10 Nov A Listening Heart
Rom 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
My office is a place in which many tears have been shed. It is probably a place filled more with tears than with celebration. Life is hard, no doubt about it. And so many people who have cried, have apologized for their show of emotion. It has made me wonder why we are so uncomfortable with tears of disappointment, loss and grief. There isn’t much we can do when someone sits in front of us in tears because of a shattered marriage, an abusive spouse, a lost job, a prodigal child, a cancer diagnosis, a foreclosure, or any of a multitude of other things that happen in this broken world. Could it be that we are uncomfortable with the tears because we can’t DO much about it? Because we can’t “fix” it? There is no magic wand that we can use to make the hurt go away.
We become vulnerable and helpless when we can’t “fix” the brokenness around us. Too often, we think we can “fix” it by making a meal, writing a check, mowing a lawn, or some other act of service; and those things do help sometimes. Those are the ways we feel most comfortable showing love and concern. But what if the best thing we could do in most situations is to be a good listener? What if actually hearing the hurt and pain, the confusion and questions was what made someone who is vulnerable feel valued and loved? When we are vulnerable and hurting, advice often seems artificial and/or uncaring. Feeling heard and knowing someone else understands our pain, our situation, or our struggle can bring hope and healing that only the Gospel can bring. This is not to say that we agree with lies, or go with people to “crazy” places, but because Jesus listened to people well, he was able to perceive where they were and what they needed. Yes, he knew because he was God, but he listened anyway. He listened because he loved and cared. He listened because he knew that when people saw that he understood, they became hopeful. Look at the woman at the well. Look at Mary and Martha as they grieved the death of their brother Lazarus. Jesus blew up the social mores of the day by listening to women and children. Jesus went to the cross to bring life and hope to the lost and vulnerable. Because of the cross, we can listen and bring hope and comfort. 2 Corinthians 2:3-5 reminds us that God is a God of comfort and he comforts us in ALL our troubles so we can comfort others in ANY of their troubles with the same comfort we have received from Him. God hears, listens, and loves. Let us do the same by listening with Gospel ears and hearts. It is only as we listen that we can begin to understand what we can “do” to bring hope and healing into the brokenness.