The Sound of His Voice: How Do You Tell When It's the Lord Speaking to You?
How do we know when it's God? An interesting question, when it comes to promptings, intuitions, and even "voices" we sometimes perceive in our thoughts.
All day every day, there is an internal dialogue. Some of it comes from our own subconscious. Some of it comes from angels. Some seems to come from the dark side (though we shouldn't blame the dark side for everything).
At any rate, God speaks to all of us all of the time. It's just that we're often not listening. As Carol Marquardt, who has written a book on this subject called The Sound of His Voice, points out, we tend to look at God like we do the president -- as someone big and in charge who can greatly affect us but who doesn't know us personally (at least not most of us).
But that's not God. God knows you better than your mother and He is always seeking to direct you.
But back to the question: how do we know when it's Him?
I'm constantly asked that question about folks who say they hear prophecies or even see apparitions. There are very few ironclad rules. Yes, we discern on the "fruits," and whether something is consistent with our faith and the Bible, but after that it gets difficult. There are some false voices that are careful not to violate those rules, but are false nonetheless.
One thing I believe is that it's dangerous to spend the day listening to your internal dialogue as if everything is the Voice of the Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Blessed Mother. Hopefully, it is -- and we should remain open.
But that has to be balanced with caution. In too many cases I encounter people who hear prophecies that sound the person's own ideas of what will happen in the future. These messages often go on at great length and are sensational but easily forgotten after we have stopped reading them (whereas, according to Teresa of Avila, every locution from God should be indelible).
Remember, the Holy Spirit is balanced, and so when it is truly the Lord or the Blessed Mother, a serious message will be balanced in such a way as to leave you feeling peaceful and touched by unconditional love (not fear).
Watch out for voices that are too loud and insistent (this can happen and be God, recalling how God spoke to John the Baptist: "This is My Beloved Son..."). But mostly the Lord speaks to us subtly. His is the still, small voice. And to that we should always listen.
"Certainly God, Who is all-powerful, can use the extraordinary measure of a humanly audible voice to guide and direct us," says Carol. "But most often He speaks through the voice of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within our souls."
In other words, the Lord communicates in a way that is part of our thoughts -- that is natural -- and barely perceptible. He infuses our minds. He speaks through the normal thought process.
And it's this to which we should be most open (as opposed to loud verbal conversations). Those who love others and keep their eyes on God are often led by intuition. They feel things that others cannot feel, and this intuition prevents accidents. A friend of mine in Pennsylvania was sitting at his desk one day and heard the horn of an oncoming train. That was not so unusual: trains passed close to his office half a dozen times a day. But for some reason he sprang up from his desk this time, ran to the street, and spotted a woman whose car was sitting on the tracks at the intersection.
Oblivious, immersed in her headset, she didn’t hear the throttle. He banged on her window and saved her life.
The miraculous life functions on intuition that is enhanced by prayer. A few quick Hail Marys or “praise You Jesuses” are not always enough. We must take time every day to settle ourselves and pray until we have clear thinking. It is in such a clear state of mind that intuition – God’s whisper – takes place.
He doesn’t normally howl. He doesn’t scream at you. He prompts us in a way that is most detectable when we are in a state of prayer and focused on our love for Him. When we pray, our bodies are like spiritual antennae. You just know something in your bones, your "gut," or your heart.
"I believe that God often sends us manifestations of His love and concern through happenings that may have a natural explanation but also have a supernatural impetus behind them -- the Hand of God," writes Marquardt. "If we have eyes to see, we will receive great blessings from recognizing these events. One such event that happened to me involved the appearance in my front yard of a mysterious rare bird. It was a wonderful, kind, compassionate action of the Lord in my life. I and all my family recognized it as a gift from God, because, while natural, it was very unusual."
There are all kinds of examples. In the news this week was the account of Roger Wright -- a Virginia electrical worker who was killed last year in a helicopter crash.
"His wife, Tracy, and children, Randy and Courtney, have been touched, and sometimes, awed by the signs around them," noted a newspaper. "For instance, soon after Roger's death, folks dedicated a tree in his honor at the field where he loved to coach youth baseball. In the midst of the ceremony, a hovering helicopter appeared. This one flew really low and lingered for what seemed like a long time."
Everybody at the ceremony noticed.
Haven't you ever been thinking of someone when suddenly that person calls or you hear a song on the radio that has a connection? Let us know.
Mostly, God communicates to us in "little" ways. He places someone in our path who says something we needed to know at that moment. He leads us to a newspaper article that has a pertinent sentence -- or to a specific passage in Scripture. He repeats a prompting until we decide to act or not act upon it (always allowing our free will).
