. When the circumstances of life consistently line up over time with God’s overall plan it is possible that God is trying to speak through those circumstances. Before God called me into ministry the voices speaking into my life were many. I was available, there were tons of confirmations and signs, and I had to view my life in the context of God’s master plan.

Don’t allow circumstances to keep you from hearing or obeying God – Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NIV) “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” The common sense thing to do when everyone opposes you would be to leave, but Paul knew the circumstances were not indicative of God’s will for his life. Sometimes our circumstances may look gloomy, but we haven’t heard the truth of our circumstances until we have heard from God. God has typically spoken to me clearest during my darkest days. (Read THIS POST)

Ask God to show you His perspective on the circumstances – You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV) As followers of God we will spend our whole life trying to discern the will of God for our life; listening for His voice. If we desire to hear from God through our circumstances we must intently listen for the voice of God. Hearing from God is not always easy. When life is coming at us we cannot seem to understand what is going on, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for clarification. We should feel free to ask, “God what did you mean by that?” Many times I think I know what God is saying, but it’s in the seasons of questioning that I am more intentional to go back to Him for clarification. I’ve even taken days away to intentionally listen during the confusing times.

Remember: God’s primary desire in speaking is for eternal purposes – We limit God to this finite world when we fail to remember He is an infinite God. When we are trying to discern God’s voice through the circumstances of life we should consider how what is happening around us fits into God’s eternal plan to save a lost world from destruction and to mold His children into the image of His Son. God’s primary activity will be in these areas of our life. I’ve always been able to see how God’s specific plan for me lined up with His desire to invite a world to know Him.

Hearing from God is critical for the children of God to know God’s will for our life.

Our mission is to learn how to hear His voice. We must listen intently and carefully for His voice through the crowd of noises in the world in which we live. Thankfully God has not given up on us, but is still speaking to His people today.

Are you in a season of trying to hear from God?

Share your story to help (This is a revised post from previous posts.

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47 thoughts on “7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life

  1. I am currently going through a divorce that I feel the need to stand for restoration. The Bible says that God will answer all prayers that line up with his will. I can find nowhere in scripture where I should give up regardless of my spouse’s desires to end the marriage.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have difficulty balancing my life and keeping focus on what god is saying to me.

  3. I have turned away from evil about 3yrs ago. Although, I had left all the people that was not to go with me into this new chapter in my life, I was still doing things my way. About a few months ago I gave up and stop doing things my way. For the past 2 months or so I have been experienceing strange events and it all seems to be connecting. I got a feeling to look for for father, I found him. But then he starting telling me of some help my family was needing. Crazy as it my sound I ran into a guy at work who buys the product in which my family is having the issue with. I really think God what’s me to help them. I have not been in contact with them in 20+ yrs. Does god work this way? I feel a little crazy

  4. I a strong in my faith, or at least I believe I am. Why then does it feel like the harder I try to provide peace and security for my wife and children that we are financially struggling? I try to hear Him through my trials but yet I am human and feel I am not understanding or worse forsaken. Am I not hearing the right message or even more scary not understanding?

    • I'm praying for you brother. It's so incredibly difficult to make sense of our trials sometimes. I went through a long season of that almost a year when God called me into ministry. But the wait was worth it. The resolve you must have on this side of gods answer is that you will trust him until he provides it. That's faith. Praying for you. 

  5. I wish it were easier knowing that these signs are from god. I was told that the devil also uses "signs" making us believe its from god. How do you decided which is which? I am waiting for a sign or word or something from god right now whether or not to move? Im confused. I'm looking for signs but nothing yet.

    • I filter them through my experiences, other voices, the situations in my life, and my own personal walk with God. It's not foolproof, because His ways are not our ways, but it's like discovering any relationship, the more I know Him the easier I know their voice.

  6. I was called to "unite the churches." I died on August 6th 2013.. I'm so thankful God forgave me of my sins because I was not a true Christian. He let the will of thousands to be done, and brought me back to life. Our story has been told on Fox News and it was a true miracle. My body was dead, there was no hope for me, my brain was also allegedly dead. I have come back to preach the Good News and unite the churches as I was instructed. The successfulness of my mission has been amazing. I never thought of it as an impossible task because i knew God wouldn't ask me to do anything I wasn't capable of doing. Slowly but surely the Catholic church is changing… please keep an open mind about this. I have seen many revelations and have brought it to a local level to many churches. It may take 100 years, but I know its in God's plan till the very end. I do not get upset when people do not believe me, although its something I usually do not announce. I use the creative ways that God has told me to use to preach the Good News, and to never judge or discount anyone, no matter what. God Bless You All.

