Bob inspired me from the moment I met him and heard about his story. He was almost charismatic in his assertiveness and optimism. Bob was confident and cheery — you would never consider him handicaped by his misfortune.
Long before I met Bob, he lost both of his hands simultaneously in a tragic industrial accident. Losing your hands, what could be more challenging than this? Although his doctors were not able to reattach his hands, they performed a surgery that removed his big toe, and attaching the big toe at the end of his forearm, where it would serve as his thumb, that along with a prosthetic device gave Bob some semblance of a working and functioning hand.
Bob completed his education after his accident, going on to graduate from college and then entering grad school, where he eventually earned a master’s degree. Before the days of any type of dictation software, pecking away at his keyboard with a single digit, he was able to write all of his many research papers — no small task when you try to imagine it. If nothing else, Bob projected a near-heroic strength and endurance in the face of a horrible setback.
With a good education came a new job. At his new job Bob began pursuing the woman who would someday become his wife. Bob told me, “I felt it, as real as could be. I felt God physically slap me on the back of my head to get my attention. Then God spoke right into my ear. He told me she was the one and we should get married.” Who was I to disagree with Bob?
I met with the couple, and over five or six sessions of premarital counseling we talked about all the dynamics of married life. A few months later, I proudly officiated their marriage. Everything seemed to be going well for Bob and his new wife, until about a year later.
One evening around 9 p.m. Bob’s wife called me. I could hear the exasperated sorrow in her voice. She wearily asked if I could come to their house and meet with them. They were in big trouble, she said. I drove over to their house as quickly as I could. I arrived to discover that they had been arguing for three days straight. Bob was ready to end their marriage while she was not. What was the source of their strife? It seemed Bob received another revelation from God — God had a new woman in store for Bob.
As I did my best to counsel them, Bob became more and more agitated, almost hostile. After exhausting every resource I could think of as a counselor, in desperation I asked Bob, “Was God correct then, or now?” Bob asked me to clarify. I asked him if God was right about telling him to marry his current bride, or, was God correct this time with the new potential spouse? The veins began to stick out in Bob’s neck, his face went from red to almost purple, and no amount of talking could convince him to rethink this. He simply turned his back on us and walked away. The conversation was clearly over. I never saw or was able to speak with him again.
I find it interesting how some people can interpret the voice of God. Admittedly, there are few times in my life I truly feel I have heard God speaking distinctly or directly to me. Still, it’s interesting to see how people respond to the voice of God.
Does God still speak to us today, and how do we know if it is God or merely our desires to attribute our ideas to God? The simplest response would be to look at Hebrews 1:1-2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” But we don’t assume to be prophets speaking for God to the people. So what about God speaking to us? A simple but vital point is to compare what we think we are hearing from God with what the Scriptures already say.
After prayerfully comparing these ideas with Scripture, compare the ideas with our motivations and our emotions. Eventually we might want to bounce our perceptions of what we think we are hearing from God off of a more mature believer. If you struggle to think of someone more mature than you, there might be a problem.
There are two equally egregious errors when it comes to the idea of God speaking to us today.
One mistaken idea is that God never speaks to anyone anymore, as if He only did that during biblical times. The other mistaken idea is that everything I think God is saying, God is saying — wisdom and discernment are necessary to know the difference.
May we prayerfully learn to hear from God and to truly know what is coming from Him, and what isn’t.