Free will is big with God, and so is the small, still voice. Watch out for those who are too loud. But remain open, especially during Mass and Communion, when we are communing with Him. In your heart, that's where you'll most clearly hear the Truth.
[bookstore resources: The Sound of His Voice]
From The Mailbag: When It Comes To The Lord, There's No Telling How He Will Talk
There are so many ways that God speaks to us. He does so through people. He does so through phone calls or even songs on the radio -- many of these. The Lord can use whatever vehicle He chooses. He can prompt you to act in some fashion. He can "time" the exact moment you see a certain show or billboard. He can send you images when you're asleep -- a common method of communication. When we ran an article on the sound of His Voice (above)-- on the ways God and His angels convey messages to us -- we received a large response.
All of the responses were interesting. Some were remarkable. There was the father who called the hospital and out of the blue asked the nurse to check on his newborn. It was two a.m. and there was no reason to do so -- but she did and found that the infant had vomited and was turning blue. There are those who have been forewarned of accidents, or given signs of cures. There are those who have seen the Hand of God in the sudden configuration of moon or stars. God is especially with us when we are approaching or going through a trial.
"I went to Mass one morning," says a viewer named Yvonne. "My intention in that Mass was my family's conversion. I think that I was frustrated with my family at the time. After the Mass I went into my car and turned the radio on. The first song that came on the radio was George Michael's song, 'you've got to have faith, faith faith'... I started to laugh and thought that this is a clear message from God."
There is Diane Duffin from Scituate, Massachusetts (near Boston). "I was going through a very difficult time in my life," she recalls. "A single mom with three teenage sons, I had just taken a high pressure job and moved my family -- including my mother -- to a new state.
"Daily I saw abuses of corporate power that greatly disturbed me. At the same time my work pressures mounted, and I worried about my family feeling lonely and disconnected. Coming home after a very taxing day, I decided to walk on the beach to clear my head. As I charged along the deserted beach, my mind was racing and I was asking God a thousand questions.
"Finally, I asked for some kind of answer, even just one word, anything that would help me make sense of everything. I heard nothing. Again, I asked. Silence. Impatient, I put the question another way: 'Jesus, if you were walking down this beach, and we met, and I told you everything going on in my life, what would you say to me?' Silence.
"I turned sadly to walk back home, then suddenly I looked down at the sand and in large deeply etched letters right in front of my feet was written: 'I love you!' with the exclamation point. I looked up at the sky and started to cry. I realized it was all I needed to know. Now I can't prove that the message in the sand was written by God, but I do believe the timing of finding it was His doing."
Indeed, often it's hard to "prove" that God did what He did. He is subtle. He does not blare at us! But He is an expert at weaving matters into our consciousness.
"I had a beautiful experience of losing my rosary that I had as a postulant some forty years ago," recalls Sheila Torres. "I was driving the car and inwardly I asked myself, 'I wonder where the rosary is.' Instantly in my thoughts I 'saw' a picture of a purse up in the closet and that it was in the zipper pocket of that purse. When I got home, I looked, and there it was!"
When it is truly Him, notes Olivia Smith, it stays in our hearts.
"I can remember years ago, I had this longing to go to Medjugorje and I was in my kitchen doing dishes and pouting to myself out loud, 'I will never get to go to there, I can't even go to a Medjugorje conference,'" Smith recounts. "That was the year of a Pittsburgh Medjugorje conference. I had been going to daily Mass and trying to live the message. Seconds later, the phone rang and Joan, a friend of mine, called and said, 'Hey, I have a spare ticket for the Pittsburgh Medjugorje conference and I thought you would like to come along. We can stay at my mother's house.'" Olivia also ended up at the famed site of apparitions itself!
Music? "There is a song that plays a big part in my family's life," says Mary Jane Haley of Glen Burnie, Maryland. "It was chosen by my son to be the song he and his wife danced to at their wedding. I can't remember the name of the Garth Brooks song, but one line goes 'I could have missed the pain but I would have had to miss the dance.'
"We thought it an odd song for a wedding but he loved that song. This beloved son passed away ten years later, in 2000, at 36 years of age. Now whenever his wife is troubled or needs reassurance, she will suddenly hear that song on the car radio, on a TV show -- wherever she might be. She knows then that Joe is watching over her and their two children. I hear it too. Once my granddaughter and I were driving on snowy, icy roads, and worried about our safety. We made it home and just as I pulled into the driveway with a sigh of relief, Garth Brooks came on the car radio singing that song. My little granddaughter said, 'There is Uncle Joe's song. He was watching over us,' and I knew it was true. Another time, a friend was driving by the cemetery and couldn't decide whether to take time to stop and visit Joe's grave. Suddenly as she approached the gate, this song came on the radio and she knew Joe wanted her to stop and visit, which she did, of course."
