What if I Hear Something Wrong?
One of the most common issues people have in regard to hearing God is the fear of hearing something from the enemy, or the related fear of mistaking our own thoughts for a word from God. Certainly we do not want to be led astray, so this fear is not completely unfounded. However, this fear is terribly misplaced. For the most part, we really do not need to be afraid of hearing something wrong, and there are several reasons why this is true.
First, we need to understand clearly that our minds are full of faulty ideas already. These faulty ideas are in fact driving our lives and affecting us tremendously in very negative ways. So to be afraid of having an incorrect thought and mistaking it for something from God is a bit like being afraid of getting dirty while cleaning out the garage. It is going to happen. There is no reason why the things we hear during our conversations with God should be infallible or why we should always be able to correctly identify their source. We are perhaps more like Peter than we think.
Second, much of what God does when He speaks with us is to reveal our faulty thinking and show us better ways to understand life in the Kingdom. We see this often in the ministry of Jesus as He trained His disciples. If the Holy Spirit’s job is to renew our minds and heal the distorted ideas of life that we already have, then we can be sure He is able to help us when we get confused about what is from God and what is not from God while talking to Him. This is simply part of what He does anyway.
The key to hearing well and noticing when we need to revisit something we thought we heard, is to remain always the student, always teachable, and always open to new understanding about things we think we already know. We can check out ideas out with God, we can wait a few weeks and ask again, and we can ask someone who is farther along to help us when we are unsure of what to do with something. As long as we are willing to revise our understanding, we need not be too afraid of hearing what God has to say about our life and trusting Him to help us discern the truth of what we hear.
The problem comes in when we feel the need to defend our interpretations about what we hear. Sometimes people get the mistaken idea that their own credibility or self-worth is on the line if they have to retract or revise something they thought was from God. Once we accept that we are still learning how to learn, and may continue to do so for the rest of our lives, we are more able to let go of any felt need to be right. This is not a test, but a relationship with a God who is infinitely patient with our attempts to learn. We need to give ourselves the space and grace to make mistakes.
Another problem which can get in the way of remaining teachable is our potential disappointment over having thought we heard something right, then needing to admit to ourselves at a later time that it probably was not God after all. We may feel like we can no longer trust our ability to tell what is God and what is not. This kind of disappointment can be serious, because we might give up on trying to hear anything at all. But what we really need is to take the issue back to God and tell Him we need more help in this area than we thought, and ask Him to mentor us more in how to discern. And perhaps ask Him to send us someone who can help us with this as well.