In 2017, about three years after my frustrations with God were healed, I was listening to a report about a question and answer session held with two apostles of the church. Among the questions submitted to the apostles by the young adults of the Church was this one, “How can I differentiate between the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts and feelings?”
Elder Oaks said in response, “This is a question we wrestle with all of our lives.”
I thought about all the times I had asked myself that same question and all the people that have asked it of me. I could not find the words to accurately describe the difference I feel between my own thoughts and the Spirit. I knew that I still wasn’t perfect at it, nor am I perfect at following a prompting even when I do know it’s from the Spirit. Anything I have been able to pin down and identify as clearly being from God has come through practice. Many attempts, simple trial and error, some successful and some regretful, have taught me to recognize the voice of the Lord.
As I thought of this, I remembered again that prayer for my mother (Will of the Father, Will of the Child, Part II) and how I was at first met with a brick wall. I remembered how stunned I had been to feel that wall and then how it had come down when I expressed my own thoughts and feelings. When I tried to quiet my own desires so I could hear the Spirit, I heard nothing. When I spoke, I could hear.
There seems to be a broad misconception that because the Lord’s voice is still and small, we must be completely silent. That to submit to the will of the Lord means to erase our own entirely. That to be filled with the Spirit, we must empty ourselves. One of my greatest failings is a tendency towards passivity, when the Lord has taught me boldness and confidence.
The thought struck me that the Spirit testifies of truth; thus, you have to say something for Him to testify about. He brings things to your remembrance; thus, you have to have some thoughts and experiences for Him to work with. He builds you up and strengthens you—He cannot do that if you are working to silence your own voice. He wishes to teach you how to be a Queen, a Priestess. Are you turning yourself into a puppet?
We are inundated with a hundred voices a day. They tell us where to shop, what to buy, where to find love, what love is and what it feels like, how to earn love and belonging, who to be. The speakers of these voices have been very clever at getting into our subconscious. If they are hidden, and we don’t recognize them for what they are, we don’t even realize they aren’t our own.
The first step in hearing the Spirit, is finding your own voice. What do you really think of all the messages that are sent to you throughout the day? What do you really want? Why do you want it?
When I prayed for my mother, I was not simply praying for a healing. I spoke of my love for her, I admitted my fears. Since all of these were true, the Spirit came easily and powerfully. I prayed for hope, love, comfort, and strength. I thought that removing my mother’s cancer would satisfy all of these desires, but the Lord showed me how to have exactly what I wanted in a more meaningful and long-lasting way.
To be united with God in His will, I also needed to know mine with greater clarity. Such unity requires complete honesty, for only truth can be in the presence of God. This means acknowledging your fears, weaknesses, and your own desires but not to be ruled by them. Take them to God and lay them down honestly.
The Spirit will help you in sorting out the fact from the fiction. He’ll help you see what’s important to you, even when others are trying to get you to see only what’s important to them. He’ll encourage you in your talents, even when they’re different than what others expect of you. He’ll tell you when to let go of a worry because it’s based on a fabrication. He’ll comfort you when you’re scared and stand by you when it’s worth doing anyway.
The Lord invited us to be united with Him because He loves us, not because He wants to erase us. He wants us to show up and be a part of the conversation. The Lord will help you find your voice, and that is what He will strengthen.