Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘Compassion’

A Prayer for Sufferers

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

A Prayer for Bringing Broken Friends and Stories to Jesus

     Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2:3-5

Dear Lord Jesus, after sitting with a mom in crisis yesterday, I woke up this morning hurting for friends whose lives are marked by chronic illnesses—those with mental and emotional illnesses in particular. I come, very much in the spirit of this text, bringing you both the sufferers and the caregivers, confident of your great compassion.

Jesus, I cry out to you on behalf of the sufferers—these precious men and women whose capacity to think and feel is painfully distorted—those who are in early and later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s. And I pray for those who suffer with various degrees of depression—from clinical to post-partum blues to bouts of paralyzing melancholia. And I pray for friends trying to make sense of hard providences and your promises—those who wonder how you can be good, when life is so hard.

I pray for those unable to grieve losses and betrayals in a healthy way. I pray for those who live in the angry vortex of despair and hopelessness—generated by old and new wounds. I pray for those whose war with self-contempt makes death, or at least self-harm, look like a good—even the only way out. You know the names and the details, and you alone have the grace.

Jesus, I know you are merciful and I know you are mighty. Only you know what’s going on in each story and heart. It’s not always easy to discern what’s physiological, psychological, demonic, or just the absence of vital relationship with you. As friends and caregivers, give us what we need to love and to serve these broken ones well.

When we’re fearful and confused, when we are fed up and used up, give us all the wisdom, compassion, and faith to love well. Jesus, it’s these kinds of sufferings that me wish for miracles on demand.

How we long for the Day when every form of brokenness will give way to the endless joys of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and healing name.

Jesus Sighed !?!

SOURCE:  David Murray

Apparently I sigh a lot – usually when I’m frustrated, angry, defeated, or impatient.

Sometimes it’s all of these.

So, when I read that Jesus sighed in front of the deaf and dumb man He was about to heal (Mark 7:34), I’m puzzled.

As His sighs are perfect, they cannot be caused by frustration, anger, defeat or impatience. So what produced this sinless sigh, a sigh of such significance that Mark included it in his Gospel? There are four possible components in this sigh:

1. A Sigh of Comparison: Just as we might sigh when we see a previously beautiful house or garden ruined by neglect or vandalism, so Jesus sighed when He saw the previously beautiful humanity that He had made (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16) now so ruined and vandalized by sin and its consequences. This sigh was all the deeper as it focused on the two senses of speech communication that had so distinguished humanity. How the mighty had fallen!

2. A Sigh of Conquest: As the weightlifter groans, gasps, and sighs as he lifts the bending bar, so Jesus articulated the effort involved in this healing by similar sighs and groans. And remember Jesus was not just healing physical deafness and dumbness, He was most likely also saving a soul. Surely this was not “effortless,” but rather it cost Him and drained Him

3. A Sigh of Concern. This man had never heard or said anything sinful. His disabilities had reduced his sin opportunities. But Jesus knew that when he started hearing and speaking, his ears and his lips would start sinning. How worrying and concerning for Christ. He saw that greater temptations would now come his way and expressed His  concerned pity through this sigh. Maybe the time would come when this man might wish he had never been able to speak and hear. Some of us may have felt this too at times.

4. A Sigh of Compassion: As Jesus saw the devastation visited upon the apex of God’s creation because of sin, He sighed with sympathy and empathy. “He took our sicknesses and carried our sorrows” (Matt. 8:17) does not mean that Christ suffered all our diseases, experienced our disabilities, and endured chicken pox, measles, flu, etc. However, it does mean that He was able to enter into such diseases, disabilities, and ailments and feel them as if he was going through them himself. In fact, with his perfect imagination and sensitivity, He was able to feel such things even more deeply than the actual sufferers.

How wonderful to have a Savior who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. I can bring all my sighs to Christ, because He has felt them even more than I have.

“Not tonight dear” … Men Rejected

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Men are wretched at dealing with rejection.

Women are not good at it either.

But at least they are more prone to talking about it, or they are vulnerable enough to be sad. Men tend to go silent or get angry.

I want to get to sexual rejection—wives who seem to reject their husband’s sexual advances—but first, a warm-up illustration.