  7. I have been trying to hear God's voice concerning whether the man I want to be with will be my husband. I know full well that God gives everyone free will and I accept that. What I do not get is when His Word says that God will give you the desires of your heart and that if we desire something we should ask, seek, and knock. Because I have not received this relationship I have been asking for and wanted clarity from God, I prayed that He would show me a sign. I know the Bible says the wicked man seeks a sign, but God also showed numerous signs to Gideon. I asked God to show me if this man is for me, then to show me a yellow rose and that same NIGHT I saw a yellow rose! Can I ask for a sign? I have been doing this for years! I try to force myself to accept that His answer is "no" and that I have to move on, and when I get to this point…a yellow rose will show up. It's in art, in pictures, in words, but it's there.

    Is this God saying "yes but wait for my timing" or is He saying "no" and I am just seeing this sign because I'm subconsciously searching for it even though I am carrying on with my daily activities without actively seeking out roses?

    • The answer to your question could be so long or so short. When you meet the man your supposed to be with, you will know it if you are acting as a holy person, I can promise you that. If you are having many doubts, those doubts have been created by a reason. Also, do not let old belief system get in the way of listening to your modern day holy heart.

      God Bless You

  8. I have never been good into listening into Gods voice. It is hard for me but I do want to try and believe with all my heart. Currently I am studying to be a Digital Artist it is not the most stable career which does worry me. I have great passion for art but at the same time have doubts about the path I am taking. I love the college I am currently in the people are very interesting, open and nice but I can't help to think that god intended to have me do something else with my life. It doesn't help that most of my family were against my choice but I had this huge pull in my gut that I should do it. I can't see myself doing anything else but…what if I fail? What if this career is a joke like they said? Please help….

    • I don't know that I can help from here, but I think you keep doing what you know to do unless God makes it very clear otherwise. Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” Don't worry about naysayers. God allows you to make decisions for yourself based on the experiences and passions He has placed within you. Don't feel He's a micro manager.

  9. I am so torn right now. I was in nursing program & I didn’t do too well so I got kicked out. I am at a new school & met with an advisor who told me that the chance of me getting in the new nursing program is small. Now I find myself asking if that’s God telling me to do something else. All I want is to be a nurse. I don’t believe that God will bring me this far just to leave me now but I have doubts as to what he wants me to do. Please help.

    • I can never answer for someone what God is telling them to do. If you feel God led you to this place, He will make a way. Only you can answer that. I know God is mostly concerned with your character…even more than He is where you go to school or what career you have. But I also know God wants to bless you. I would press into your prayer time. If you don't sense God releasing you, and you still want to be a nurse, keep going.  “You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength”

      • Thank you because I do believe that. I also know He didn’t promise us an easy life but He did promise that He will never leave us. God bless you & thank you again.

        • Emmy, I'm so glad you've asked this! Nursing is an admirable profession, and one that not only does much good, but can provide you a great platform to shine the Light upon others! I have no doubt that you genuinely want to be a nurse, and that you feel that God has given you the heart for the task.

          With that said, you made the statement, "I didn't do too well so I got kicked out" of your initial nursing program. I think that's a very important statement, but first, while I firmly believe that God can help guide us in a good direction, I do not believe that every decision we make is within God's will (clearly, as sin exists and we choose it every day), nor do I believe that we only have one option available to us, and if we choose wrongly, we are outside of God's will (i.e. – you want to be a nurse or a Kindergarten teacher, both options are available, which do you choose?). Nursing, while a good profession and one that I'm sure you feel lead to be in, will require much work. If you truly "didn't do too well" and so "got kicked out", and now are having difficulty getting into the second nursing program, I wouldn't be so quick as to say, "God is closing this door. What do I do?" Without passing judgment on your potential, perhaps the reason the door is closing is because you "didn't do too well", and not because God doesn't want you to be a nurse.

          Look at it this way: If God gives me the gifts to be an incredible preacher/pastor, as in I exude charisma, am well spoken, have an excellent memory, and have a passion for the well being of people in general, what good does it do me if I never step foot in a church or read the Bible? Would I not be squandering the gifts? Didn't God equip me to be a pastor? Absolutely. He sure did. But without discipline, those gifts can be wasted.

