Three Voices We Often Mistake for God


Learning how to discern God’s voice is no easy task in the life-long spiritual walk of a believer. Some voices are pretty easy to weed out of the cacophony of voices that talk at us, to us, or around us throughout our day. After all, any seasoned disciple of Christ knows to compare what a particularly persuasive voice is saying with what the Bible says.  But not all voices are easy to separate from the herd, in particular, the ones that come from within ourselves.

While most people would be willing to admit that God is probably larger and more powerful than we generally give Him credit for, many aren’t necessarily aware of the source of those limiting beliefs. Many are based on childhood impressions or Sundayvoices school lessons meant to break God into bite-size pieces for the very young.

Others come from the fact that the Bible was written many ages ago and so God is more of a historical figure than a present help in time of need. If you want to know if your ideas of God are out of date, ask yourself if God understands computer code.  If your gut response is no than you might have relegated God to the ancient past. I’m pretty sure He knows all about code, nanotechnology, and even the theory of relativity.

But the most subtle voices we need to quiet in our spiritual repertoire are not external but internal in nature. What makes this difficult is that these are the voices that we believe inform the substance of our lives. These voices inside us tell us who we are. This makes it easy to mistake them for the voice of God. So here goes:

  1. Our conscience.

There is no doubt that our conscience is a God-given gift. After all, the fact that we have one separates us from the animals.  I think of it as a God chip in our programming. We are born with an innate sense that there are a right and wrong. But a conscience is not the voice of God telling us what or what not to do. If that were so, then we would have a lot of disparate versions of God just within our own minds since our conscience grows and matures just as we do.

Our conscience, however, is subject to personality and culture. So many norms have shifted culturally over the millennia that things that were morally permissible before, are not now and vice versa. I am not talking about the Ten Commandments. Most people agree that murder is wrong, etc… But many of the concerns of our lives are extra-biblical such as what we eat, wear, play, listen to, and watch. If God is the voice of our conscience, then He appears to lead many people in different directions.

The other issue of the conscience is that it has a faulty mechanism. Like the humans who carry them, consciences bear the voicescharacteristics of the fall. Some are perfectionistic and suffer from chronic guilt, others are under-developed and suffer few moral qualms, and still, others are scarred and of no use at all. While God can use our conscience for His purposes and often does, the job of your conscience is to tell you what you think is right or wrong. Your job is to square your conscience with God’s word, not the other way around.

  1. Our intuition.

Intuition or spidey-sense is crucial to our safety. I read recently that our subconscious is always taking in and processing information from our surroundings. If you get a sudden sense that something is dangerous and you need to flee the area, listen to that little voice.  In all likelihood, your subconscious has picked up on cues that your busy conscious mind did not process. Because women’s brains are wired for connectivity, their intuition is often better developed than men’s.

I think it is wonderful that we are created with survival tools that let us know in our gut whether something is safe or not. Many times I think that we attribute to the Holy Spirit what is our inborn intuitiveness. Our subconscious picks up on the micro-expressions of others or their subtle body language and somehow we know that they are suffering.

But again, our intuition is not the voice of God. It is a God-given gift in our human make-up that God can use for our protection and for relational connection. But it too is only reliable as the human host to whom it is attached. Because our intuition can be powerful at times, it is easy to assume that this represents God’s voice in our lives.

  1. Our internalized parents.

Many of us pray ‘Dear heavenly version of our earthly father’ well into adulthood. Without conscious separation of our ideas of who God is and who our parents are, we shrink God down to parent sized figures. Now to a two-year-old, a parent is a giant, god-like figure who rules his or her universe. But unless we mature to a place where we recognize our parents as human, we can get caught in an emotional cycle with God similar to the one we replayed over and over with our parents.

For me, God was a benign, brilliant but distant figure who was very busy and stressed. I needed to make some noise in ordervoices to make Him hear me. Of course, this was a pasting of the image of my father over the powerful immediacy of the real, living God. I also perceived God as very anxious about my choices. In truth, my mother was anxious about my choices. God is love and there is no fear in love.

