I once had a pastor tell me that gut feelings are often from God. Too many times in my life I ignored these hunches. This stance of ignoring led me to several very poor decisions and choices.
I had been looking for a small retreat cabin. My husband and I decided to go for a drive and check out a property in a remote location. As we approached we saw two homes that were located adjacent to each other.
We walked up the path. A man greeted us outside of the first home. Nothing in his appearance led me to believe there was anything I needed to be concerned about. Clean cut and polite was the image. But, inside my gut, alarms were going off. This seemed strange so I tabled the dissonance.
We wandered through the property for sale which turned to be more of a fixer upper than we had imagined. We drove off, but I couldn’t shake the feeling in my soul.
Several days later, I had the idea of checking the Internet to determine what crime was like in this area. I did a little sleuthing, and suddenly I saw a familiar face. Was this the same man I had encountered? I showed the picture to my husband and he immediately recognized the face as the man we had met. He had a background of committing dangerous crimes.
Now, I’m not saying God can’t heal people and there is no chance of rehabilitation. All I know is something felt off. To me this seemed to be totally from God. It was just another reminder to listen.
The MacMillan Dictionary defines a gut feeling as “a feeling that you are certain is right, although you can give no good reason why.” I would add that gut feelings are often connected to the feeling of fear.
Author Dean Koontz says, “Intuition is seeing with the soul.”
Proverbs 2:6-15 reminds us, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; …”
Based on this proverb, how do we grow in our ability to listen to God in our gut?
1. Work out your childhood issues through counseling.
Barnaby D. Dunn, of the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, reports that “What happens in our bodies really does appear to influence what goes in our minds.” Dunn says, “Unfortunately, gut feelings can also be silenced. When humans are forced or denied certain feelings during their prime stages of mental, physical, and (above all) emotional growth, guts can be faulty. A childhood hijacked by abusive or neglectful parents or guardians can create excessive self-doubt, irrational fear, or a clouded thought process, making it difficult to filter traumatic past experiences from actual gut intuition. Overwhelming stimuli can also make it difficult for a person to see the decision in front of them with clarity.”
Yes, many of my poor decisions were times that I silenced those gut feelings. As God has been healing my past wounds, my gut feelings tend to hang on if I try to silence them. God is teaching me to trust His inner voice and trust myself to recognize and act upon it.
2. Practice being silent before the Lord.
I have been practicing centering prayer, and I do believe I am seeing the fruit of this experience. To listen to our guts, we need to be able to still the other conflicting thoughts. This takes a commitment to meeting God in this way on a regular basis.
David Benner writes, “Our ‘knowing’ of what we feel at this (gut) level is not as simple as the knowing of our surface feelings. But unlike the knowing involving a unitive experience, it is something we can cultivate.”
For more information on centering prayer, click here.
3. Use your wise mind.
Ask God to help you to discern these gut feelings using your wise mind: a concept from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The wise mind is that intersection where your reasonable mind and emotional mind overlap. Instead of just thinking about something you also bring your feelings into play. The thinking and emotions do not overpower one another but come together to form what is the wise mind; a balance between the two. To see an illustration of this concept, click here.
Kathy Milans is the lead member of Soul Care Collective’s Steering Committee.