For the first five to ten years of our marriage, Sheri and I would have our most intense conflict when we went to visit her parents. The conflict always circled around my sense of being rejected. Sheri has five siblings, and when we visited her parents there were always a few siblings and their families there too. Having not seen them in a year, she (and I) were eager to spend time with them. But at some point I would feel like she wanted to spend more time with them than with me. This might have been true given how infrequently she saw her brothers and sisters, but, all the same, I took it personally.

My reactions were juvenile. It was as if I was looking for her to pat me on the head and say, “Oh, Eddie, don’t be silly. I love you more than anyone. I will cancel all of my family plans for tomorrow and spend it only with you.” Or, better yet, “Are you kidding?! I am married to the world’s supreme stud-muffin. I adore you . . .”

I am thankful that the Spirit is very powerful and now my responses rarely look that pitiful. Being able to say: “I miss not being able to speak to you during the day. Let’s try to take a walk this afternoon,” is the fruit of massive sanctification.

Now to a more difficult experience of rejection.

I have spoken to a number of men who have a sense that sexual interest in marriage should be roughly equivalent—that both husband and wife should have similar sexual desire for the other person. Men are usually willing to accept that they might have a little more sexual desire than their wives, but when those differences get extreme, watch out. Men will feel rejected.

“Why can’t you ever take the initiative and ask if I want to have sex?” I know many husbands have said this to their wives and I suspect many more think it.

Women can certainly feel like sexual objects, and that is an important matter, but, for a moment, consider the rejected man.

A husband is in a very vulnerable spot every time he asks his wife if they can be sexually intimate. Perceived resistance will be taken as rejection. Maybe the wife really does have a headache, or perhaps she is just bone tired, but it will be hard for the husband to resist the urge to take it personally.

“No” to a husband’s advances is a big deal in a marriage. A godly wife can certainly say “no” but she will also be alert to the way her response might be taken by her husband. Understanding and compassion can go a long way at these moments.

Men, if you react with silence or anger, it means you have a problem.  Any time you think, “I have a God-given right to sex from my wife” expect to crash and burn. Aim, instead, for massive sanctification that might say, “Could we talk about when I ask you if we could be intimate [and I am not asking right now]?  I am surprised that those are really difficult moments for me. I know that sometimes the timing is bad, but I tend to take “no” or even “later” as rejection, and I don’t want to do that.”

Those conversations can be hazardous, especially if a wife uses it as an opportunity to talk about how she feels like a body more than a person to her husband. But when a desire to love the other person and pursue unity in the relationship outweighs a sense of personal rights, couples can usually come to creative solutions.

How Does My Suffering Compare To Yours?

No More Minimizing Pain

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“But my suffering isn’t as severe as hers.”

It sounds courageous and compassionate. If you believe it, you avoid playing the victim card, and the victim card is as unattractive as it is unhelpful. So who would have thought that these good intentions could go so bad.

There is No Suffering Gauge

The truth is this. There is no suffering gauge in Scripture, as if being burned at the stake scores a 100, Stage IV cancer is an 85, a broken friendship is a 50 and uncomfortable shoes are a 5. If there were such a system, a person whose suffering topped out at 80 would have to defer to the one who measures 81. The one with the less severe suffering would have to suffer in silence. He or she would have no right to seek the comfort of others or God. To do so would be hogging time that could be better used by more qualified sufferers.

There is No Compassion Meter

And here is something worse. A suffering gauge would inevitably be accompanied by a compassion meter. We would show more compassion to the one with the greater suffering and dole out a fraction of compassion to the one with less suffering. God too would have full-on compassion for a score of 100, but he couldn’t be bothered by the uncomfortable shoes.

Too many of us believe that such a system exists.

God, however, never compares our suffering to anyone else’s. Never. He doesn’t even compare it to his own suffering. There is no, “Let’s see, you just got divorced. Hmm. Do you want to know real pain? I suffered and died for your sins.” Instead, his personal familiarity with human pain assures us of his compassion—not of his comparisons.

Call Out to God—Always

The Psalms constantly invite us to call out to the Lord, which is another way of saying that our God constantly invites us to call out to him. We might not identify with the Psalmists who are being pursued by blood-thirsty enemies, but we can always find a Psalm that speaks on our behalf. Consider Psalm 130. It is one of my favorites because the Psalmist doesn’t specify the nature of his trouble. Instead, he is wonderfully vague. The only entry requirement for this Psalm is that you have to hurt.

The danger in establishing a pecking order within suffering is that you feel authorized to call out to the Lord when things are really bad, but you remain isolated and silent if your pain is below the national average. This, of course, can never be. If there is anything we know about ourselves and Scripture we know this: we were made to speak both the joys and sorrows of our heart to the Lord.  He delights in hearing our joys and shouldering our sorrows. The most human thing we can do is call out to him. Any system that restrains the cry of the heart is suspect at best. More than likely it has diabolic fingerprints on it.

So expose this wretched system. Jettison it now. Get mad that you were duped into believing that your God doesn’t care about the details of your life. You can still say, “My suffering is nothing like what she is experiencing, which makes it that much more amazing that God hears me and cares.”

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————


Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary.

Discerning Depression (and Medication)

SOURCE:  Based on an article by  SUSAN PALWICK

Anyone who works with psychiatric patients will tell you how difficult it can be to get them to take their medication. No one with a chronic illness, whether bipolar disorder or high blood pressure, likes taking pills every day; everyone with chronic illness, whether diabetes or depression, sometimes slides into imperfect self-care. We’re people, not machines. We don’t like doing the same thing all the time, and we don’t always function at the highest level.

There’s a popular belief that creative people are more prone to mental illness, or that mentally ill people are more prone to creativity, than the general population. This is a dangerous attitude on several levels: it romanticizes mental illness, portrays creativity as dangerous, and denies the creativity present in everyone. But like most myths, this one contains a kernel of truth. Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist and expert on bipolar illness who suffers from the disorder herself, observes in her book Touched by Fire that bipolar tendencies and extreme creativity tend to run in families. Distinguished poet Anne Sexton, who according to her close friend Maxine Kumin heard the trees talking to her every June, found herself unable to write on any of the medication she was given to quiet those voices.

I may have bipolar tendencies. As I’ve written here before, I’ve had depression for most of my life. I’m a writer. And my relationship to medication is ambivalent, at best.

I’ve been on antidepressants for two extended periods. I took them for four years starting near the end of graduate school, and then, after a hiatus of eight years, began taking them again about four years ago. Let me emphasize that I’ve never been suicidal, hospitalized, or completely unable to function: at my worst, I’ve merely been riddled with self-loathing, wracked by daily or hourly crying jags, and unable to imagine a tolerable future. The meds largely remove those handicaps. They make me more resilient to stress, more graceful in social situations – including the teaching by which I earn my living – and generally happier and more optimistic.

They also deaden my writing, which loses the spark and verve it has when I’m off meds.

My husband has also noticed this, so I don’t think it’s my imagination. My psychiatrist believes that I have to be on meds for the rest of my life. But writing’s a huge part of my life and my career, and also my deepest and truest joy. Not being able to do it as well as I can when I’m not on antidepressants (and yes, I’ve tried a variety of meds) makes me, well, depressed.

The situation challenges my spirituality. God gave me the gift of writing, as well as the particular brain chemistry that predisposes me to depression. My depression is as much blessing as curse, if only because it’s given me more compassion for others with mental illnesses. I believe that God wants me to write as well as I can. I also believe that God wants me to be as happy as I can. How, then, am I to respond to the fact that the two seem incompatible?

The easiest answer would seem to be that I should learn to be happy without meds, as I’ve done with some success for the all-but-eight years I haven’t been on them. Those hard-won joys, though, have come at the cost of a social isolation I’m not quite willing to endure again, at least not right now. People seem more comfortable with me when I’m on meds.

This isn’t a problem I can solve quickly or easily, and having it makes me very sympathetic to people who won’t take their medication. I do take mine, although I pray daily about whether I should keep doing so. My current plan is to try to go off it again in a year or two. I’ve recently lowered my dosage, with my psychiatrist’s blessing. I’m writing a little better now, but I’m also a little less comfortable in my own skin. I doubt that God wants me to be a creature of halves and compromises. For now, I take each step as it comes, trying to discern God’s will and my own health, trying to see the path ahead.

—————————————————————————————-

A practicing Episcopalian, Susan Palwick volunteers as an ER Chaplain at a hospital in northern Nevada. She currently teaches as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Medical Education at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, where she specializes in Narrative Medicine.

Where Are You, Lord? What’s really going on when God seems absent?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Tom Eisenman

I knew right away that Josh had called with the bad news we’d hoped never to hear: Jada, our 14-month-old granddaughter, had succumbed to the genetic disorder she’d battled so bravely throughout her brief life.

After hanging up the phone, Judie and I were too numb with grief to cry. We just held each other for what seemed an eternity.

That day was the final crushing blow in a long season of trauma and pain. In the months before, we had lost one of our best friends in a tragic automobile accident. The day after his funeral, I received word that my mother had suffered a massive stroke. The following day she was gone. Just prior to these heartbreaking losses, I’d had to resign from a long-term ministry position. Under financial stress, we sold the home we loved; then we were forced to move twice in less than a year. Now our beautiful grandbaby was dead. On occasions, we wondered if our grief would consume us.

This period was also spiritually confusing. Judie and I both struggled to relate to God. At times we felt as if He didn’t care.

“God, where are You?” we’d pray. “What are You doing?”

Too often there would just be silence.

God’s strange absence was one of the most jarring things we’d ever experienced. We were confident God was there. We knew He was at work in our lives. But He was not there and working in the ways we had come to expect.

I remembered at one point how King David had also experienced painful times when God seemed distant to him. We began to take some comfort in knowing we were not the first children of God to endure confusing periods of spiritual darkness.

The 16th-century priest John of the Cross wrote extensively about these wilderness journeys. He called them “dark nights of the soul.” John testified that these prolonged and painful periods of dryness—when received in faith rather than resisted—would eventually result in a truer, more profound intimacy with God.

The Soul at Midnight

If you look for “dark night of the soul” in your concordance, you won’t find it. But even if that phrase doesn’t come directly from the Bible, it’s clear that many people depicted there experienced what I’ve been describing. Few enjoyed as close a relationship with God as David, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Yet David often struggled to find God’s presence in the midst of painful circumstances.

In the Psalms we encounter his descriptions of the common dark-night feelings of suffering in isolation, losing one’s bearings, and having no solid place to stand.

 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

—10:1

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.…I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

—69:1–3

David knew what it’s like to feel God withdraw His presence. Confronted with his sin of adultery and murder, David pleads,

 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

—51:11–12

 Painful, Yet Fruitful

The “willing spirit” David prayed for usually comes at a great price. The Bible makes it absolutely clear that God is for us and that nothing can separate us from His love (Ro. 8:31–39). But God is also deeply committed to our growth. The Scriptures describe three painful processes that God will use—often during dark-night periods—to remove from our lives that which does not honor Him.

Pruning.   Jesus teaches that pruning is at the heart of His Father’s transforming work: “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be more fruitful” (Jn. 15:2). In the California wine country where I live, we constantly see pruning’s effects. Grapevines look like dead stumps after they’ve been pruned. You wouldn’t believe anything good could again come from these gnarly hunks of wood. But by late summer the vines are flourishing, bending low under the weight of a healthy and abundant crop.

Refining. Another process is refining through fire. “See, I have refined you…,” God says. “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Is. 48:10). And the Apostle Peter, no stranger to suffering, writes,

These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.—1 Pet. 1:7

Shaking. Finally, the writer of Hebrews describes a process of shaking, telling us that God is removing…what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.…For our “God is a consuming fire.”

—Heb. 12:27, 29

At the heart of the dark-night journey is this place of reduction and humiliation where every twig marked “self rule” must be cut off and thrown in the fire. God’s fire burns away deadwood but also refines our characters, drawing the impurities from our souls. And where we have tried to rest our lives on pillars that do not reach bedrock, there will be a shaking, a divine demolition, until only that which cannot be shaken remains. Yet even then God promises,

Fear not, for I have redeemed you.…When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze [or, consume you].—Is. 43:1–2

When we encounter this work of God, we feel lost and out of control. We grope around, trying to find our bearings, confused by the upheaval in our souls. Yet God is profoundly shaping our faith. We are being dismantled at our core, then gracefully reconstructed from the inside out.

Road Signs

It is good to know when you might be entering a dark night. It is a comfort to know that this tough time is a work of God in progress, not some senseless series of ugly events. Here are some signs that I believe can help us recognize when we are experiencing this unique work of God.

A perceived change in God’s presence.  During the painful period Judie and I went through, we experienced God maintaining a more distant posture toward us than we had come to expect. I believe this is a classic sign of a dark night in progress. It can catch us off guard, because the shift will often follow a period during which we have felt close to God, dancing in His blessings. Then life suddenly changes. When we, like David, cry out to the Lord, He can seem unresponsive, indifferent, and aloof.

