I love the fact that God speaks, night after night, in our dreams.
I love the sense of being on a quest for understanding, and the feeling of elation when I hit upon the right interpretation. And I love the relationship with God I now have through our daily dream conversation.
But there has been another, unexpected, spin-off from learning the language of dreams: I have started to hear God’s voice all around me – and you can too!
Symbolism is not just for dreams
I started learning the biblical model of dream interpretation around 15 years ago.
I have spent countless hours learning the symbolic language that God uses in dreams. Many books and websites have been written to help people understand dream symbols; I guess that if you’re reading this article you probably already know about their importance.
But it turns out that God uses symbolism to speak to us all the time – not just in dreams! The time and effort I have put in learning to understand the symbols in my dreams has meant that I am able to hear God much more easily though everyday life.
God uses symbolic language to speak to us ALL THE TIME – not just in dreams!
Symbolism is a language that overcomes cultural barriers and understanding; it communicates truths that stay with us long after the event and conveys concepts that words cannot describe; it is the language of the heart.
You can learn this language too – and start to hear God speaking through everyday events in your own life and around you.
Symbolism is the language of the bible
The symbolic language of dreams is also the language of the bible: It is God’s language!
Symbolic language is God’s language
The bible is bursting full of symbolism; it contains an abundance of metaphors, similes, illustrations, and parables, and is very useful for getting a feel for how God speaks.
I have included many biblical examples of symbolic language in the following article:
Example of symbolism: Psalm 23
We will consider one example here; it is one of the best loved biblical psalms: Psalm 23! Here are some of the well-known verses:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.Psalm 23:1-5, NIV
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul…
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
It is so obvious that you may have never consciously thought about it, but the whole psalm is actually a metaphor: The attributes of God and the way He relates to the psalmist are likened to the actions of a shepherd.
Let’s take a look at some of the metaphors within it and what they could have symbolised:
|SYMBOL||WHAT IT MIGHT REPRESENT|
|Shepherd||God: Takes care of us and leads us, just like a shepherd does with sheep|
|Lie down||Be in a state of rest and trust|
|Green pastures||A healthy environment where we have all we need|
|Quiet waters||A safe and peaceful place with God|
|Darkest valley||Difficult and dangerous times|
|Table||A place cleared of danger where it is safe to dwell and receive|
|Anoint head||Keep free from niggles such as like anxiety and worry|
|Cup overflows||Have more than enough|
We can see clearly from Psalm 23 that God spoke to the author through the things that were around him.
We know that David, who wrote this psalm, was a shepherd himself: He would have been very familiar with being in the fields with the sheep; it was his everyday job! God started speaking to him through the things that surrounded him: the grass, the stream, the oil he used on the sheep’s heads.
God spoke to David through the everyday things that surrounded him.
The writer sums up all the symbolism in a final statement, which states in plain language the essence of what he has been thinking about:
- Psalm 23:6, NIV Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Hearing God through the world around
God does exactly the same thing with us today. He still speaks though the everyday things around us – if we only we choose to keep our spiritual eyes and ears open.
- Isaiah 32:3, The Passion Translation (TPT) Then at last, eyes that are ready to see will finally be opened! Ears that are ready to hear will finally be opened!
This is something I have chosen to do by choice. I deliberately take notice of anything unusual that grabs my attention – and ask God whether He wants to speak to me through it. He nearly always does!
The natural speaks of the invisible God
The bible tells us that the natural world speaks of the invisible God. After walking in relationship with God for many years, I have found that physical things in our life tend to reflect or mirror what is happening in the spiritual world.
- Romans 1:20, TPT …from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible… for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible.
God used this technique in bible times. For example, the Old Testament tabernacle (and subsequently the temple) was built as an earthly representation of heaven.
- Hebrews 8:5, TPT The priests on earth serve in a temple that is but a copy modelled after the heavenly sanctuary; a shadow of the reality.
An example from Jesus’ ministry
Jesus also used this this technique when He told parables. He observed things around Him and listened to the promptings of Holy Spirit Heavenly Father. He used those things that he saw in the Spirit to weave into examples to share with others.
One day he was walking along with His disciples and was looking at the state of the fields around them. He perceived from the Holy Spirit that the natural ripeness of the fields for harvest spoke of the spiritual state of the people of Samaria – who were ready to receive Jesus – and He saw that there would be a great harvest of people there.
- John 4:35-36, NASB Behold, I tell you, raise your eyes and observe the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life.
We can hear God speak symbolically
Like Jesus, we too can learn to hear God in this way. Here are some of the ways we can hear Him speak symbolically in everyday life:
- Through things we see
- Though life events
- Through pictures and imagination
- Through art and media
There are obviously many more ways than this, but these examples should be enough to get us thinking symbolically and keeping our spiritual eyes open! Let’s unpack each of these further, with some examples.
