What Does God Sound Like?

April 12, 2024 by Marsha Crockett

An Excerpt from Speak, My Soul

If we are to hear our own soul speak, we need first to discern what the voice of God sounds like and to trust that we are perceiving the Divine initiative in our lives. The confusion comes when we attribute God’s voice to other voices. As children, what we first heard from our parents is what we integrate as truth, even when that “truth” is false or abusive. Many other voices in our lives also interject their authority: an influential teacher, an overbearing pastor, an older sibling, or a dehumanizing boss. Sifting through the messages we have internalized—positive or negative—is a lifelong process.

Cultural ideals can also be mistaken as a godly voice, such as a work ethic that insists that we build ourselves by amassing possessions or wealth. Wealth in and of itself is not good or bad, but our focus on it can turn to idolatry. The rich man demonstrated this reality when he was invited to follow Jesus after selling everything he had and giving it to the poor. The scripture says “when he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving” (Mark 10:22). The cultural messages can sometimes be more powerful than the ones we receive from people in our lives who truly care about us.

So what does the voice of God sound like? First, the voice of God is life-giving rather than life-diminishing. The voice of God is full of grace and mercy toward each one of us. “Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11). This promise doesn’t mean that life then becomes easy. When God calls Moses to go to Egypt, Moses has to confront challenges every step of the way, including his own negative self-talk. Yet the compelling voice of God continues to lead him toward freedom for the Hebrew people (see Exod. 3).

The voice of God is creative, always designing something new out of even the most difficult life circumstances. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!” (2 Cor. 5:17). But creating something new is slow work, and we often dismiss these invitations because of the investment of time and attention it may require. Leaving a career and re-educating oneself in a new field takes time. Approaching the habitual dysfunction of our relationships and learning new methods of interaction takes time. It is a slow process to search for our own voice of the soul.

The voice of God respects our free will. Some people argue that we must crucify our will like Jesus does in the garden of Gethsemane (see Luke 22:42). But Jesus doesn’t pray to kill off his own free will but rather to strengthen it to enable him to choose the path God has prepared for him. The choice remains squarely within his hands whether to offer up his life for the love of God or to turn and exert his own self-will to avoid the pain of the moment. There is a difference between self-will—based in the ego—and free will—based in the soul. Free will is the seat of the soul and is necessary if we are to choose to love.

Learning to discern the voice of God is possible, and it is the deepest desire of God’s heart to be in intimate conversation with each of us. When we are willing to listen to the divine invitations, we enrich the pathways of life.

Marsha Crockett is a certified Spiritual Director and an award-winning author of seven books focused on prayer, spiritual formation, and God-given identity. She resides with her husband in Port Orchard, Washington, and is actively involved in her local faith community. Learn more about her work at www.marshacrockett.org.

This excerpt is from Speak, My Soul: Listening to the Divine with Holy Purpose (Upper Room Books, 2024). Read the rest of this excerpt and learn more about Speak, My Soul here.

Journal Prompts

How do you recognize the Divine voice within? 

What other strong voices can you identify in your life that sometimes entangle themselves with the voice of God? 

How have you responded to the invitations of God? Is this a time to wait on God or a time to move forward, to name your gift, embrace a call, and give expression to it in some way? 

Share your responses with others in the comments below!

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