At times every one of us is under pressure and needs help. Very few people attempt to make it through life without help and with good reason! God did not call us to be “Lone Ranger” Christians. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.
Where do Americans turn when under pressure? In a recent survey from LifeWay Research and Bible Studies for Life more than 1,500 Americans were asked this question: “Where do you turn to when you feel pressured?” While more than one-third said “prayer” and nearly half indicated “within myself,” only one of the eight options gained a majority (52%): “someone who will listen”. “Someone who will listen” rated even higher than “someone who will give advice” (32%).
The benefits of listening over talking
Some people surmise that the benefits of counseling are less about the words of the counselor and more about the fact he or she simply listens to the counselee talk it out. It is no accident that listening is one of the strongest elements of small group Bible studies.
Anytime believers gather to study God’s Word, whether a Sunday morning or weeknight, they should intentionally include an element of sharing outside the prayer request time. It is very hard to effectively minister to each other when no one really knows the needs. Learning about the needs comes from listening.
As we seek to involve those outside the family of faith, we do well to remember people are looking for listeners rather than talkers. This will be clear as we consider the instruction to “be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Our tendency is to speak so we can fix the problem. But, the need is to listen so we can better understand the problem.
Listening to those under pressure accomplishes three things:
1. It provides clarity for us. Bad counsel derives from misunderstanding the problem. Intent listening helps us discern the exact issue or issues.
2. It demonstrates true concern. When we talk we demonstrate concern about what we say. When we listen we demonstrate concern about what is being said. It is only then effective counsel might be offered.
3. It strengthens the relationship. All beneficial relationships depend on good communication. As we listen to those in need, relationships are strengthened. In the case of those who do not know Christ, listening can open the door to an effective sharing of the Gospel.
As we go throughout this week let us seek to be listeners to those in need. And, when the time comes, we will also be heard.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd