What should you do if you sense God is calling you to something new or big, but you’re worried about getting it wrong? Or what if you think you’ve heard from God but you’re just not sure? In this encouraging, practical article, Carina Alanson shares 5 actions you can take if there are signs of God speaking to you to help you better seek and understand His will for your life.
I was tucked snuggly under the bed covers, just drifting off to sleep, when I felt God whisper something to my spirit that I knew would change my life forever. Though the room around me was murky and shadowed, inside my heart it felt as if God had beamed a floodlight directly onto the path He wanted me to take.
At that moment, I was certain He was speaking. However, the next day, that nighttime revelation felt like a dream, and I couldn’t help but wonder: Was that really God? What if I’m wrong?
These questions, perhaps more than any others, haunt those of us who seek to understand and carry out God’s will in our lives. We want to say yes to God, but we fear that if we’ve misheard or misunderstood, we’ll accidentally say yes to the wrong thing. On the other hand, there’s this worry: What if I actually did hear from God, but I let my misgivings hold me back from obeying His call?
So, what are we to do when we think we’ve heard from God, but we’re just not sure? One person who provides an example for us is our ancient friend, Gideon.
AN UNEXPECTED ANNOUNCEMENT
When we first encounter Gideon in Judges 6, he’s threshing wheat in a winepress.
Normally, wheat was threshed in a wide open space, aided by a threshing sledge and oxen. But for Gideon, life was anything but normal. For seven years, the entire nation of Israel had been systematically plundered and impoverished by the Midianites. Now, to protect his grain from being stolen, Gideon had to process it secretly in a small wine press and without the appropriate tools or the help of animals, making the job much more difficult.
A Holy Guest
In the middle of this tedious task, the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and declared: “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you” (Judges 6:12, NLT)! But instead of being filled with hope and joy, as one might expect, Gideon responded with questions that reveal the inner thoughts of a discouraged and frustrated man—questions I’m guessing he had been mulling over for some time.
“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Gideon asked. “And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites” (6:13, NLT).
In response to Gideon’s grievances, “the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you’” (6:14, NLT)!
A Great Commission
What an amazing statement!
I imagine that, while Gideon longed to see God’s wonders, probably the last thing he expected was that he might have a role in facilitating them. Yet suddenly God appears and, in essence, says: “You’re wondering where My miracles are? You’re My miracle! You’re My answer to the problems you’ve been grieving over.”
On this side of history, we know how the story ends. But imagine for a moment what it must have been like for Gideon to get this life-altering announcement out of the blue. Understandably, Gideon wanted to be sure it really was God speaking to him and that he was comprehending the message correctly, and as the story proceeds, we see Gideon do five things that can serve as a helpful guide for our own discerning process.
1. GIDEON WAS HONEST
The first thing Gideon did when he received the Lord’s pronouncement was to ask a question: “If God is with us, where are the miracles our ancestors told us about?” Then, after the Lord declared that He was sending Gideon to save the nation, Gideon asked another question: “How can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family” (Judges 6:15, NLT)!
In his willingness to ask these questions, Gideon models honesty. He wasn’t afraid to tell God how he felt or express the questions that troubled him. And counterintuitive as it might seem, it was this willingness to express doubt that eventually led to him receiving clarity and confirmation; by presenting his doubts to God, he created space for God to address and alleviate them.
In seeking to clarify whether God is speaking, one of the best things you can do is be honest. Like Gideon, ask questions. Tell God your worries. I’m not suggesting you argue with God—that’s never a good idea. But when we ask from a place of trust in His power and surrender to His will, He will not ignore our questions, and just as He was faithful to reply to Gideon, He will be faithful to reply to us.
2. GIDEON MOVED TOWARD GOD
By asking honest questions, Gideon entered into a dialogue with God, but he still wasn’t convinced that it was actually God speaking to him. However, instead of withdrawing from God, he pressed in, saying, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you” (Judges 6:17-18, NLT).
Here Gideon asked for further confirmation—but that’s not all he did. He also prepared bread and meat. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Commentary notes that this offering appears to be presented as a meal rather than as a traditional sacrifice. I think this is significant because a meal connotes fellowship. It’s an opportunity to spend time with the person you are dining with and, for Gideon, it was perhaps a means by which he hoped to spend more time with his companion and discern whether it really was God speaking.
It was in this context of communion that Gideon received the confirmation he sought. After he presented the food, the angel of the Lord touched it with his staff, fire consumed the food, and the angel of the Lord disappeared. At this point, Gideon’s doubt also disappeared, and he became convinced that he had indeed encountered the Lord.
Know His Voice and Enjoy His Relationship
In this part of his story, Gideon models for us the importance of moving toward God when we are seeking to better understand His voice. Our own movement toward God probably won’t involve preparing a literal meal, but there are other ways we can spend time with Him as we seek to confirm that what we are sensing is from Him. We can simply sit quietly in His presence and we can pray. We can read His Word and spend time with Him through activities such as singing, playing an instrument, running, dancing, or gardening. Personally, I love to connect with God through the beauty of His creation, journaling, and painting. It doesn’t really matter the activity as long as it helps you engage with God.
Seeking clarity is a worthy endeavor, but as we do so, we must remember that finding clarity isn’t necessarily our most important goal; the most important thing is simply enjoying God. This is the ultimate purpose for which we were created. When an intimate relationship is our aim, confirmation will come as God sees fit and in His perfect time.
3. GIDEON TOOK ACTION
When God first called Gideon to defeat the Midianites, He gave him a broad overview of what He had planned, but Gideon didn’t know the exact steps he would need to take to accomplish this task.
