"Daddy, how do we know when God speaks to us?" Our daughter put that question to me one evening when she was about seven or eight.
The question itself makes some profound assumptions: that there is a God, and that we are capable of hearing Him.
Our daughter was learning in Sunday School that God is Love, that His children are His image and likeness, and that God is the Father and Mother who cares for us.
This concept of God as good permeates the Bible, as is suggested by the well-known 23rd Psalm, which begins, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Given her acceptance of all this, it was perfectly natural for our daughter to see God as a source of her good, of her protection, of her care. So, as I thought about how to answer her question, I could see an important distinction between what she could have asked: "Does God speak to us?" and what she actually did ask: "How do we know when He speaks to us?"
During that day, our son had not been feeling very happy, and to cheer him up our daughter had made him a cup of hot chocolate. Recalling this, I asked her about where a good thought or act of kindness comes from.
"From God," she replied.
We reasoned from there that if God is the origin of good deeds, then the idea for her to make hot chocolate for her brother had come directly to her from God. He had actually spoken to her just that afternoon! The wonderment of that actually filled her eyes with tears.
We talked further about examples in the Bible where God had spoken to people. One story involved the boy Samuel, who heard a voice calling him in his sleep (see I Sam., chap. 3). Samuel went to Eli, a priest with whom he was staying, thinking it was Eli who had called him. Eli had not called him, and sent him back to bed.
This happened three times. The third time, Eli "perceived that the Lord had called the child," and he told Samuel to acknowledge God when he heard His voice. The result was that "Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground." Apparently Samuel not only heard the voice of God but also obeyed that voice. You could say that the fact that we're capable of hearing implies we can obey.
My daughter and I also talked about the many times when Moses clearly heard and followed God's specific direction in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. In fact, the Ten Commandments are introduced in the book of Exodus with the phrase "And God spake all these words" (Ex. 20:1). Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, noted the remarkable clarity with which some people in the Bible heard God's voice: "The Soul-inspired patriarchs heard the voice of Truth, and talked with God as consciously as man talks with man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 308).
About 10 years after this discussion with our daughter, our son heard and obeyed God in a way that protected him. He was working hard at his summer job in a boatyard, where he was part of a crew that was lifting boats out of the water in preparation for an approaching hurricane. He was guiding a boat weighing several tons that was being lowered onto a steel cradle, when he got the very clear intuition to move his hand. He did. And at that moment, the crane operator released the boat, catching just the tip of our son's glove between the cradle and the boat.
As we see it, at least three important things happened there. First, God spoke to our son, right there in that boatyard. Second, our son heard God's voice very clearly. And third, he obeyed that voice immediately, which resulted in his protection from a serious injury.
God is good. And every time we think of something good, or experience something good, we can know with certainty that God has spoken to us.
Articles like this one appear in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.
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