A Living Library of Wisdom from God

By Keith Miller | December 7, 2009

Keith, how can I help people in trouble if I don’t know many Christian answers?

Grapeleaves

In the early years after I made a commitment to Christ I got the idea that I was supposed to have “Christian answers” to people’s problems.  So I repeated a few answers I’d learned from “old-timers” to people in trouble who came to me.  I was surprised to discover most people didn’t respond well to these “answers.”  It took me a while to realize that in the first place I can’t really help people as Jesus did until I at least listen to them and find out a little about who they are, where they came from before I met them and they shared their problem with me. I began to understand that God is almost the only one who is always ready to listen.  Many of us who are His followers are too busy talking to listen to people with the calm accepting love that God does. So now I try to listen longer and more carefully before I say anything about their “presenting” problem, even though it’s not easy to keep listening when someone says something that triggers one of my old “answers.”

I was surprised to learn that often the problem someone presents is not what is really bothering him or her, but more of a decoy—to see how I respond.  Will I be accepting or just spout pat answers? The real problem is usually something the person feels he or she should not have (as a grown-up or as a long-term Christian) and is afraid of being rejected because of having it. 

Sometimes by listening I discover whether the individual really wants to be healed.  Sometimes people unconsciously keep God’s kind of healing at a distance by enjoying always being the sick one, the abused one, the deserted one who has been wronged. 

But either way, as I listen I try to recognize how the person is feeling and to remember how I’ve felt when I have experienced that problem, or known about it.  I respond by briefly telling my own personal experience and how painful it felt or ashamed I was when I experienced it.  And when I do that, often something happens that changes the atmosphere that the person wanting help and I share.

The person may realize that he or she is not alone with this problem—and that what he or she is feeling is totally “normal” (though possibly very painful and guilt producing).  This realization may calm fears and anxiety enough so that we can discover together steps to take to resolve or accept the situation. Often it is the feelings of anger, shame or guilt about having the problem that blind one to possible new approaches to solving or accepting the problem.  

The simple idea (of listening first) led to a change of perspective that was very freeing to me.  I’m convinced that sometimes people want just to be heard, known and understood.  When they feel that they are known and accepted they may be able to set aside even painful feelings and experience the relief of a resolution or acceptance. If someone else notices the person’s improved mood and asks about it, my experience indicates that the person usually doesn’t say, “I’ve found someone with great answers.” Instead the newly relieved person is more likely to be thankful and tell his or her friends “Here’s someone who helped me see who I really am.” 

Lord, help us to learn to surrender our lives to you and pay attention to what is happening to us, so that we can learn from the painful experiences in our lives.  Help us to accept painful rejection and failure as a future drawbridge across which we can bring others into our lives to be introduced to Your kind of love and attention that transforms even the more devastating pain, loss and despair into Your kind of wisdom and healing love—that can become the most creative “solution” to life’s most difficult problems.  Thank you that these lessons can become parts of the living library of wisdom from You that we’ll need in order to let people know there is hope for them beyond the pain and fear they are now experiencing.

And thank You, Lord, that You waited for me to get through with all my rejection of You and then the superficial play-like commitments that I made early in my life.  Help me to keep listening to those other hurting, lonely and marginalized people in whom You said we’d meet You and find the Life You brought to share with us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.  Do you think he could be the Messiah?  And they went out to see for themselves.”

John 4:28-30, The Message

 

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on A Living Library of Wisdom from God
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