There is even a Christmas touch -- these events are most prominent around this time of year, when the veil is thin. Send us yours.
"My Aunt Lola lived downstairs and was very special to me -- I resemble her and sometimes people thought she was my mother," notes yet another viewer named Virginia Giovanello of Brockton, Massachusetts. "She was my godmother and like a second mother to me. Every Christmas, I dress up like Mrs. Claus at my school on the last day before Christmas vacation. The outfit is special to me because my mother (95 years old and still with me, thank you, God!) made it years ago for this purpose.
"Aunt Lola died five minutes after midnight, on Christmas day, in 1997, after the Pope's Mass, with the choir singing Silent Night on every TV throughout the rehab hospital," Virginia continues. "I was devastated. She did leave me a gift, however. While I was washing my hands in her room, up in the corner of my mind, I saw her in her 'johnny,' laying in bed, with a Cheshire grin as wide as can be. I rushed to her bedside and I saw that she had passed. I know she had seen something wonderful and wanted me to know she was happy. I will always be grateful for that.
"So, needless to say, come 1998, I didn't feel like dressing up for the kids because Christmas was not a happy season for me. The night before the last day of school, I had a dream, and I saw Auntie Lola sitting in the living room, with her sister, Auntie Lena standing in the background. Lola had a Christmas green sweater with a red something on it. She was waving happily to me with lots of energy. When I woke up that morning, I was still deciding not to dress up as Mrs. Claus. When I got out of the shower, I reluctantly thought about dressing up, not wanting to disappoint the students. Anyway, I couldn't because I didn't have a red bow to wear on the collar. Somehow it was missing from the outfit.
"For some reason, I went downstairs to her bedroom and sat on the bed a sobbed my heart out, just wanting to be with her. Seeing her in the dream was wonderful, but I wasn't as happy about it as she appeared to be. I got up from the bed and turned around because I saw something red in the mirror.
"Behind me, on the bed was the perfect red bow (she had lovely taste!). I was filled with a feeling I can't describe! Whenever I needed an outfit, Auntie Lola always had an accessory or the right blouse, and she still was primping me!
"I donned my outfit, and had more Christmas spirit than I ever had! I thought I would get into trouble at school, because the students tend to wander about the school on that day, filled with excitement. I had so many kids in my room, it was bursting and the love that was permeating the air was overwhelming! After school, I spread that love and cheer all over town! I guess somebody knew that I wasn't going to be Mrs. Claus that year and made sure that it was going to happen! I will never forget that day... and I am assured that God hears every thought and sees every tear. He certainly sent the troops out that day to get me out of doldrums and I fell right into His loving hands!"
Dec 14, 2004
The Mailbag: When God Wants To Speak, Sometimes His Signs Are Meant Literally
By Michael H. Brown
We continue to receive many testimonies of the wondrous ways in which God works. The letters have come from as far away as Sri Lanka. They are all testimony to the fact that God is always with us, always watching, and on occasion allowing us a glimpse at His Presence! Yes, it is true that God allows the occurrence of disasters. They are a mysterious part of His plan, and we are seeing an increase in them. But no matter what the event in these special times, and especially in our own, small, private lives, God is always there.
Sometimes His signs are literal ones.
A correspondent named Maureen Wellik of Middletown, Delaware, writes that her experience came in the form of a license plate -- as so many others report (see previous article).
"I was on my way home from work and was complaining to God about the state of my spiritual life for about 15 minutes, just going on and on," recalls Maureen. "I was telling God about how hard I was trying and I wasn't seeing any progress. I was getting more and more distraught and frustrated and finally yelled at God like a spoiled child having a tantrum, 'What is it that you want from me? What is it that I need to say to you?? What are the words that you want to hear???' With that a car pulled in front of me with the license plate that read 'YESGOD.'"
"I was driving to my summer home in Pennsylvania," notes another viewer, Madelyn from New York (some request anonymity). "It was dusk and my father was with me in the front passenger seat asleep. I was driving on I-80 and was in the far left lane going about ten miles per hour over the speed limit.
"Suddenly I felt as if someone put a hand on my right shoulder and pulled me as if they we going to whisper in my ear. The 'voice' told me to slow down and move to the right. I remember turning my head and looking into the back seat. I literally shook my head and continued driving. Suddenly, 'floating' in the car, very bright and yellow, was a deer-crossing sign. It was dancing as if it wanted me to notice it. Floating across, up, and down in the front of the car," claims this reader.
