Jesus once said, “Consider carefully how you listen.” (Luke 8:18) This would have been great advice for Job’s friends. When Job’s friends first learned of Job’s losses , “they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” (Job 2:13) Sitting in the sorrow with Job was a very wise move, but it’s what happens after that marks Job’s friends as “unwise”. Job began to “vent” to his friends. He gives expression to the deep anguish in his soul. (Job 7: 11) Venting is a necessary part of grieving. Venting allows a person to de-tox and exhale all the sorrow in their soul. The problem is many of us don’t handle it well when a friend simply wants to “vent”. We feel we need to fix their sorrow, or advise them on how to move beyond their sorrow. At times we might even stoop to giving pious platitudes. This is exactly what Job’s friends did. They all of a sudden became “spiritual experts” trying to explain to Job the deep mysteries of God. Their logic? God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked and therefore, surely Job needed to repent. If you were Job and you had just lost everything, how would you feel hearing all this? If you read the dialogue between Job and his friends you will find that there is even some truth in what the friends say to Job. For example, they say “Having hope will give you courage.” (Job 11:18) That’s true. It’s just not what Job needed in the moment. Job needed friends who would crawl into his sorrow with him, who would allow him to vent without judging him, and friends who would comfort him with their presence rather than their words.
I don’t know about you, but I find these chapters (Job 2-11) to be VERY convicting. Too often I have opened my mouth and tried to “fix” someone’s sorrow. Too often I have jumped into “spiritual expert” mode and tried to encourage a hurting friend by reminding them of some element of God’s character when what they really needed was a friend to listen. One of my goals for 2013 is to allow the Holy Spirit to change me in the listening realm. I have asked the Lord to cleanse me of any need to be “the expert.” I am asking Him to show me what it looks like to listen like Jesus listened. I want to be able to empathize with others, crawl into their suffering as Jesus did, and simply weep with them. (John 11:35) What about you? How well do you listen?
Here are some reflective questions to help you consider how carefully you listen:
1. How often do you interrupt another person who is talking?
2. When someone is sharing their story, do you dive in with your own story?
3. How often do you try to “fix” someone’s suffering by becoming the “spiritual expert?”
I’d love to hear your thoughts! I am working on a new book that won’t come out until 2014 on learning to listen as a part of your spiritual transformation….so I’d love to hear what you’ve learned in your journey! Please leave a comment.