One subtle but significant clue that this is an authentic dark night is that, even though it appears God might have abandoned us, it’s common to have a still deeper sense that this unusual experience is a work of God. He may be absent in the ways that we have come to expect, but He is present in new ways. A shaking is going on; God is in the shaking.

Diminished ego.  Another clue is when we become aware that our egos are undergoing a major adjustment. The dark-night experience always disempowers us. The manipulative, possessive, controlling self must be broken down.

We may recognize this first in our prayer lives. We do everything we have always done to engage God in prayer, but nothing works. The harder we try to touch the face of God, the more we work at it, the less we seem able to achieve the experience of God for which we long. The key words here are try, work, andachieve. We are learning who is really in control. There is no way we can force God’s presence; it is always a gift.

What starts with prayer often bubbles over into other areas. During dark-night experiences we become keenly aware of our limitations. In this past year of brokenness and searching, I was surprised to find myself slipping at times into thinking the unthinkable: angry thoughts, sexual fantasies, strange doubts, even obsessive ruminating about who I really was. I struggled against temptations I had been certain were dead and gone.

We can begin to wonder whether we’ve really made any progress with God. It feels like regressing. Our Christian self-images may become part of God’s demolition and reconstruction. We may have become too attached to ideas of our effectiveness in religious work or of our strength of character. How quickly pride enters into every area! As God diminishes our egos, a more authentic humility grows in us. When we emerge, we will have new spiritual energy and fresh thinking that could not have come about if we had stayed where we were, with everything organized and securely in place under our old regime.

Distorted images of God.  Another area in which God works involves our worship of false images of Him. A common experience is to realize more fully how self-serving and immature many of our previously held concepts of God have been.

Letting go of favorite images of God is painful and can shatter our comfortable religious world. If we are attentive to God’s work here, the result will be a more authentic relationship with the one true God who has been waiting for us in the darkness from which we have likely been fleeing.

The Apostle Paul experienced this radical religious transformation. Paul was blinded by God on the road to Damascus; that’s darkness. After the return of his sight, believing brothers sent him off to Tarsus for several years of self-imposed exile (Acts 9:1–30). God set Paul aside until his entire set of images of God could be dismantled and then reconstructed on the solid foundation of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Other signs.  In the dark night of the soul, God is teaching us utter dependence upon Him. For this reason, every aspect of our lives that we turn to for fulfillment, satisfaction, or security may be challenged.

Even physical illness or limitation can become part of the dark-night experience. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s repeated plea for God to remove the thorn in his flesh. Paul finally learned that the thorn kept him from becoming conceited and taught him complete dependence upon the grace of God (2 Cor. 12:7–10).

Often our dark-night experiences will involve some of what Jesus suffered. We may have to endure acts of injustice or betrayal—even by close friends—that can bring profound disillusionment. Experiences such as these deepen our intimacy with the Lord and grow our compassion for what He did for us. A purification takes place when we cannot count on others; we are driven back to the Lord as the true and trustworthy friend.

A Willing Soul

Once we’ve identified what we’re experiencing as a dark night of the soul, the question remains: How do we position ourselves to grow from it? There are some important ways we can cooperate with God during this unique spiritual transition.

Honestly express your emotions to God.  Dark-night seasons are painful and disorienting. We may be hesitant to talk with God about what we’re really feeling, especially what we may be feeling toward Him.But this is no time for pretending. God can handle our honesty. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

Fight the temptation to run from your distress.  You may have been a goal-oriented, self-assured, and efficient Christian. Now, however, God has allowed a spiritual earthquake to occur. The temptation will be to recreate what you had before, much like the Israelites who wanted to return to slavery in Egypt rather than face future uncertainties with God.

During our recent testing, a wise friend said to me, “Tom, let it burn.” This was solid advice. A dark night is not just some emotional tremor after which you can get back to life as usual. God is transforming your entire being. You will eventually enjoy a whole new way of seeing, believing, and living. Open yourself to the new life the Lord is birthing in you.

Resist trying harder.  God may remove you from activity during the dark night. Perhaps you have been too busy, too results-oriented, too much in control. You have a sense that it is OK to withdraw from previous commitments and involvements. When you finally let go, you may have to battle feeling lazy or guilty. Concerned friends and family may also suggest that you get busy again: “Try harder,” they’ll seem to say, “and you can pull yourself out of this.”

