God inspires us to listen


Listening is a kind of lost art these days. The culture of the present society in the United States is full of loud voices. These voices, whether they be a person, an advertisement on TV or the host of a podcast or radio show, generally have one common denominator, the voices are trying to tell us something … something about the world from their perspective or about why we most certainly need to think this particular way about that idea.

Though it is not always the case, often times what’s missing from the ideas that these voices convey is true listening. Listening that acknowledges the other person and their situation first before even trying to come up with a response or solution for it. Therefore, when we encounter a person who truly listens to what we say, feel or express, we often choose to continue to interact with them because we sense their concern for our well-being.

In the three years that I have lived in Kingsbury County, I have witnessed first-hand the desire of the people within our communities to be heard. Whether the person has shared something while seated next to me at the local athletic event. Whether a person has come into my office and simply vocalized thoughts by saying, “I just don’t know if anyone truly hears what I’m trying to say.” Whether a person has tangentially alluded to not being heard. Human beings are a social species. All of us, at some point, have experienced a moment where our presence was not acknowledged or felt that others were not actively listening to what we were trying to express.

Unless you think that this is all simply a secular assessment and response of our present reality, as a pastor, I can assure you it is not. If you open up your Bible, you will find numerous stories of God the Father or God the Son or an angel or a prophet or an apostle declaring to the person, “be not afraid” or “do not fear” or “fear not.” This phrase appears nearly 150 times in Scripture. That is just one such phrase. There are so many others.

God is constantly showing us how to truly listen to each other by naming the person’s feelings. Read now this excerpt from Genesis 21. “And as Hagar sat opposite of Ishmael, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.”

So, I want to invite you this day, to truly listen to the person you are conversing with in the moment. When they say, “You know, I’m worried about my aunt’s health. She’s just been diagnosed with cancer.” Try not to respond by saying, “Oh that sucks. You know my uncle had stomach cancer four years ago [continues story] …”

I know that sounds like you are being helpful because you are trying to relate to what the person is going through. There will definitely be a time to share a related experience, but it is not right now. In reality, you are actually ignoring them, because by talking about your relative who had cancer, you shifted the conversation away from their concern.

Instead, try saying, “I can hear the worry in your voice. It sounds like you and she are really close. What do you presently know about her diagnosis?”

That type of active listening, affirming you heard what they said and asking a question that allows them to continue sharing about the experience will indeed show your friend or coworker that you care for their well-being. By responding in such a way, you will express the care and love of God to them by utilizing the positive listening qualities that God exemplifies for us throughout Holy Scripture.


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