I just got back from a beautiful week at a retreat center where I began my training to be a spiritual director (spiritual guide). I’ve got two more full weeks to go in the next year before I “graduate,” but I gathered so many great ideas, I want to share some of them with you!
Jesus usually listened without judging, interrupting, or pushing. Yes, he was tough on those who resisted God’s truth, but very gentle when someone was seeking it with an open heart. Like Jesus, we can gently accompany people toward God in our everyday relationships.
Sometimes we find ourselves talking to a friend whose mother has just died. Or a co-worker who is considering retiring. Or a nephew who wants to drop out of college or get a divorce. We know we’re not qualified to make it okay for them or do what a therapist would do, but still want to console them in their pain and give them a word of hope.
When God puts you in a conversation where you don’t really know what to say, here are 5 ways to listen like Jesus!
Listen with one ear on the Holy Spirit and one ear on the seeker
Many of us are so used to hearing someone’s problem with an eye to “fixing it,” we can forget that it’s really God who guides them to the solution, not us. Listening to the still, small voice of God in what the person is saying helps us to walk with them as they discover the answer that God is trying to whisper in their ear.
Ask open-ended questions
Instead of responding with statements, consider starting questions with, “I wonder if….” or “Where is God in all of this?” That helps us to park our ego at the door and wait on the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation as the other person seeks the truthful solution to his problem.
Keep the goal in mind
It’s easier to be present if we remember that the goal of any spiritual seeking is to be closer to the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The solving of a problem grows out of that union with God. If we keep first things first, we and the other person will be more relaxed and receptive to God’s way of comforting or guiding them.
Be the image of God to them
As you walk with them through their difficulty, picture yourself as representing God in your acceptance and gentle attitude. As the old song goes, “Only love can break a heart; only love can mend it again.” The love we have for God that grows from our own prayer life will provide a way of showing a gentle heart and being a listening ear for the precious soul that God is guiding, through us, right now.
Being present doesn’t mean we don’t respond or don’t say anything. It means keeping in mind that God is in charge of this conversation and is guiding the other person in his own way and his time. Even if we’re sure we know the answer to the problem, it is for us to be present as the other person discovers it himself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Hi Rose, thank you very much for the link you furnished. You make some very good points and suggestions on how to handle these types of situations when dealing with others who are seeking some help during a difficult time. I find myself in this situation often and your comments are very enlightening and will be helpful to me.
I am very excited to hear about your journey to becoming a Spiritual Director! I don’t know you Rose, but just listening to your video’s and reading your comments, I really think you’ll be a very effective Spiritual Director. Much success on your continued efforts to complete your goal and what seems to be an obvious calling for you. Sending you warm wishes. Thanks Rose! God bless you🕊✝️ Kathy
Thank you for the encouraging words, Kathy!
Great advice to ponder and pray about. Thanks for sharing.
Betsy L Murphy
You have given me much to think about. . . thank you for your encouraging words of guidance.
Great advice thank you
Thank you Rose for the reminder that I tend to forget all too often.
In my position at my church the everyday, run of the mill problems are often left on my desk to solve. In doing so I have developed a habit of being everyone’s problem solver when solicited. I usually pray for guidance but not always. Your reminder tells me I need to do this always & more importantly it is not my job to solve but to guide. Thank you
Mary Faye McAneny
Sounds like Stephen Ministry to me. Great advice is no advice – just beautiful listening to to the other person and The Holy Spirit .
Thanks for the reminder that our job is to be the image of God and lead others to Him.
This is wise counsel; it is a textured pathway to that listening which is nurturing and can be healing.
Thanks. Very helpful!
Thanks Rose, it is so great to have a source of knowledge to turn to when we need a reminder to always put God in charge.
Thank you, it is enlightening.
Thanks for these helpful words, Rose. I’ve always been a “fixer”. It’s a good reminder that I’m not in charge, God is.
Thanks Rose for your guidance when these circumstances occur.
Excellent advice and reminders!