How to Hear the Holy Spirit (5)

Holy Spirit sculpture in Jaffa

Session #5

What if it’s my imagination?

Questions for personal reflection:

  1. When I want the Holy Spirit to direct me, what holds me back? What am I afraid of? How is the Holy Spirit bigger than my fears?
  2. Recall a time when you tried to hear the Holy Spirit and you proceeded forward and it turned out to be a mistake. What did you learn from it? How was this valuable?

Question for discussion (please post a comment):
If you can, please share a testimony of how well “just do it” works when the Holy Spirit is involved. Remember, “just do it” might mean “just go ahead and speak up” or conversely “just shut your mouth and don’t speak up yet”.

Comments from the live event

L.M. raised a good point:

Over the years, what you said about “timing” I’ve learned to appreciate so much more. Typically I’ve found the energy and my desire pushing me, but I have made some big decisions that I had thought and prayed about, and I really thought I was following God. I’m realizing as I’m writing that I didn’t have the relationship I do today with the Holy Spirit, so I was asking/praying for guidance and direction on the decision.

One of the decisions I really thought was totally God’s will. Everything was so aligned and I am still rather shocked today. What did I miss? How did I think that? How was it not? I think that sense of assurance and then being so wrong has caused me to question more and doubt what I’m hearing, what I’ve learned. Although some decisions still have a time limit in that there is a deadline to respond, I’ve tended to have more of a “don’t do it” for the bigger decisions — less rushing in, more of a “maybe not now” and a waiting. This has been astounding and the Holy Spirit has shown up big time. For the smaller decisions, I do tend to let the energy move me, but I’ve learned from that that if my intent is good and lined up and I’m praying, I’m focused on what I think is the obedience and leave the outcome up to Him.

Terry’s response:

One of my favorite sayings during the discernment process is, “When in doubt, don’t.” Of course, we have to analyze if there is any fear that makes us doubt, because fear blocks the Spirit’s voice. But if we are in a prayerful, trusting mode, humbly ready to accept anything the Holy Spirit gives us in guidance, then our doubts usually mean that the Lord has not made his will known yet, fully, because it’s not time yet for it. God never ever, and I mean never, withholds his voice from us except when it’s too soon for us to know something.

A caveat to that is: Sometimes he says, “You choose, my child. This is a collaboration. I’m not a dictator. You have multiple good options. Which one do you want? I’ll go along with that and will bless it!”

C.F. asked a question:

I think what holds me back is I am afraid. Afraid of getting out of my comfort zone and going out to do the will of the Lord. I am afraid his decisions might not be so interesting to me or be difficult for me to do. For example, if he wants me to help someone I particularly don’t really like or something like that. That is my problem. I really want to follow the Lord’s will in my life but at the same time I am afraid of where he will lead me.

I need to learn how to let go and ACCEPT. If I would just allow him to overcome my fears, he will definitely lead me to greater heights. He is certainly bigger than anything. But how, Terry? The fear is sometimes enormous. The thing is to just let God take over. That is the difficult part.

Terry’s reply:

You answered your own question! But to let God just take over is indeed the difficult part. Especially because we listen to our fears. Here’s something that helps me: Think of what “fear” spells: False Evidence Appearing Real”. Our fears lie to us. Our fears take a small piece of truth and amplify what might go wrong if God were not in the picture. But we know that God is in the picture, all the way!

So, the first step is to ask the Holy Spirit: “What is the truth that FEAR is hiding?” For example, fear says, “If I visit my sick neighbor who’s in the hospital, I won’t know what to say. Maybe she’ll expect me to come visit her often after she gets home and spend a lot of time with her and cook for her and clean her house, none of which I can fit into my day.” And the Holy Spirit says, “I will give you the words to speak after you arrive in her hospital room. You can trust me, and you can trust your own compassion. And I will never ask you to do more for her back home than what is a well-balanced use of your time.”

The second step is to take action, surrendering to the Lord before fear overtakes the Holy Spirit’s anointing. But build up to the big stuff by surrendering in smaller decisions. For example, when you turn on the television, ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose what to watch. Then choose a program that you know the Lord would approve of because it is wholesome, moral, and doesn’t glorify violence and sex outside of marriage. The more we practice surrendering our plans and preferences to God’s guidance, the easier surrendering becomes.

E.F. shared this:

My first trip to Egypt was for the Nile cruise. My second one was for the fabled burning bush and for the climb to Mt. Sinai where Moses received the ten commandments. That really piqued my interest.

It was a long drive from Cairo to St. Catherine. Along the drive our tour guide announced there is a climb scheduled to climb Mt. Sinai to begin at 2:00 AM to get to the top in time to see the sunrise over Mt. Sinai. About 20-30 expressed interest to go. We arrived at St. Catherine at 12:00 AM sleepless and hungry and still had to eat. When our tour guide said the present temperature was -10 degrees, a lot chickened out. I was in a quandary. I vacillated whether to go or not because of my heart condition. I was not sure if my heart can take the high altitude of about 8,000 feet and the frigid weather plus I was tired and sleepless! As usual when in doubt I always ask the Holy Spirit to direct me. I asked, Lord you know I specially took this trip for this but not at the expense of my health. What do I do? I heard an inner voiced said GO and I did trusting the Lord will take care of me.

