Not What You Expect

sound wavesWhat does God’s voice sound like? In my experience, like nothing I was expecting.

A while ago I was having some very bad days. I had too much work to do. My wife and I had a stack of unpaid bills. Problems kept cropping up, and my solutions weren’t working. I felt helpless, and I hated feeling that way. I was angry, then depressed; boastful, then self-pitying. In the middle of all this mental turmoil came a quiet thought: “All will be well. Just do the next thing you have to do. All will be well.” I was surprised. My heart settled down. I did try to concentrate on the work at hand and put other worries out of my mind. Things improved.

Another time I had to decide how to deal with someone who had crossed me in a business deal. He hadn’t done what he said he would do, but he wouldn’t admit that. I felt wronged and said so. Harsh words were exchanged. I was furious. Then came a quiet thought: “Maybe you should apologize.” Ridiculous, I thought. He should apologize to me. But I thought about it some more and decided that maybe I should apologize. I may have been right about the business deal, but I had acted badly. So I did apologize for my part in the mess. The result was peace in my heart.

Both times the thought was quiet and simple. Both times the thought was virtually the opposite of what I had been thinking. The thought “all will be well” came at a time when nothing was going well and in fact seemed to be getting worse. The thought “maybe you should apologize” came when I listed all the reasons why the guy should apologize to me.I think those thoughts were the voice of God. Where else could they have come from? Certainly not from me. And doing what the voice said had good results. Ever since, I pay special attention to quiet thoughts that are contrary to what I’m thinking at the time. That’s a sign that they might be from God.

Previous articleWho, Me?
Next articleTraining Catherine
Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Today I needed to read this because I had that kind of day where I was angry and felt righteous and at the same time tried to pray through the anger. But still I couldn’t let go and then I read this. I have a lot of respect for what you write; I have all your books, so when I saw your name and read the reflection I knew it was God talking to me. He was telling me not only to let go of the anger but to apologize to my son whether I felt that I am right or not. It’s true, we have to try and listen to God in the silence. Thank you so much, Jim, one more time that you have come to my rescue.

  2. I pay attention to quiet. That’s God’s voice. I go contrary to what are my thoughts and concerns. I note my concerns:
    Upcoming family reunion is positive for me, my wife, our sons.
    My employment search results in a match and an offer.
    The business associates, leaders I admire like Steve Peterson, Rand Morimoto, Paul Papineau and others infuse me with optimism for a new direction and focused energy.

  3. In silence that’s where we experience the voice of God. That little voice have a great impact in our lives. I prefer silence, of lately even when I am tempted to answer someone harshly, I keep quiet because Ex 14:14 has the answer…. Be still

  4. I found this post at the right time. I am in a struggle with my only daughter and feel helpless as she chooses a path that I worry will be wrong for her. Letting go is extremely hard. She is an adult, and thankfully faith-filled but of course I feel I am more experienced and so, know better. This post reminds me not to worry. “All will be well”. God will provide the answer and this reminds me that I am not the driver of this vehicle called life. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for sharing. That was definitely God’s voice and I have also heard it many times in my life!
    He is always there to guide us and comfort us!

  6. A wonderful reminder, it sounds like me. Sometimes I am slow on the pick-up and I wrestle with a possible solution to the situation at hand. Pride too enters in. Eventually when I get the courage I need (from God, of course) to face my part in the situation and take that first step, I feel relief and deep peace. Praise God.

  7. I notice in these moments is a sense of immediate healing that is inexplicable, no doubt and no desire to go back that bone I was gnawing on. It’s done. Thank you for sharing these beautiful moments.

  8. Oh my gosh, this post and the comments left by thoughtful readers…I can’t tell you how often that “voice” has suggested a solution, or provided enlightenment about a situation or person I was neither merciful nor smart enough to understand on my own. My reaction has too often been incredulity but then considering and reflecting it has made perfect sense. I believe this is where the Ignatian practice of discernment of spirits is very important.

  9. There are the times when I’ve told myself, “It is what it is.” And then something happens, and I realize, “It isn’t what I thought it was.” When I stay with that thought, it dawns on me that God is not only all-powerful, He was listening.

  10. This message strikes home with me in my life. Often the voice of God comes to me in the loving words of my wife, a friend, a stranger, a child, or in passage in holy readings.

  11. While I know that “all will be well…”, I often forget and everything becomes larger and more pressing. Thank you for the reminder.

  12. Oh, and at my age — late 50s — I know myself well enough to know which ideas are unlikely to be my own. And also: God offers many invitations to do things I really want to do — or would have, had I thought of them myself!

  13. Ayep – that’s pretty much my standard. If something enters my head that would never have occurred to me in a million years – usually God is at work.

  14. One of my tried and true ways of knowing whether I’m hearing from God or my own (occasionally twisted) psyche: God generally instructs me to do things I absolutely do NOT want to do…with gentle mercy.

  15. Lovely post. I have had the exact same experience. The first time it happened, the “message” was also, “You need to apologize for your part in this.” Like your experience, it was *not* at all what I was expecting to hear out of nowhere during prayer. (My prayer was “Jesus: I need you to be my partner in this!”)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here