"I slowed down and moved to the
far right lane, still watching the dancing sign as a white truck whisked past
me. I slowed down so quickly my father awoke and asked me what was wrong. The
sign was gone as quickly as it appeared; my father never saw it. I now was
turning into the bend in the road and right before me was the white
truck that passed me crashed on the side of the road. It hit a deer that was standing in the far left lane! The driver was hurt and his shinny truck was very badly damaged. I only confided to my father about what had occurred because I feared no one would believe me."
Always, there are angel accounts in the mix. When the husband of a reader from New Jersey was ready to retire, after 35 years of service, he was heartbroken at the cold and unappreciative way the military was treating him.
"He was very sad and as I drove him home from the Army Post that night," writes his wife Susan. "I decided to pull over to get a bite to eat at a restaurant, and while we were there a woman quietly came up to us, placed her hand on my husband's shoulder and gently said to him, 'Thank you so much for serving our country, thank you so much for all your time and efforts; it means so much to me.' Then she handed him gift cards that paid for our dinner.
"We thanked her, and my husband got up from his chair to catch up to her to thank her again for the beautiful gesture, but she was gone! There was no way she could have just vanished that quickly. My husband went outside doubting she could have even made it to the door or outside that quickly.
"We just looked at each other, his eyes welled with tears, and he said, 'how did she know to say that to me?' I forgot to add that prior to the restaurant, I prayed aloud in the car with my husband, and I told God that I believed He was with us even when no one else might be, that I would look for his Presence in the events of our day. I looked for the fingerprint of God, only to feel his gentle hand upon my husband's shoulder that night speaking words of encouragement."
God never forgets us. If we handle them the right way, trials are followed by double the blessings. Or more signs. How about some roses? Writes Kathie Marshall from Howell, Michigan:
"I was at home one day with my three small children, five, three, and one at the time. The two little ones were napping and my five-year-old seemed occupied for the moment so I thought I'd steal a little free time to watch a video about the life of St. Faustina.
"The video described a moment in Sr. Faustina's life when, frustrated with some of her difficult kitchen duties, she proceeded to pull the top of a large, heavy pot that she was to wash and when she looked in, the pot was filled with roses. At that moment, she interiorly heard that the performance of her daily duties ascended to the throne of God like the scent of roses. She was immediately consoled and continued with her chores.
"I was feeling a little neglected, I suppose, because I'd never received any such consolation and I thought my duties with my three small boys were far more demanding than lifting a heavy pot! 'At least she gets to finish washing it,' I thought.
"I thought about how thrilled I'd be if I ever got to finish half the things I started. At least she can sit and finish a meal in peace; at least she has time for silent prayer every day; and the list went on as I bemoaned the busy life of a mom with young kids.
"Sure enough, before the video ended my five-year-old came to me asking if I'd go help him play solitaire on the computer. He was too young to play alone. I wanted to tell him 'not now' so I could finish the video that I had been waiting to get a chance to watch. But I felt the tug of motherhood and said 'I'll be right there.' I turned off the video and went to the computer to turn on the solitaire game.
"Anyone familiar with the computer knows that Micosoft Windows can have a variety of backgrounds or 'wallpapers.' When the background had loaded, I was astonished to be viewing a screen full of computerized ROSES! I had never seen this background before. I sat there rather speechless as I began to comprehend what it might mean.
"My little boy piped up, 'I've never seen THAT before!' I was a bit skeptical, so later I said to myself, 'if I turn the computer off and on again and it is not there then I will know that God meant that for me at that moment.'
"I turned the computer off and when I turned it back on, the roses were gone and there was a different background in its place. I later learned that there was a setting which would alternate backgrounds automatically and the roses just happened to pop up at that time, though I didn't even know there was a rose background. I had not changed this setting and my son was too young to know how to do it. It is a mystery to me how that setting got changed and the only explanation is that God needed to change it to speak to me!
"I truly believe He spoke clearly to me that day about the immense meaning and significance our little daily duties have, particularly those acts that aren't written about in saint books, like playing a game with our children when we'd rather be watching a video or reading a magazine.
"I was very consoled by that and I did take it as a communication from God. I now have nine children and am even busier than I was then -- but I still think back to that and it does help me some days to remember all the little duties which seem so un-spiritual have such a great spiritual significance when we try to do it out of love."
[resources: a tremendous video, Miracles Are Real]
12/28/04You are at www.spiritdaily.org