Heeding hunches from the Holy Spirit
By Jeanne Hunt
Have you ever had a hunch about something? A hunch is a gut feeling that you have to do something or make a certain choice. Hunches have very little to do with rational analysis of a situation and more to do with a feeling that we know the right move. A hunch can apply to everyday decisions like taking an umbrella to work or really important ones like changing jobs, adopting a child, or even choosing your vocation. Something will just “feel” right.
There are times in our lives when we become aware that it is time to leave something behind for the good of self or loved ones. We find examples of this in Peter, Andrew, and James, who walked away from their work to follow Jesus. Another example is Joseph, who traveled with his wife and young son to Egypt instead of heading home. As we look to Sacred Scripture, we see more examples of “hunch moments”: the Magi headed home a different way; Mother Mary asked Jesus to take care of the wine problem at the wedding; the Emmaus couple invited the stranger to eat supper with them; Peter and the other fisherman dropped their nets again because Jesus suggested they try it. Might this be a holy hint that there is more to a good hunch then we thought?
Without very much analysis, we turn right instead of left and follow a new life path. We can look back on our lives and map out those events: we decide to change majors and become a teacher, we meet the woman we know we will marry, we bring home a stray puppy. Big or small, these hunches were life-changing.
Hunches can also save us from disaster. We may have a flash of insight that our job is destroying our marriage or a friendship is leading to trouble or abuse. We may hear a nagging voice that seems to cry out, “Danger!” We may have an unsettled feeling that a circumstance is throwing our life out of balance. Sometimes, it seems years pass before we realize divorce was brewing or addiction was possible or depression was rearing its ugly head, yet the signs were there all along.
We may be tempted to ignore that voice. It is so much easier, for the moment, to pretend everything is just fine. Yet, awareness can be an amazing grace that saves us and those we love. An old Jewish proverb says, “When you name it, it can no longer control you.” So it is with a good hunch. It may help us name that elusive thing that wants to take charge of our lives.
Most hunches can be heard more clearly when we provide a regular place and time for them to occur. When we make space for silence in our day, these messages seem to rise to the surface more easily. The interior knowing will become more insistent and clear when we have emptied ourselves of the daily noise and allowed that inner voice to be heard. We begin to find a friend in that familiar voice. For us believers, what soon becomes apparent is that the hunch maker is no other than the Divine One.
The Holy Spirit who abides within us wants to be heard. A man who was contemplating suicide was saved by the voice within that seemed to be arguing with him. Later, he said he suddenly realized the voice was different than his own thoughts. It was the voice of our loving God. That realization gave him the hope to keep living.
This all may seem irrational to some, however, if given the chance, the voice will prove its worth. When we come to the point of trusting the message and acting on it, a peace accompanies it. While some hunches are just plain old talking to our self, there are others that come from the Holy Spirit. The more we listen, the more we’ll begin to know the difference.
I have a hunch that all of us are going to start paying more attention to the wee, small voice deep within.