What If I Can’t Feel the Holy Spirit?

We were talking after church, and May suddenly asked me, “I’ve been praying to hear God speak, but I still can’t hear Him. Do you think it’s because I don’t have enough faith?”

I asked her what she meant, and May told me about her friend who could hear God audibly speak to her. This friend had encouraged her, telling her that if she desires it enough, if she prays hard enough, she would hear God speak too.

But still, she couldn’t.

“Do you hear God speak?” she suddenly asked me.

“I’ve never actually heard Him with my ears,” I told her.

She gave me a look of surprise. Apparently, since I had been a Christian for longer than she had, she expected I would have the maturity to hear God speak aloud to me.

May thought that more faith would enable her to hear God speaking to her. When she didn’t hear God, she concluded that she did not have enough faith, or was not praying hard enough—that she was somehow lacking.

I shot God a quick prayer for wisdom and guidance, and asked May if she would like to look at a couple Bible passages with me, hoping to encourage her that God does speak to her and work in her life, even if it looks different from her friend’s life.

Here are four truths we discovered from the Bible that you might find helpful too:

 

1. All Christians have the Holy Spirit.

I had been reading the Gospel of John recently, so that’s where we went first. On His final evening, Jesus told His disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). From the context of this passage, and of other related passages, we know that the advocate here is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will always be with us (John 14:17). He didn’t say that we’d only get the Holy Spirit if we had enough faith, or if we prayed the right prayers. Instead, we are given and marked by the Holy Spirit from the moment we first believe in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Do we always feel the Holy Spirit at work? Probably not. I myself, at least, have not really had any supernatural encounters with God. But I know He is real, and I know He loves me—as I look back over the years, I have seen myself and my family grow in unexpected ways as we walked with Him. And because I have given my life to Him, I also know that He has given me His Holy Spirit—because He said so.

 

2. God’s Word is alive and active.

So, if I can’t hear God’s replies when I pray, how do I follow His will? How do I obey Him and grow in Him, since I’m not getting any clear directions?

Through the Holy Spirit, God gave us the entire Bible (2 Peter 1:21), and though I may not hear God actually speak to me, or see the Holy Spirit direct me in some supernatural manner, I have the Bible. That might sound anticlimactic—how is that falling-apart, pocket-sized book going to help me? Apparently, it will teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in righteousness so that I am thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)!

And when there are passages I don’t understand, I have the Spirit of truth, who will guide me into all truth (John 16:12-13). It takes time, but I know that as I draw closer to God day by day, He will enable me to further understand His Word, to obey Him, and to grow in Him.

 

3. We are given different gifts.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Corinthian church to clear up misconceptions about gifts of the Holy Spirit. It seems like there was some pride and competition about the gifts within the church, and Paul reminded them—and us—of some important truths:

First, Paul tells us that while there are many gifts, each person is given gifts as the Holy Spirit determines (1 Corinthians 12:11). We cannot all be prophets, or all speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:29-30), nor do we all hear directly from God. But God has given each of us different gifts for building up the church—it’s okay if ours don’t look quite like our friends’.

Second, though we are to desire these gifts of the Spirit for the building up of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12), the most important thing is love (1 Corinthians 13). Our gifts mean nothing if we are not learning to love. And if we do love as God has called us to, then whatever gifts He has given us, He will use.

 

4. God is at work, whether or not we feel it.

Many places in the Bible mention that God, who has enabled us to believe in Him, will finish the good work He has begun (Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:24).

It does not always feel like God is working. In fact, as often as not, obedient faith to Jesus Christ feels like a struggle, doesn’t it? Yet even as we struggle and strive, God is using these experiences to grow us.

In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul urges Christians, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Those days when faith means obeying, one difficult step after another, with seemingly no sign of growth to show for it? Or when we don’t experience the peace and joy that we think we should? Even then, God is still working in our lives through the Holy Spirit—to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose!

 

As our conversation drew to a close, I asked May if we could pray together. We prayed that, if it is pleasing to God, He would allow her to actually hear His voice, knowing what an encouragement and comfort that would be. Yet, we also thanked Him for already working in her life—for giving her His very Spirit, for giving her His Word, for giving her unique gifts and the love He calls us to, and for watching her and enabling her to grow in beautiful and unique ways.

God’s work does not always look supernatural. It is not always an audible voice in a dark room. Or tongues of fire. Or miraculous healings. That we don’t see these amazing signs in our own lives does not necessarily mean that we’re lacking, or that we’re missing out on a relationship with God. If we have committed our lives to Him, then we have already been given everything we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). What amazing provision from the God who loves us!

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