The climb was on a treacherous, steep, ragged and rocky mountainous terrain with only our flash lights and Bedouin guide to guide us. I thanked the Lord sent me two angels in the person of Andy DeVries and his friend to help me , holding both my hands on the steep, treacherous parts of the climb. Without them I would never have got to the top or probably fell and hurt myself. The climb normally take about 2 to 3 hours. We made it in 4 hours because I had to stop several times to catch my breath and my group bless them waited for me. I was panting all the way to the top so much so the camel boys kept bugging me to take the camel ride to the top. But I was adamant as I wanted to do it on m own as a penance. Anyway those camels were stinky. My mountain top experience was the highlight of that trip and I still relish it to this day.

C.M. responded:

E.F.’s testimony made me cry.

Isn’t it amazing how God is so close? Isn’t it amazing how there is no issue too small for God to be fully engaged when it pertains to His children?

I heard something very powerful: Upon receiving Holy Communion, it is Christ’s blood that flows now through our veins. Isn’t that amazing?! So, isn’t the Blood of Christ flowing within any communicant stronger than all human weaknesses combined? Wow.

Now, I need to stop writing, so that tears stop flowing, so that I can have lunch.

C.M. posted this response to the discussion question:

There are definitely two moments that I can talk about in terms of the Holy Spirit on just do it at one of them was when to speak and another one was went to keep silent.

The first moment when I felt this prompting was when the Holy Spirit gave me the idea of going to a nearby city where someone, whom I was planning to give a ride to a retreat, lived. I was attempting to make plans to meet this person prior to the retreat and get some things put together, but it had been difficult. I got out of 8 o’clock Mass and felt a very strong prompting to just get on my way and then give this person a call when I had arrived at their town. At first, I said to myself, “Well that sounds pretty crazy, just get on my way and just go and then give them a call. What if they’re not available?” The prompting within me was very strong, so I did turn my car around, drove a couple of minutes, got into a coffeehouse and from there called them. Lo and behold we met, talked and connected. Everything worked out, and later on we had some conversations at the retreat and also some conversations on the phone about our spiritual lives. There were some very meaningful exchanges from following the prompting of just going, physically just be on the way, and then trust that there was a reason. That was something very powerful to me, because I tend to think too much and try to plan for everything, so it was a powerful moment of letting go and trusting that things were gonna work out.

The second instance was a moment of not talking. I was in a meeting and there were several representatives there as well as the president of our company. I basically felt that there was something holding me back from speaking, like “this not the right time to speak”, so I surrendered to the feeling. I waited, and I listened. I had a chance to understand how many times it’s more important to listen than to speak, that this was needed of me at that time and that it is prudent to sometimes hold back in order to gain greater understanding. Yes, I am glad I just listened, and it taught me more.

A.M. shares this:

Shortly after the Rio World Youth Day, I saw a newspaper article about the Pope’s words to the young: for the Church to move out onto the streets and get dirty! I felt compelled to share this message with our parish and had the freedom to do so, because our Marist priest gave us a lot of freedom to share notices before the end of Mass, notices that were at times informal, such as: “Mrs. X has a birthday, let’s sing for her”. So, I shared the message, saying I believed I had a message from God. I feel our parish is very “insular” and inward-looking/self-centered, but I managed to convey the message, in a positive or encouraging manner, somehow.

During the following week, I became convinced I’d acted out of order, and dangerously so, but I felt sure that the message was indeed from the Holy Spirit. I sought our second priest’s advice, and he gently agreed to the fact that checking in with the priest first would have been better. So, the following Sunday I apologized to the congregation (freely, without suggestion from the priest), not for the contents of the message, but for not seeking permission from an authority figure first. I explained that it would become quite unsafe if anyone would get up and say “Here’s a message from God!”

I have learned from that to seek confirmation from the appropriate authority. If that person blocks the message, but I feel strongly it is meant to be shared, then I would seek advice from someone else. I have had one or two occasions since then to be disappointed at a “No”, but I am obedient to my priest. I don’t often get a prophetic word.

S.L. wrote:

I remember the time when my daughter’s psychotherapist informed me of a homeschooling center which may be ideal for my daughter and told me to check it out. I googled the school’s website and was quite keen, but held back out of fear that it would not work out, after several failed attempts to get her back to some form of schooling.

This doubt and procrastination stretched from April until mid-August 2015, when I was somehow prompted by the Holy Spirit, at the back of my mind, to just take action and trust God in this. I was also led to invite the psychotherapist to come along with us, when the appointment was set up. To our surprise, my daughter loved the school upon her first visit and requested to be enrolled immediately. Since then, she has been faithfully attending and would not dream of missing even a day at school.

Looking back, I realize that I was too anxious and had mistakenly tried to hear the Holy Spirit in my own human mind, which led us to the other schools that did not work out earlier. That was the reason why I hesitated in trying out the current school she’s in now.

When I finally acted on the Holy Spirit’s prompting, surrendering the outcome to God, everything seemed to work out for the better. It is indeed God’s timing, as this school is newly set up, and very different from the rest. The best part is that it is a Christian-based school, with Bible centered syllabus, a conducive environment, caring teachers, and so close to where we stay!

Praise God and the Holy Spirit for His guidance!


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