Rushing back into a life of frantic activity, however, is likely the opposite of what God would want you to do. Give yourself space to experience God differently. Rest, solitude, and silence are your best friends.

Seek companions.  All change represents loss. Anytime we experience loss, we enter into grief. The emotions of grieving can include loneliness, self doubt, and anger—even anger at God for seeming inscrutable and uncaring in the face of our agony. This is a good time to reach out to spiritually mature friends who are good and patient listeners. You want people who will hear you without trying to fix you, who will listen long and hard with you for the true voice of God. These caring friends can offer encouragement and perspective as you endure the unpredictable emotions of the dark night.

Be faithful, but release your expectations.  When our experiences of God change, we may become anxious as we desperately seek the touch from God to which we’ve become accustomed. It’s good to remain faithful to our spiritual disciplines, but we need to let go of our expectations regarding how God may or may not respond to us.

Be patient with yourself and with God.  Dark-night periods can last for months, a year, or even longer. The deeper changes at which God may be aiming take time. You may see little progress according to previous patterns of God’s work in your life. This is new territory, new ground being plowed. Wait patiently, and pray for eyes to see inklings of the stronger future God is bringing about.

Call to mind God’s faithfulness.  Even though we’re not sure what God is up to in the present, recalling His provision and leading in the past can steady us in disorienting times. Hold on to the truth you know: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

TOUCHING BEDROCK
The dark night ultimately teaches us that we cannot control God, nor would it benefit us to do so. We need to die to ourselves in order to be transformed into people who can fully participate in the new order the whole creation is groaning toward (Ro. 8:19–22). So we give ourselves wholeheartedly to God who, in His goodness to us, often acts in ways that are surprising and unpredictable.

I’ve come to see, as John of the Cross did, that if we can stay open and spiritually aware during these unusual, searching times we learn truths about ourselves that we might never have discovered while living contentedly within our carefully constructed religious comfort zones.

Many times during our dark period, Judie and I cried out to God in pain, wondering what He was doing. We knew that God was not bringing these calamities into our lives. Nor was He punishing us. But now we see that He was using these hard circumstances to accomplish His deeper work of humility in us.

We had much to learn and to let go of before we could finally and fully rest where we are today: on the solid bedrock of God’s love. Now that we are emerging from this prolonged and painful time, we feel most fortunate. We have gotten all the way down to this richest place, a place where all that’s left is all we will ever need—God’s great faithfulness.

Spiritual Listening: Six Biblical Principles

SOURCE:  Bob Kellemen [Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.]

When your friend is hurting or struggling in life, learn how to LISTEN spiritually. Use the following acrostic (LISTEN) to remind yourself of basic components of competent spiritual listening.

L Loving Motivation: Proverbs 21:13

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). As a loving spiritual friends, you are motivated, like God, to listen for, hear, care about, empathize with, and respond to the hurts of the wounded. What drives careful listening is not secular theory or human curiosity. Care does. Christ-like compassion does.

I Intimate Concern: Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6; James 3:17-18

Paul (Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6) emphasizes the humble, spiritual, gentle, and gracious concern that accompanies competent spiritual listening. James (James 3:17-18), in a context sandwiched between the use of the tongue and the cause of quarrels, explains that wisdom for living flows from a heart that loves people and peace, a soul that is considerate and submissive, and a mind that is impartial and sincere.

S Slow to Speak: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19

James is emphatic. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Solomon explains why. “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Remember a basic principle of spiritual friendship: hear your friend’s story before you tell God’s story to your friend.

T Timing: Proverbs 15:23; 25:11

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23). “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “Apt” means fitting, timely, given in due season. As a skillful spiritual friend, speak words said at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason because of right listening.

E Exploring: Hebrews 3:7-19; 10:24-25

Both Hebrews 3 and 10 speak of encouraging in the context of exploratory listening. Before you encourage your friend, tune into, see, listen, and hear what is going on in your spiritual friend’s life (external situation) and heart (internal reaction).

N Need-Focused Hearing: Ephesians 4:29

Before speaking words that benefit others, listen for specific needs. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). As you listen, ask: “What is it that my spiritual friend most needs? What are his hurts and wounds? What are her fears and scars? What wholesome words relate to her specific situation? Specifically, given his situation, what words will benefit him?”

Tag Cloud