These images of our parents distort the real nature of God. This means that our ability to really hear what God is saying can get diluted by the parental filters that we wear like ear muffs over our ears. I used to think God was always telling me Don’t do this! Don’t touch that! Be careful!  Now that I have, for the most part, taken off the filters, I hear God more clearly. One thing I know for sure is that He isn’t worried by my mistakes, afraid of my anger, or impatient with my questions.

The reason these three voices get in the way of God’s voice is that they all originate in the soul. But just as the Word of God separates spirit and soul like marrow from the bone, God’s voice can only be heard and received in the spirit. The boney part, our hardened souls must be pierced by His love in order for His voice to penetrate to the core of our being, our spirit to work out the metaphor a bit further.

This is the hardest work of the Christian, to walk in spirit and in truth. To do so is to deny the flesh, to put off the soulish voices howling for their turn, and to listen to the deepest parts of one’s spirit. I think this is why the Desert Fathers and Mothers headed out to the desert for decades. One must be very still and very quiet to know that He is God.

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14 Replies to “Three Voices We Often Mistake for God”

  1. kbraswell1187 says: Reply

    As always, your words really rang true in my heart. I am very much an internal person, and every single “voice” you pointed out, I have confused with the voice of God. The “voice” I struggle with most is intuition. There have been times where I have heeded this voice inside and was protected from bad situations. There have been times where I confused worry and anxiety with intuition which I confused as being the voice of God. You have clearly and truthfully laid how how this is not reality! I appreciate this clarity! I think this will be a post I come back to regularly. <3 Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Love this! Very informative and makes me think. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this! Praying for lots of ladies find this! Blessings … Donna

  3. Alice, I just love your writing. I tend to have to read and re-read and then chew on aspects of what you write. I think I struggle with intuition at times, believing it to be the voice of God. Such a beneficial post!

  4. Yes! I have actually heard people say that your conscious and the Holy Spirit are the same, but they aren’t. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. This is sooo good, Alice! Discerning God’s voice is one of the most important aspects to being a Christian. We have to be able to distinguish between our own ideas and God’s. Keep up the wonderful work you are doing!

  6. I must confess that I have been guilty of this. Sometimes I struggle with what my conscience is telling me thinking it is God speaking especially when it comes to discerning what is spiritual and what is not.Sometimes I get carried away by my cultural background and try to judge the way other believers who are not in my culture dress. Relying on the voice of the conscience as the voice of God can be misleading.
    Thank you for this great post.

  7. Very informative post! I had learned to compare what I think I heard to what the Bible says. If they line up than I know it’s from God. If it creates guilt or shame then it isn’t from Him.

  8. “Your job is to square your conscience with God’s word, not the other way around.” Profound statement – and so true! Thank you for this beautiful insight, Alice! xoxoxo

  9. I always love reading your posts. I never thought of this subject the way you have and probably have thought my conscience or intuition was God! Thanks for this! I am saving it to go back and reread!

  10. This is so good. I always love to read your point of view! I can totally see how easy it is to confuse all of those with God’s voice. I often run off my intuition and have to be careful not to cross that line, especially if giving advice. Your writing is so beautiful, there are so many enlightening thoughts in this post!

  11. Really helpful article. I always believed God didnt want to spend much time with me so I kept my prayers brief, my readings of the Word non-existant and the thought of being in his presence a pipe-dream. I believed that God would turn me away at judgement and it gave me years of anxiety and depression. So thankful God intervened in my life and turned these thinkings upside down xD

  12. It has taken me a long time to stop thinking of God as uncaring and distant. The only way I accomplished this was through prayer, studying Scriptures, and personal experiences that enhanced my understanding and faith. Thank you for breaking this down because it’s easy for us to use what we know from social and childhood experiences to fit God into a certain box!

  13. I think #3 gets me the most often. With the lack of a real physical picture, I substitute the persona I know and can see most clearly. Scripture is really the only thing that brings me back to the reality of God and His multifaceted-ness.

  14. This, “One must be very still and very quiet to know that He is God.” In our racing around this noise-filled world, being still and quiet is imperative or we miss Him in the confusion of life.

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