A Listening Heart

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:29-32.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” – Psalm 95:6-8.

Doctors have the evidence that if they lend an empathetic ear to caregivers of the terminally ill it will reduce their depression and make the situation more bearable for the dying. According to the study when doctors listened to the caregivers it significantly reduced the depression of the caregivers. The study also found that patients who felt their doctors were not empathetic were more likely to consider euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. Terminally ill patients were less likely to feel guilty about the burden they placed on others when their caregivers had a more positive attitude.

If listening along with kind and encouraging words will make such a difference in these difficult situations what would it accomplish in everyday life? Just a few kind words and a listening ear could radically change for the better marriages, workplaces, churches, families, and every area of human interaction. To listen to someone, really listen, makes a difference. As Christians while we listen, we can also pray, and while we pray the Holy Spirit is able to speak words we could never say.

When loved ones have passed away it is often difficult to know what to say to the family. Most likely they will not remember the words so much as that you were there with them. Some pastors have reported families thanking them for words that they know they did not say. But they knew the Holy Spirit had spoken words of comfort beyond anything they could have said themselves.

How can we develop a heart that is emphatic toward others and really listens? There are a great number of interpersonal communication training courses which are helpful to some extent. However, to be supernaturally effective with our listening skills God must be included. This means that we must first listen to God, and then we will be able to effectively listen to the hurting people that we encounter. The question asked by the Psalmist is a question that we need to ask ourselves each day and especially when we seek to minister to those who are hurting. That question is, “…if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts….” In other words will you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He gives you insight, direction and words to say or will you be cold hearted and interact with others in only your own strength and knowledge? The impact of the difference between those two types of listening can be an eternal difference.

Is there someone in your life you need to listen to today? I have always had a rule that when people are pouring out their hearts I need to take the time to let them. Just a few minutes of compassionate listening and a few kind words can change the course of lives.

(To listen effectively we must first listen ourselves to the Holy Spirit.)

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