          Let's look at it in Scripture, where God has revealed His character to us.

          Luke 19:11-27 gives us Jesus' amazing Parable of the Minas, otherwise known as the Parable of Money Usage (this verse is in no way, shape, or form about money, just to be clear). I would encourage you to read it so that you can be a good Berean (Acts 17:11) and see for yourself. The gist of it is this: Jesus has given people spiritual and natural talents, or giftings, and we are to use those giftings in the very best way to glorify Him. We are commanded to do so. Why am I bringing this up? Because in my hypothetical illustration of God gifting me to be a pastor/preacher, I asked what would happen if I never cultivated those gifts, to which the answer would be, I would be a lousy pastor, if I ever got the job at all.

          How does this apply to you? Simple. If you want to be a nurse, you have to work at it. If you are not able to pass the exams or complete the academic side of your training (if this is the case, you didn't specify why you "didn't do too well"), then I would say perhaps nursing is not where you are best equipped to ply your gifts.

          But I can promise you this: God has given you gifts, and He meant for you to use them in a way that best glorifies Him. Ask God to show you what those gifts are and how best they can be put to use, then seek out Godly counsel and get input from a mature, trusted Christian. There's plenty of hope ahead, so keep trusting in Him.

          • Absolutely, Ron. I can't even remember how I found myself on this particular page this morning, but for whatever reason (providence, naturally) I hope that some good came of it to the glory of God.

            On a totally unrelated topic, I was browsing your website, and I saw your page, "7 Way Wives Hurt Their Husbands…", and I realized that a Facebook friend of mine posted that exact article yesterday afternoon. Small world, yeah? God bless, Ron. Keep up the good work.

          • Hi Jordan,

            Thank you so much and wonderful advise. I didn't do too well because I procrastinated and waited until 2-3 days before exams to study and the passing grade was a C+ and I was getting C's. For one exam, I started to study 2 weeks before by going to the library instead of studying in my bedroom with the TV and guess what Jordan, I had a B+. So, if I commit to a studying schedule, I know I can pass each exam with at least a B. So, I have been praying God for guidance and for a 2nd chance. I talk to Him while I am driving, at the Y and at work. My pastor is amazing, although I have not discuss that issue with her yet but I will. Again thank you Jordan.

  10. I feel as though God may be leading me to a different college. However, I can't tell if this is just based on my own human emotions…the connections I feel to this place and the people around it. I just started a club at my current college and it is going well, but will need continued direction. I just got comfortable at my current college…I know that sometimes that is when God really tests us by pulling us out of our comfort level, but I don't want to make a mistake by leaving…it's very hard for me to become comfortable in places. I would regret leaving the club at such a rocky stage too…as well as leaving my family, which is close to my current college, and all of my friends. Also, I have been trying to work out changing colleges and it has been extremely difficult. I have been praying hard for guidance, but I…am having a hard time finding it. What am I supposed to do?

    • First of all, there's no way I can answer what God is trying to tell you. You'll have to discern that with Him. It would be unfair for anyone to tell you that. You have a personal relationship with God.That said, I can say this. You may be putting more pressure on yourself than is warranted. What if God is more concerned about something else, than He is about which college you choose? What if He would allow you to go wherever you want? That doesn't mean it will be easy necessarily, but when it comes to applying, etc, those are things of man. God can intercede, but often doesn't. What if God said, Abby, go wherever you want to go, but wherever you go, I want your whole heart. I want you to surrender everything to me.That seems to be the message God shares with His people more than any other message. Read Proverbs 16:9.Praying for you as you discern His voice.

  11. I am glad God lead me to the post. I am having a difficult time hearing God in a life situation. I belong to a church that I have always loved. my husband does not care for the church so he doe not go. I have been asking God if I should find another church so we can worship God together. I'm very torn. I feel the presence of God every time I walk into my church. I believe my pastor is truly anointed but I also want to see my husband find salvation. I have prayed about this but not sure if it is God or thee circumstances talking.

  12. Am glad i came across this.i have difficulty in differentiating God’s voice from my life circumstance.i have been praying over my choice of a Life partner for 3yrs now.am in a 3yr realtionship with one particular man i Love so much, whose treatment towards me drew me closer to God.3 different brethrens(i was told they are Men of God)have confirmed him to be the one while Another man of God said he is not.i have prayed over it and usually hear this quiet voice telling me to hold on,don’t let go.though somethings about us are improving as i pray,bt some major things are still lacking and i dont know what to listen to and what to believe anymore.i need a true confirmation from God to know the wisest thing to do because age is no longer on my side. pls help me out,am going crazy.

