A few months ago I was on the phone with one of my sons as he was telling me about a difficult disappointment he was experiencing that day. As he was describing the setback, I started to think through how I was going to respond. What words of encouragement and positive perspective did he need from me in that moment? But, just as I was about to reply, he said, “Mom, I know what you’re going to say.” And, he proceeded to share the same words of support that I was about to share. I said very little in that call, but it was a pivotal moment for me.

I realized something significant. My son knows my voice. Not merely how my voice sounds, but what my voice says. He was right; he knew exactly what I was going to say. How did he know? Because we have a relationship that has been built and strengthened over time. I’ve gained his trust through consistently speaking life into him. After eighteen years of nurturing, guiding and protecting my son, he now knows how I will respond to him in certain situations.

A relationship with Jesus functions in the same way! The more time we spend with Him, and the more we get to know Him, the easier it is to recognize His voice.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

A Good Shepherd nurtures, guides, and protects. He builds relational currency over time with his sheep. This is not a casual, surface level relationship. This is a bond that is earned through perseverance.

“He guides me along the right paths…” Psalm 23:3

Once again, notice the tender tone of these words. He is not forceful or demanding. He is simply walking along a path, and we can choose to follow Him. Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus would just hold up a nice big neon sign that says “THIS WAY!”? But, how much trust would that require? He will guide us, and we will recognize His voice as our understanding of Him deepens. In my experience this develops with intentionality, and the journey looks different for each of us.

But, how do we know we are “on the right path”? Here are a few filters I find helpful:

  • Does this guidance sound like the voice of a loving Father?
  • Will this choice lead me into a deeper relationship with God?
  • Will walking this path shape me into the person God intends for me to be?
  • Will I be able to honor God with my thoughts and actions if I make this decision?

So often, it’s easy to become paralyzed, too concerned we could make the wrong decision that we choose to do nothing. But, notice that David explains that “He guides me along the right paths“. “Paths” is plural. Could that mean there is more than one “good” option? Besides, our God doesn’t play the game of Hide and Seek. He wants us to follow Him, and He is not going to purposefully make it difficult for us to do so. Perhaps if it is challenging, then we are the ones making it so.

Jesus, thank You for Your loving guidance. Thank You for pursuing us and never giving up on us. You speak to each of us in unique ways- through prayer, scripture, nature, community, worship, serving, etc. Help us to open our ears to recognize Your voice more clearly. Give us the wisdom and the courage to follow, even when it’s difficult. Amen.

How do these thoughts resonate with you?

Have you ever been in a position in which you needed to make difficult changes in order to orient yourself on His path?

In light of the COVID-19 crisis we are currently in, how does this passage speak to you?