Seven Things the Holy Spirit Might Be Trying to Tell You


For many of us it can be hard to believe that the Holy Spirit speaks in a way that is real or helpful.

That struggle can be traced to a number of factors: We live in a culture that doesn’t expect God to “show up.”  When we do talk about the work of the Holy Spirit, we use rarified, impenetrable, stained-glass language.  And most of what we expect to hear in listening to the Spirit is couched in such pious jargon that we find it hard to believe that any of it applies directly to us.

I’ve come to the conclusion that often what the Spirit of God has to say to us is far more practical, blunt, and candid.  Here are a few things I’ve heard or that others have reported hearing:

One: Just do something.

Responding to the will of God is not necessarily about doing the one, right, thing —  unless moral considerations are at stake – and even then, there may be more than one faithful choice to make. God trusts us with freedom and creativity. Strike out, trust God’s grace.

Two: Stop blaming me for silly things you’d like to say or believe.

Claiming God’s authority for things we say or do is risky business and likely to do more harm than good.  Practice the humility of admitting that your understanding of God’s will is something well short of infallible.  You do have freedom (see above).  You also need to own your responsibility for the exercise of that freedom.

Three: Don’t wait for a sign.  (see above)

God has used them a few times, but more often than not God’s leading comes from careful attention to the patterns that emerge from faithful, daily living.  Sometimes the extraordinary is exactly that, out of the norm, one-off, signifying nothing.

Four: Speak up.

We are often too concerned with what others will think of us.  Being attuned to the things of God, means taking responsibility for speaking the truth, even when speaking the truth is likely to cost us.

Five: Shut up.

On the other hand, God is God and you are not.  Pronouncing on anything and everything often has more to do with shoring up our own sense of self-worth than it has to do with our spiritual responsibility.

Six: Don’t measure God’s love for you by comparing the circumstances of your life with the circumstances of the lives of others.

For one thing, no one’s life looks quite like the experience itself.  So, such comparisons are inherently unreliable.  More importantly, however, God does not reward faithfulness with material wellbeing.  Some of God’s closest companions are also people who shoulder heavy personal burdens and possess very little.

Seven: Remember, it’s not all about you.

We have turned God into a cosmic bellhop.  What God wants are not clients, but companions: People who are other-directed, available to do God’s work, and ready to care for others.







About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.