    • For me, when I can Be Still and not worry about so much confirmations from humans, I feel I am on Gods path.
      I cannot help wonder why this partner was put into your life. Maybe a little faith and surrender to Gods plan will bring your peace. Surrender to God and to your partner and quit worrying about your decisions…let God be in charge of your path. Pray to him every day that he will show you the way…then go about your business and let him be in control….just have faith and keep praying…….just what works for me….God bless and keep you in his care.

  13. It is very true i used to be depressed and even almost committed suicide but i got over it on my own now that i am older and i look back i realize god put me through that to strengthen me now i am never depressed and when i am feeling sad i can get over it really fast because of god.

  14. I've always known how to hear God but now I get confused if it really comes from God because I don't see anything happening right now. What should i do? Should I wait until God moves?

    • You should move on what you already know to do and wait on those that you don't. The Bible is clear on many things we can be doing (love our neighbor, feed the poor, etc.). Plus, God has given you a mind and freedom to dream and explore. If it's not sinful, you don't sense God saying no, you can probably move forward with where you are feeling drawn to go.

  15. I am a Catholic hermit and you speak very close to my heart. I worked in theater all of my life, I am 53, and throughout my life there was a continuous emptiness. At age 49 I began to feel the a definite call to solitude and the the life of a hermit. That does not mean I live in a cave, it means that I live in greater solitude and pray night and day for the salvation of the whole world. You use of the scripture is what I call Lectio Divina, a close, careful, and prayerful reading of the scriptures in order to hear what God wants me to learn and do. Great post. :-)

  16. Ron

    Thought this site might be a benefit to those desireing to “Hear His Voice.”
    http://web.me.com/love101/Love/His_Voice.html

    Just click on the rectangle with “His Voice.”

    And you’ll find (4) four pages of only scriptures about “Hearing His Voice.”

    A free PDF download. Free to use. Free to give away.

    You can read these scriptures over and over again until you believe them.
    You can read them over and over again until you believe God.

    If God can create everything by speaking it into existance…

    Then speaking to “His Children,” “His Sheep,” would be easy…

    Out of heaven he made you to “hear His voice,”
    that “He might instruct you.”
    Deuteronomy 4:36

  17. the written word is okay, but the living word is superior.
    The Bible is not the full revelation of God, Jesus is.
    With that in mind, hearing God's voice is a simple matter, read the gospels.
    good luck heeding his voice.

    • I love that first line…I do believe the written is living, but it's great to see and hear the voice of Jesus!

  18. For me it started with taking my eyes off Him, although I didn't know it at the time. My life got crazy and depressing and hard and I kept wondering where He was; why this much "suffering". When in reality it was my own doing. I think that we sometimes lose sight that perhaps He isn't silent, it's that we refuse to listen because we don't see that we've wandered far from the path.

    All of this has resulted in problems in my marriage. He has been merciful and faithful and has brought me back to where I need to be and I am so grateful, but now my wife's heart has been hardened against me and I deal with this. So I spend a lot of my time listening for Him; wanting to do the right thing always and not fall away again and to be the man my wife deserves.

    Sometimes it is very very silent and this focuses my prayers. But I do long for that word that I am going in the right direction. And I can see in scripture where I am, but since my wife has free will she can choose to not follow along and that is hard. Occasionally I get a "wink" from God. They are nice, but too few and far between. Still it gives me hope for a complete restoration of my marriage. And I can see clearly in my life in other ways where His hand is at work and I am so grateful for the help and direction that He gives.

    I do have to say, though, that there are times I really just wish He would come and sit beside me and tell me yes you are doing right, or no, you're missing the mark…sigh.

    • Jon I was wondering how your situation turned out ,I am currently in the same and for some reason I was led to this site and your story caught my eye mayb its him talking to me.

      • I was wondering the same thing. I am and have been in a dark and difficult place for years- then my world gets totally rocked when my spouse said he doesn't know if he wants to stay with me. I thought I was doing everything right.

  19. "I’ve always been able to see how God’s specific plan for me lined up with His desire to invite a world to know Him."

    Thanks, I often forget that it's not about me.
    Twitter: mark_runs