How do you hear God's voice? Is it an audible voice? Is it your own voice? For me, it's often my own voice. I hear it in my own voice. It's been a journey of trying to figure out, is this my voice? Or is this God's voice? How do I know when I should move forward or step into that?
For me, the journey of learning to hear the voice of God started before I was actually a Christian. I remember I was trying to figure out my identity, who I was and what my purpose was. I had been displaced as a child through a dysfunctional family, and so it didn't feel comfortable at home. I just spent time trying to figure out actually, where do I belong?
When my uncle died, he was the first person to pass away since I became a Christian. I was quite distraught about it because I wasn't quite sure if he was going to be in Heaven or not. I remember I was packing up my university stuff down here in Christchurch, and it was the old days when you used to double record, and so I was recording a song and I just started to cry and I thought, what am I crying for? I stopped the song and replayed it. The song basically said, "Don't worry about me, I'm in heaven. I'm with God, you don't have to worry."
Later on in the day, my Dad rang me and he said that my uncle had passed away. I asked him, "What time did he pass away?" He said, "9:30." That was exactly the same time I was listening to the song. For me as a new Christian, all of a sudden realizing Heaven and Hell were truly real, to have that confirmation that my uncle was in Heaven, I think really helped me to solidify my faith in God and to move forward.
I suppose the next way that I heard God was through nature. I was taking a walk down this muddy path, and there was a big, huge cobweb right in the front of me. I thought, "What's all that about?" I felt the Lord say, "Denise, when you're walking this journey with me, you can walk through this mud, which is not fun, and there are things in your life that can cling to you if you don't get them out of the way." He was talking to me about my sin and a bit more about my journey with letting go of things of my past so I could walk closer to Him.
Another way, I think He's been speaking to me is through Scripture. I had waited 25 years to go to Israel. The first time I was prompted to go, I felt the Lord say to me, "Hey, I want you to wait because I have something special for you." So it took 25 years and I remember a group of people coming to me and saying, "Hey, pray about coming to Israel with us." I could feel this excitement in me and was thinking, "Lord, I don't want to blow it because You told me 25 years ago that You're going to tell me the time I should go."
I just had to pray and He gave me four or five Scriptures within half an hour. I was still doubting and somebody came up to me and said, "I really feel like you're meant to be going on a trip, or you will be going on a trip very, very soon." So then I thought, "Okay, Lord, I'm going to move forward as a confirmation with that." I stepped into it, and 10 days later, I was on my first trip to Israel. It was for a whole month and fully paid for.
I think the advice I'd give to people who are wanting to hear the voice of God is sometimes you have to trust. It's faith: Things hoped for, yet unseen. Connecting with other people who have walked the walk with God longer as well. For me, especially by myself, if I don't have other people around me, then I need to align it with Scripture. That's the best way. I ask the Lord. If I'm asking Him a question, I hear this answer. Instead of just going off blindly and going and doing it. If it's quite a big decision that I'm making in life, I ask Him, "Please show me in Scripture, confirm it in Scripture." So that I can sit and spend some time with Him.
I love the way that God has designed each one of us differently. When I talk to my friends, how they hear the Lord can be very different from the way that I do because of the way that they're made up and the way that they connect with the Father. I think that's encouraging to me, that I don't have to conform to be like everybody else, but I can discover that part, that unique part that He's placed in me, and what does He want me to be doing with that? To bring others into a relationship with Him.