People tell me that I’m a good listener, compassionate even. Lately, though, I’ve struggled with listening. When friends unload their troubles, my spirit shifts from patient to judgmental, and inside I shout, “Oh, please! Stop complaining.”
When I ask God:
“Why has listening become so hard?”
He pulls me into my past, to the months of March, April, and May.
I suffered through some significant trials in the springtime: a job loss, the loss of a best friend, the illnesses and deaths of both my parents, cancer—all came at me hitting hard in succession, year after year, until I faced every springtime with apprehension. It took more than a decade to sift through it all, but I have, and I’m left with one powerful emotion: GRATEFULNESS.
It’s the Lord’s gift to me—a Romans 8:28 gift of “all things working for good”— waking up grateful every day and ending my day with thanksgiving. Before all those trials I was the most negative person you would never want to meet. I was like Jonah, unhappy and running away until I got swallowed up by the big fish. God let me wallow in its smelly belly for a while, and when His big fish finally spit me out, I was grateful. God had taught me not to sweat the small stuff.
I sometimes think that He went a little overboard with my transformation. Recently, a friend called me a Pollyanna. I guess I am. I think that’s why listening is hard. I want to interject, “Oh, but look at the blessings!” Still, when someone is complaining about something that happened at work, or church or at home, the last thing they want to hear is, “But, you’re so blessed!”
We’re all human, after all, and we humans complain.
Did you know that the Greek word for “complainer” is literally translated one who is discontented with his lot in life? When you read the Bible, you see that from the beginning we humans have lived in discontent. It’s part of being in the world, and Lord knows (literally) that the world gives us much to grumble about. But, Jesus said that we are not part of this world. He prayed and asked God not to take us (his disciples) out of the world, but instead to keep us safe from Satan’s power. (John 17:15—16)
Satan loves it when we grumble and complain. And isn’t that what I’ve been doing, complaining about the complainers? Is that why I’ve struggled with listening?—
Oh, the irony of it all.
God answered my why question with one of His own:
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3—5 ESV)
Thank You, dear Lord, for a lesson in humility.
I’ve heard You.
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