Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Being a Listener/Counsellor - Don't Block the Pain




Maybe you are the one to whom friends go for a listening ear, a compassionate heart, for words of wisdom. There's a good possibility, like me, you've never asked for this responsibility, but God placed it, ever so gently, into your lap. You are entrusted with fears, secrets, fragile emotions.  People come to you, make themselves vulnerable and place their very hearts in your hands.

All at once, this gift that God has given us is

    frightening
             humbling
                      burdensome
                                honorable
                                                lonely.

If you are regularly the counselor, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  While we are honored and blessed that women would trust us so very much, we also know we must handle these precious hearts with great care, for they are fragile.  Hearing some of the stories, experiencing the on-going pain and turmoil in some cases can often weigh down our hearts.  And, to whom do we go when we need a listening ear?  After all, aren't we the strong ones?  Aren't we the ones with all the answers?

I want to take a couple of days to encourage you who are the counsellors, the ones whose hearts keep the secrets of many.

I started listening/counseling, involuntarily, in high school.

(Can you really call a high school teen a counsellor?)

I remember working for our vice principal one class period of each day.  I think it was during her lunch break and I was there to man the phones or sit with the students who awaited a stern lecture upon her return.  In all honesty, I don't remember what my purpose was.  I do remember having several conversations with fellow-classmates, some with whom I rarely talked ordinarily.  They would ask me my thoughts on various topics, some came to talk about struggles with friends and with boyfriends.  And, it didn't stop in school.  When I worked at the grocery store, complete strangers would tell me their life stories.  At that point, I just thought it was odd that people would open up to me.  

Since then, I've realized it to be a gift from God.  You who are in it know that it sometimes doesn't feel like a gift. The burden is often great.  We weep with those that weep...and then we weep with them again.  We feel the hurt when the one we are listening to can no longer hurt for herself.  We have given hours, days, months, sometimes years to a person....only to end up losing them as a friend.  We have heard stories that leave our souls shocked and our mouths gaping.  There are evenings when we drag ourselves home feeling exhausted and praying we gave just a little hope...but doubting we did.

We who listen to the burdens, the struggles, the heartaches, the confusion...we get to a point where we tend to build a wall around our heart so we don't feel the pain.  We still want to help.  We still want to give.  We still want to love.  We still want to listen.  We just don't want to hurt anymore.

Yet, only by hurting can we empathize.

Only by feeling our heart break can we help our friend pick up the pieces of her heart.

Only by feeling the hopelessness of our own selves do we cry out to the Counsellor and Friend who can use us to dispense His hope to others.

Are you building a wall around your heart?  Are you covering your ears as your soul screams to God, "NO MORE, GOD!  I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE!"?

I have done this.  I often find myself rebuilding the wall of protection.  It's self preservation to build the wall, but God calls us to be a living sacrifice.  Therefore, I must tear it down.

The burden gets heavy.  What if we are so laden down that we cannot be the wives, mothers, ministers, employees that we need to be?  Our homes, our jobs are truly our first priority and we still need to live our lives and fulfill our daily responsibilities.

Take time to step away.  Not a permanent retirement.  Just a rest.  Jesus did.  He got away to the garden to pray.  He took walks on the water by himself.  He napped in the boat.  He refreshed Himself.

Jesus promised that His burden would be light.  He lays the burden of counseling on us, but He does not want us to fall underneath it.  His desire is for us to cast it right back on Him.  Sometimes, that means taking time to rest with Him.

I have asked Him for a break from time to time and He has granted it to me.  When I seek Him, spend time with Him and allow myself to be filled back up, I know I am again ready to help someone or just be a friend to someone who needs one.  I tell the Lord that I am ready and He quickly puts me back to work.

If people keep handing over their hearts to you, you have received a most precious gift.  You have received it because your heart is soft and open.  Don't harden it and close it off.  Step away for a time.  Get alone with the Lord.  Spend time laughing with your children or your friends.  Turn off the phone for a couple of days.  Cast your burden on the Lord and renew your mind.  Find rest for your soul.

Then you will once again be ready to listen, to help carry someone's load, to feel the pain.

You will once again be ready to be like Jesus.

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