Despite having only partial understanding, Gideon took action. He obediently destroyed his father’s altar to Baal (Judges 6:25-27), and after that, he assembled an army (6:34). As Gideon started acting, something happened: More clarity came. Once his army was in place, God gave further instructions on how to organize the army (7:2-7). Later, after the army was arranged according to God’s specifications, God provided more details about how to attack the Midianites.
Here, we see that not having the full picture doesn’t mean we haven’t heard from God, and like Gideon, we often gain clarity as we start moving forward. So I encourage you to do what Gideon did: Take one step toward what you think you’ve heard—apply for the job, invite a possible ministry partner to lunch, take the cooking class—and then lean in until you sense whether God is providing either further instruction or a redirection.
4. GIDEON PUSHED PAST FEAR
Even after receiving confirmation that God was speaking, even after destroying the altar of Baal, and even after assembling an army, Gideon was still afraid that he’d heard wrong. He wanted more confirmation, so he said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised” (Judges 6:36-37, NLT).
God answered by performing the miracle Gideon requested, but Gideon was still afraid! He really, really, really wanted to be sure he wasn’t mistaken about this dangerous mission, so he prayed again. This time he asked God to perform the miracle in reverse: He asked that in the morning the fleece would remain dry while the ground around it was wet. And that’s exactly what happened.
Following God’s Instructions
After receiving these supernatural signs, he continued preparing his army. Yet, as the time to confront the Midianites grew closer, we know Gideon still experienced fear because the night of the battle, God said to him, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged” (Judges 7:9-11, NLT).
I believe the fact that Gideon followed God’s instructions and went down to the camp to listen signifies that he was indeed afraid. Yet, once again, he pushed past the fear and followed God’s instructions.
Are you struggling with fear over your ability to discern God’s voice or what you feel He is asking you to do? Gideon’s story shows us that the presence of fear is not necessarily a sign that we have misheard. So instead of retreating, do what Gideon did: Bring your fear to God. Then, if you sense Him reassuring you that you’re on the right track, push past the fear and take the next step.
5. GIDEON LET GO OF LOGIC
There was a lot about Gideon’s assignment that didn’t make sense.
Based on his incredulous questioning, I think it’s safe to assume that it didn’t make sense that God would choose Gideon—the least in his clan—to lead the Israelites to victory. It probably didn’t make sense when God asked him to destroy his father’s altar (an action he knew would incite the wrath of the villagers and possibly lead to his own death) or told him to whittle down his army from 32,000 soldiers to only 300 (Judges 7:2-7). And using rams’ horns and torches enclosed in clay jars to launch an offensive against the Midianites and their allies—a mass of warriors who resembled a “swarm of locusts” (Judges 7:12, 18-20)? That surely didn’t make sense!
But even though God’s commands may have contradicted human logic, Gideon didn’t dismiss God’s voice. Though he had questions, in the end, he obeyed every seemingly nonsensical directive.
Lay Down Your Perspective
As humans, we want things to make sense. But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), and when we make logic the metric by which we determine whether a message is from God or not, we’re likely to misread the situation.
Instead, like Gideon, we must be willing to lay aside our human perspective and trust that God sees the big picture. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use logic or think things through, but it’s important for us to remember that just because something doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean it’s not God.
If you find that the primary reason you’re struggling to decide whether or not you’ve heard from God is that the message just doesn’t make sense, I encourage you to submit your mind to Him and tell Him that you’re willing to act even if you don’t understand. If through this surrendering process you sense further confirmation from God, it might be time to gather your courage and take a leap of faith!
GO IN THE STRENGTH YOU HAVE
Despite our desire for perfect clarity, we’re not always going to know beyond all doubt that we’ve heard from God. And that’s okay. God is an expert at course correction and because of that, He’s a lot less worried about us making mistakes than we are. He doesn’t want us to worry or stress. He simply wants us to do our best to follow His guidance and then trust Him with the rest.
On that summer day so many years ago, I decided that even though I didn’t understand how God’s plan would unfold, and I couldn’t say with absolute certainty that it was God speaking, I was going to trust that I had heard Him speak. I continued to spend time with Him and surrender myself to Him. About six months later, I received confirmation that I had indeed heard correctly, and as with Gideon, with that confirmation came more clarity.
If you sense God calling you to something new or big, but you’re worried about getting it wrong, I hope Gideon’s story encourages you to keep seeking God. Trust Him to bring clarity and confirmation, and when He does, I pray that you have the courage to push past fear, let go of logic, and say yes to all He has for you.
Like Gideon, you may not feel that you have a lot, but you have something. Do what Gideon did: Go in the strength you have, believing that God can work through you in mighty ways.
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This is good stuff—and so reassuring. I read scripture with a certain amount of envy over the certainty with which God followers carry out his will. Samuel, for example, when he “hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord.” That’s a tough one to undo if you heard wrong…
I’m so glad it was reassuring, Michele! I know what you mean, we so want that certainty, especially when it comes to big decisions. I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit’s help! Blessings!
Thank you, Carina. I needed to read this. The Lord has been speaking to me for a little over a year now (yes, it took that long for me to really believe it was from Him). I will take an action step in forming a ministry for teen moms. I will take an action step by making space in my life and home for when I marry my husband to be. May the Lord bless you, Carina, and your family for your generous gift of sharing with others.
I’m so glad this was timely! I can relate to it taking time to really get the picture that it’s God speaking. Your action steps sound awesome–I pray blessings on you as you move forward in faith and courage! Blessings to you too!