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Learning to Trust Your Instincts

Have you ever been in a situation where that little voice inside of you seems to be screaming, "Danger!! Danger!! Stay away! This is wrong"?

I think we've all been there. I have been there several times.

One of the first times that comes to my mind involved a job. At first glance, it looked like a fantastic opportunity. Yet, in the days that followed, everything inside of me started feeling like something was wrong. For days, I just couldn't shake this "Do Not Enter" feeling.

The only problem was that I was too young and insecure at the time to trust my instincts. Instead, I blamed myself for negative feelings.

I told myself I was just scared.

I chastised myself for being too self-absorbed, too competitive, too jealous to want to be part of the team.

I even thought maybe it was just hormones making me feel so upset.

It turns out it was none of those things. How I wish now I would have recognized the Holy Spirit's voice speaking to me and walked away from the whole situation. Instead, I ignored my instincts, and the job was a nightmare. Thankfully, I learned a lot of lessons, chief of which was: learn to listen to the little voice inside.

The next experience that comes to my mind involved not a job, but a person. Even though this person had exemplary credentials and was loved and respected by other people, every time I was around him, an alarm went off inside of me. Honestly, I felt absolutely ridiculous! Everyone else thought he was the greatest guy in the world. Even people we trusted said I had to get over it, I was wrong, he was completely trustworthy. Yet, over and over again, that part of me that recognizes an abusive man kept sounding the alarm.

Again, I doubted myself.

I questioned myself, doubted myself, and wondered what my problem was over and over again.

Only this time, I didn't make the same mistake I made with the job. Instead of ignoring my instincts, I decided to keep my distance. I wasn't "all-in" or "all-out." I made sure all of my interactions with him involved my brother because this feeling just wouldn't go away.

Well, as time would tell, eventually, this man did show his true colors. I decided that going forward; I would never doubt my instincts again.

Instead, what I've learned from these situations and others like them is that the Holy Spirit uses our instincts to warn us of danger. Often, that little voice inside of us is the Holy Spirit speaking to us, trying to protect us from a difficult situation. It's His voice saying, "This is a problem—stay away—-do not enter."

As it says in John 16:13, one of the Holy Spirit's functions is to guide us in truth.

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future." (NLT)

As born again, Spirit-filled women, we need to learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He tries to lead us. One of the things I think we have to be very careful of as women is that we need to heed the voice of the Holy Spirit rather than ignore His warnings. I understand that it's hard. We wonder, "Is this the Holy Spirit talking to me? How can I be sure? What if it isn't Him and I make a wrong decision? What if it is just a prejudice or predisposition on my part?"

Here are a few things I've learned regarding these questions.

First, to the issue of instincts. What if it isn't the Holy Spirit, but our own experiences causing a natural reaction to certain stimuli?

I think the first question we have to ask ourselves is, "Why is that a bad thing?"

Didn't God give us instincts when He created us?

Doesn't God know the things you've gone through in your life?

Isn't He able to redeem the things that were once a source of pain and heartache in your life, heal you, and now make those same things a source of wisdom?

Isn't it possible that as a born-again woman led by the Holy Spirit, God could be using your instincts to guide you in certain situations? If God could use a donkey to stop Balaam, couldn't He use the instincts He's given you to warn you of danger? (Numbers 22)

The problem is too often we mistrust ourselves. When we feel like a circumstance may be problematic, we often question our motivation to feel that way, especially if we are the only ones who are uncomfortable in a situation.

Yet, what I have learned is that as a woman who seeks to live her life under the control of the Holy Spirit, my first response needs to change from "What is wrong with me that I feel this way?" to "Why is God allowing me to feel this way?"

This leads right into the second lesson, and that is the importance of learning to proceed with caution.

Again, time and maturity have taught me that as I ask God to help me sort out my feelings, the best thing to do is to slow down.

I've learned that there is never a need to make a quick decision. If I feel uncomfortable with something or that inner alarm is going off, I've learned to see it as a warning light on my car. It's time to slow down, to check things out, and investigate before I proceed.

For instance, if we're about to make a purchase and everything inside of my is screaming, then we wait until another day. Time will tell whether it was the Holy Spirit trying to say, "Don't buy this," or whether it was just a passing fear on my part. Sometimes, it's just the Holy Spirit saying, "Wait" because a better deal or a better option is coming in the next few weeks.

Maybe you're asked out on a date, and your alarm says, "I don't trust this guy." Saying "maybe another time" gives you time to get to know him better. If it's God's will, he'll ask again and your heart will change. If it's a Holy Spirit warning, you'll be glad you declined.

Perhaps your daughter is invited to a sleepover, and you're the only Mom who doesn't feel comfortable with the situation. Trust me; there will be another sleepover. Your caution alarm may save her a world of heartache.

These are just a few examples from a plethora of circumstances that illustrate that there's no need to be in a hurry. Looking back on the first story about the nightmare job, I now see that if I'd have just slowed down and taken time to be cautious, I could have avoided the whole situation.

What do you do while you're cautious?

Pray. Earnestly pray about the situation.

God can change your heart if it is a fear or doubt issue on your part. This happened several times with me when my first instinct was fear. As I've slowed down and prayed about a situation, He's shown me my anxiety and given me the courage to follow Him in faith.

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit can also confirm His warning to you if He is trying to keep you from a bad experience. I am a firm believer that God wants to reveal His truth to His children. He will go out of His way to guide you in the direction He wants you to go. As you slow down and seek His will, He will speak to your heart through Scripture, in prayer, and through the words of others. Because He wants to guide your life, He is more than willing to confirm His will. That's why we must keep our eyes and our ears open.

Looking back on my situations, I can see that in addition to that "Danger!" feeling I was experiencing, the Holy Spirit was also providing confirmations to support that instinct. In some circumstances, friends came to me and shared information that served as a warning. In another situation, no matter how often I tried to ignore my feelings and strengthen my friendship with a person, it just didn't happen. It was like a door slammed in my face over and over again. Now I can see that it was the Holy Spirit protecting me.

I have learned for sure that whenever I have pushed aside my doubt and listened to that little voice inside of my that screamed, "Danger! Stay Away", I have never regretted it. The older I get, the more I am learning to trust my instincts more and more. Whether it be the Holy Spirit leading me or the Holy Spirit using my instincts to guide me, I'm learning to trust my gut.

Scriptures to Ponder:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” (John 16:13, NLT)

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” (Psalm 32:8)

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

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21, NLT)

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105, NLT)

     Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.

When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry."


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