Updated: Oct 13
When I was expecting my first baby a strange thing began to happen, and it wasn't my increased trips throgh Maccers drive-through for a cheeseburger. I started to notice prams. Everywhere. Clogging up the chocolate aisle at the supermarket. Manoeuvring around clothing racks in the mall. Wedged between chairs in cafes. I saw certain models more often than others, then a sale might conveniently right about the same time.
The same thing happened when we had to replace our car. People-movers popped into view wherever I was driving, they parked up near my rusting corolla, and they even cut me off at intersections. They were suddenly everywhere.
--- was God speaking to me? Or was it a coincidence?
When we talk about hearing from God, we often associate this with receiving some kind of sign or signal in response to a prayer. We look for confirmation in the physical world around us. But how do we know the thing we believe might be God's answer isn't just our imagination or a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can we tell the difference between God flagging something specific and the clever marketing flogging of something generic?
Learning to hear from God is a journey of detecting the subtle prompts from the Holy Spirit in everyday moments. I call these ‘hints’ — suggestions or clues to something more significant than what we see on the surface. They are a camera-flash glimpse of what God has for you. God’s visions to Israel’s prophets were hints about who the Messiah would be, and Jesus’ parables were hints of what the kingdom of God was like.
How do you know God is hinting at you?
As you walk with the Holy Spirit you might be alerted to something that He wants you to pay attention to. Or you might suddenly be aware of an image or have knowledge you didn’t have a moment ago that suggests new possibilities. Your heart may be moved with compassion for someone God wants you to reach out to. A hint evokes a question mark!
Did you say something, Lord?
What do you want me to pay attention to here?
Help me understand!
What is the next step you want me to take?
A hint from the Holy Spirit is really an invitation to ask for more information. It causes us to pause and ponder a deeper truth we haven’t discovered yet. Or they might nudge us in a new direction when we don’t yet know the destination. So, when you sense the Holy Spirit is hinting at something, you can engage with Him to follow up on it immediately.
Other times, these hints or ‘clues’ accumulate over time to reveal a more vivid picture. This is helpful when you face a cross-road or big decision, as you assemble all the snippets of information God has given you to show you the right path going forward.
Jesus said, “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.” John 16:25
All the hints Jesus had been dropping to the disciples about how and why he would die, suddenly made sense when He rose again and He could show them exactly what He had been talking about.
It's merely a coincidence
In our eagerness to hear a word from the Lord, there are two things we need to avoid in order to discern whether we are receiving a hint from the Lord or chasing a red-herring.
go looking for things that validate what we want to hear
This is when we have pre-determined what we want the answer to be and actively search for things that validate them. We find people who will affirm our opinions or arguments, rather than allowing other perspectives or voices to calibrate our experiences. Our theory is reinforced due to repeated exposure to the same values, i.e. we see what we want to see and we hear what we want to hear because we place ourselves in environments where that is the only thing we see and hear. The algorithms of social media are well documented in their deliberate (and highly profitable) strategy of amplifying someone's views by continuously exposing them to similar content, resulting in a stubborn dismissal of anything that might challenge or contradict those views.
2. assigning significance to things that were never a sign in the first place
This can occur when we place an overemphasis on the importance of symbolism. Any image, word, phrase, or jingle, can suddenly be interpreted in a way that fits the narrative you are hoping for.
Some clouds are just clouds. Sometimes a storm is the result of two different weather fronts colliding. A stop sign is a stop sign. Please don't run any red lights.
Coincidence = the coinciding of two events by chance
A hint from God
- [ ] Intentional
- [ ] Deliberate
- [ ] Personal
Two or 3 witnesses to confirm - corroboration
early 17th century (in the sense ‘occupation of the same space’): from medieval Latin coincidentia, from coincidere ‘coincide, agree’ (see coincide).
noun: coincidence; plural noun: coincidences; noun: co-incidence; plural noun: co-incidences
1. 1. a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection."it was a coincidence that she was wearing
Did you get the hint?
During the years when our kids were toddlers, a close friend and I stayed sane by catching up when we could for a cuppa and a chat. While I was just happy we had managed to avoid sickness long enough to meet, she would save her morning coffee just for this moment. That meant she had survived on 5 hrs of sleep without caffeine just so she could savour that time with me (my hero!).
I'm telling you this so you understand what a big deal it is that I didn't make a big deal the day she asked for TEA instead. She even looked me straight in the eye as she declined the offer of a coffee.
But I totally missed the hint.
She let me prattle on for two more minutes before interrupting me.⠀
"Rachel, I just gave you a massive hint and it went way over your head."⠀
Of course, she was! Her going off coffee - especially the first one of the day - was a dead give-way in previous pregnancies. I knew this and she knew I knew this. ⠀
This was definitely a ‘Wait! What? Tell me more!?’ moment ... but I missed it! When she dropped the hint, I just didn't take the invitation to ask for more information. It would have made her sneaky announcement that much more fun when she got an instant (very excited) reaction rather than delayed confusion! Thankfully she laughed at my missed opportunity and shared her exciting news anyway. ⠀
How many times does God hint at something but we’re too preoccupied with our own feelings or ideas to notice He’s got something special to share with us? ⠀
Thankfully He doesn’t give up and offers us another chance to get a clue!!!!! ⠀
When you sense God is hinting at something and you go to Him to find out more, it provides an opportunity to process what you are learning. It fosters an exchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings with Him. They should raise questions that become conversation starters as you turn to God for answers - which He loves to respond to! The more we develop a sensitivity to the inward prompting of the Holy Spirit, the easier it is to 'get the hint'.
And the process of asking for more draws us into more intimate conversations with Him.
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* All scripture is quoted from NIV translation unless noted