When people are confused, hurt or afraid, there is an old adage that holds true. Sometimes, the best type of encouragement we can offer someone is to simply listen. I've also heard this coined as the ministry of presence. I once read a quote that said, "Listening is in short supply in the world today; people aren’t used to being listened to." Although this makes sense to us, it grates against our sensibilities at times.
Our instincts often lead us to try to figure things out. We like to look at situations and attempt to determine why, or why not things have happened. The fact of the matter is that we don't always need to attempt to provide profound insight or resolution for people's situations. We don’t need to fully understand someone’s struggle to be present and to listen.There is something powerful that happens when we actually attempt to enter into someone's story. This may come from spending time with someone in the midst of their context and learning what life is like for them. It may come from giving them the venue to be able to share about their hurts and their history uninterrupted and us showing compassion. The power behind simply being present and listening is that although we may not have answers and direction, the Holy Spirit does.Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)Our church is experiencing an unprecedented and Spirit-led uniting. Two churches merged together with the hopes of becoming one. In the midst of the unification of people from different cultural, spiritual and experiential backgrounds, it is vital for us to learn to both celebrate and be solemn with one another.Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another... (Romans 12:15-16)We are mindful of the rich history and lineage of a church that has been present for many years while are hopeful about our future as a people moving forward together in unity. We need to listen, learn and attempt to be present in one another's lives.This, of course, is only one vivid example that is currently at the forefront of my mind, but the opportunity for us to be aware of the need to listen in our lives is abundant.What are some ways that you can grow in the "ministry of presence" and as a listener?