Jamie and I were drinking coffee this morning, when our 8-year-old, Mady, asked us “If I thought God spoke to me that something bad was going to happen to you on the way to the store, would you believe me and not leave?” First of all, I don’t think kids should be allowed to ask poignant questions first thing in the morning. This question was totally out of the blue. Second, I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee, which was very unfair. I don’t even think she said Good Morning or Hello. How do you answer a question like that?
Two thoughts quickly passed through my mind.
If I said yes, I would be concerned of training her that every stray thought she had would be God speaking. That isn’t true. She will have a variety of feelings and intense dreams that are merely feelings and dreams, not God speaking. I don’t want her to be led by the swooshing and tossing of chemicals in her body.
If I said no, I would be concerned of squashing the discernment of the voice of God in her life. I believe God does speak. I want her to recognize and trust the voice of God.
How does one train someone to expect and notice the voice of God, while not wildly yielding to other voices?
I think of God telling Jeremiah to buy land in Israel at the time the country was under siege by the Babylonians. That’s like being told to buy a timeshare in Syria. It wasn’t until after his cousin came to Jeremiah with the suggestion that he says, “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” (Jer 32:8) To me that means Jeremiah wasn’t totally sure he knew it was God speaking to him. But once his cousin confirmed the same thing Jeremiah was sensing, that was enough.
What did I tell Mady? I affirmed the fact that God will speak to her. I told her Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing [the voice of God] and hearing [the voice of God] comes by the word of God.” God wants to build our faith in his voice. I told Mady that God does that mainly in two ways. First, we can trust the witness of Scripture and the better we understand the Bible, the better we can discern the difference between God’s voice and other voices. Second, God speaks to us through other people. That’s how Jeremiah knew it was God speaking to him. God uses preachers, Sunday school teachers, friends, and family to speak to one another. So if you came to us, I told her, and felt God told you that we were not to go to the store, we would pray together and try to figure out if God is trying to tell us something.
I don’t know if that was the best answer. I would appreciate your insight. I don’t want her to live at the whim of her own feelings or the whim of others. I want her to know the voice of God. I want her to believe that the same voice that spoke everything she sees into existence, still speaks and will speak into her existence.