She walked in late to her physical therapy appointment, quickly apologizing, “I’m sorry, I’m having a rough day.” I leaned in and patted her on the shoulder as we walked towards the bike for her warm-up exercise. Assuming her back pain had flared up I asked her, “What’s going on?” She got on the bike and began to pedal as she told me that she had lost her mom recently, and today the grief was overwhelming. Throughout the session, she continued to share stories about her mom. I could tell that she loved her mom and they had a great relationship. Her mom lived a full life until she suddenly fell sick and passed.
Usually, I would have said some old Christian-ese phrase that we often say to those grieving the loss of a loved one like, “Well, she’s in a better place.” But the Holy Spirit gave me new words to speak over this woman: “I can tell you miss your mom and it probably feels unfair to have your best friend taken away.”
She suddenly looked up at me, reached for my hand, took it into hers, and her eyes began to well up. She said, “Thank you for saying that … everyone just keeps saying she’s in a better place and I’m tired of hearing that because I just want my mom here with me.”
In that moment I knew the Holy Spirit spoke through me because I chose to listen to this woman — not just to her words but to her pain. I think often, we as Christians are quick to slap a cliche statement over someone’s pain because we’re not really listening to them. Listening to someone unload their burden makes it heavy and uncomfortable for us, so selfishly we want to soothe them quickly, like sticking a pacifier in the mouth of a crying baby. But their pain needs a place to land.
Galatians 6: 2 teaches us to, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And the most practical way to live this out is through listening. We cannot save people or change their circumstances, but we can listen. If we are honest when we share our issues and pain with someone, we understand their limitations but we share anyway because we just need someone to listen.
I think one of the reasons people were drawn to Jesus was because He was a good listener. Jesus didn’t just teach and disciple people. He didn’t just touch and deliver people. So often Jesus gave people an opportunity to share their pain and put words to their wounds. He listened.
When blind Bartimaeus cried out, everyone tried to silence him. “Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet” Mark 10:48. The Bible tells us when He hears this blind beggar’s cry, Jesus stops. He listens. Can you imagine the Creator of time and space, the Alpha and Omega, standing still because of the cry of a man who lived on the side of the road?
The day Jesus meets the Samaritan woman He arrives at the well early. Jesus is waiting for her to get there and invites her into a conversation. In fact, this is the longest conversation recorded in the Bible that Jesus has — with this woman who had a wounded past. She walked at noon to that well alone as she always had because no one wanted to be associated with her; everyone in town knew her scandalous story. But Jesus, the Sovereign One, still sits, waiting to listen to her.
Jesus doesn’t spiritualize our pain or sweep it under the rug. He wants us to say it out loud to Him because He is the Savior and He has shared in our sufferings and empathizes with our deepest wounds. People wanted to be close to Jesus not just because He was a good teacher, but because He made space to listen to them. It amazes me that the God of the universe came to this world as a man to walk with us, talk with us, and listen to us.
Friend, Jesus wants to hear you.
I also pray that in our love for others, we would be quick to listen like Jesus, and that we would be people who make space for others to bring their wounds and words so that their burden feels just a little lighter. Let’s not silence people with our quick sticky statements or distance ourselves from them because their pain is too much.
It is true that we are the hands and feet of Jesus to go and do His work, but we are also the ears of Jesus to stop, wait, and listen.