1. Hearing God through things we see
I have discovered that God uses the things we observe in the natural world around us to get our attention and communicate messages to us; He uses them to speak of supernatural truths.
It might be while we are walking along and suddenly see something that seems out of place. We could be driving and see a vehicle in front of us which is an unusual colour or has a slogan that grabs our attention.
I have learnt to keep my spiritual antenna up and lock for these things, particularly if they are unusual or notable.
Example 1: Helicopter symbolising something from heaven
One day, I was thinking and praying about something, when suddenly I had a new idea that felt like a revelation. Just as I realised it, a helicopter flew over our house – very low and very loud!
In dream symbolism, a helicopter can represent something from heaven (the sky). So, I understood the message immediately: God was affirming that the idea I had just had really was from Him. It was a great confirmation and gave me confidence in what I thought I had received.
Example 2: Fifty symbolising jubilee
A friend and I had been talking about the number 50 symbolising jubilee (God’s grace and freedom). As soon as she left our house, I went to unload the washing machine – and found a 50p coin inside the rim of the drum. I sent a photo of it to my friend with the message that I felt God was saying there would be a process for her to go though (like going through the wash) and then freedom would come in the areas we had been talking about.
Later that day my friend was in a serious car crash. I held onto at that physical 50p coin as a symbolic token of God’s promise while I was waiting for news – and miraculously they did come though the accident and are now well on the road to recovery.
Example 3: Black cloud symbolising trouble
I had been praying for one of our church leaders, who had been taken ill and needed emergency surgery. While out walking with family I saw a big black cloud coming up behind us. We assumed it was going to rain, so my dad jokingly pretended to blow it away. The cloud then moved out to sea and was replaced by sparkling sunshine! It was quite an unusual occurrence, so grabbed my attention.
In symbolic terms, I felt God was saying that the black cloud represented the trouble that was trying to come our way. All we needed to do was ‘blow’ (i.e., pray in the power of God’s Spirit), and the trouble would be replaced by God’s presence. We did pray, and the surgery was successful – with a miraculous testimony involved!
The photos I took of the scene are below:
2. Hearing God through life events
This concept relates to our life experience and the things that are happening to us. These things can have a deeper significance than first appears – and reflect our spiritual journey.
Things that happen to us can have a deeper significance than first appears and reflect our spiritual journey.
This could be small things that happen on a particular day, or bigger things that are part of our current season.
Example 1: Projector symbolising vision
In church one Sunday, our projector (which we had used for many years) catastrophically and dramatically broke. It didn’t just stop working; it blew out all the power in the building with a loud noise and a bad smell! We had to manage without it that day – and sing songs without the words temporarily. We subsequently managed to purchase a new projector for our next service.
In dream symbolism, a projector would represent vision. This event happened at a very strategic place in the life of our church; we were just starting to meet again after lockdown, and we were preparing for a handover to new leadership. As I reflected on this event, I understood that God was saying we needed a new vision for the new season. We would need to manage for a short while without clear direction until God gave us that new vision.
Example 2: Blue symbolising revelation
A few years ago, we decided to get new sofas in our living room. The old ones were very shabby, and we got lovely new blue leather ones instead.
That same year, God took me on a big journey of changing my thinking in several areas. In dream symbolism, blue represents revelation from heaven. So, during the period while we ordered those new sofas and had them delivered, I understood that God was affirming what I had been though: I now had some brand-new heavenly thinking to rest on – just like the sofas!
Example 3: Three hours symbolising three years
A few years ago, I was with a group of people doing a prayer walk for the UK. One day the walkers went wrong and spent three hours walking round in a circle – only to end up back where they started!
Later, while meditating and praying about the day, I realised that the three hours represented three years during which the UK had been stuck in a certain area, unable to go forward or backwards. This is a common time analogy I have learned through dream interpretation.
I shared this with our leader, so on the next day of the walk he told the group and they prayed about the situation – and God’s power broke out! He shared the prophetic picture on national Christian radio, and around a month later things started to shift in our nation – and we became unstuck.
Here are a couple of more detailed examples I wrote for our church website:
The season is changing: Seven lessons I learned from my cat by Jenny Needham
Time of acceleration: Lessons to learn from my car by Jenny Needham
3. Hearing God through pictures and imagination
In church circles, we have become used to the concept of ‘pictures’ and visions as a way God speaks. It is commonly associated with prophetic ministry – but is increasingly becoming the experience of everyday Christians.
A picture is an image in the mind (or imagination) which the recipient believes is from God. It is usually spontaneous. It can happen while praying for someone, during worship, during prayer, or indeed at any moment!
The thing about pictures is that they need to be interpreted, i.e., they are symbolic!
We can also choose to activate our Godly imagination – and position ourselves to hear from Him in a similar way. I don’t consider myself particularly prophetically gifted, but I do this constantly now – and consequently God regularly communicates with me through visual pictures in my imagination.
Learning symbolic language though dream interpretation is a great way to get better at understanding the messages in the pictures and visions we receive.
- Ephesians 1:18, TPT I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling…
Example: Horse symbolising power
While praying with a friend who was feeling frustrated about a situation they were in, I saw a picture in my mind’s eye of a horse running through some fields.
In dream language, a horse usually symbolises power. I communicated this and we prayed about it. As we considered the image and listened to God more, we understood what He was saying about their situation. It gave my friend understanding and hope.
4. Hearing God through art and media
Once you get used to symbols and illustrations, it becomes easy to hear God through all kinds of media!
My personal favourites are the Marvel movies, and God frequently speaks to me though them. But He can speak through any movie or TV show; through pictures on social media; through paintings; through the stories in books – and many other ways.
Example 1: Captain America symbolising my calling
A few years ago, I was watching Captain America. In that movie, Steve Rogers was portrayed as a physically small, weak man – but he had a big heart and wanted to help people. When they developed a strength serum, Steve was chosen because he had the right attitude – and because he would never take his new strength for granted.
I had been struggling to hear God for many years and thought I was terrible at it. God spoke to me through that movie image, just like He would if it was a dream, and said He had chosen me to learn to hear His voice and help others do the same. Like Steve Rogers, I would never take it for granted; He had chosen me because of my character rather than my prophetic ability.
Example 2: Purple flower symbolising authority
Earlier this year I was having a wobble about this blog and dreams in general. But it seemed God was speaking to me about having His authority to write about dreams. I felt I needed to write honestly about my struggles, and I chose a picture of a purple crocus coming up through the snow as the header image.
But I started to doubt whether I should post the article or whether I was really hearing from God. Then, randomly, someone I follow posted an almost identical image on social media. Straight away I knew that God was affirming that I was hearing from Him correctly. In dream language, purple represents authority! It constantly amazes me how often this type of thing happens!
Real-life symbols as confirmation
I have found that God usually confirms the things He says in more than one way.
This is very helpful because the things we hear from God can be subjective. For example:
- Maybe we have a vague feeling or impression about something.
- Maybe we have had a dream and think we know what it means but are not totally sure.
- Maybe a bible verse seems relevant to our situation, but we need confirmation.
God, in His kindness, often confirms His message through physical, tangible ways. Some of the examples I have already shared in this article are when God has used a physical thing as a confirmation.
The need for wisdom
We do need to exercise some wisdom with all of this. We can’t take everything that happens around us as being God speaking. We can start reading too much into things if we are not careful.
But, if we keep our spiritual eyes and ears open, we find that God is constantly speaking to us – and is much more willing to give us confirmations of His messages than we might think.
We need to be wise, make sure our spiritual foundations are in place, and look for confirmations of what we are hearing. In my experience, God is only too happy to give us confirmations – so we can be confident in Him.
God is usually very happy to confirm what He is saying to us.
Example: A soft toy confirms a dream
A friend of mine shared a dream she had about being given an owl baby. The question raised in the dream was about whether she could keep it or not. In other words, in real life, could she keep the thing that the owl baby represented? We prayed about it together.
A few days later I was walking to the shops and praying for my friend. I felt God saying to tell my friend that He had heard her prayer and she could keep the owl baby. As I finished praying, I walked into a charity shop. There, sitting right at the front of the display, was a toy baby owl! I bought the owl and gave it to my friend; it was a real-life confirmation of the message God had given her.
Here are a couple of longer articles I have written – about times when God confirmed dream messages through real-life things:
I have included many biblical examples of symbolic language in the following article:
I hope I have conveyed the message that if our ears are open, God is speaking!
Interpreting night dreams inevitably means learning to understand symbolic language. This is quite a steep learning curve, but it is well worth the effort! Not only will you start to hear God through your dreams, but your ears will become tuned to God’s wavelength. You will start hearing His voice everywhere around you.
Dreams are a gateway to a deeper relationship with God.
I encourage you to remain alert and look for the things in everyday life that stand out, seem unusual, or grab your attention. Then ask God if He wants to communicate something to you though it. You will be surprised how often He does!
Of course, we do need to be wise and look for confirmations of what we are hearing; but God loves to confirm His word – and will lead us and teach us if we ask Him to.
So, keep your spiritual eyes and ears open! If God speaks to you through something in your life, or gives you a real-life confirmation of a dream, do share it in the comments below!
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