Being present and adopting a posture of listening to those who are suffering from the heart is perhaps one of the most important actions a soul friend can take to help re-establish hope in Jesus. Suffering from the heart can take many forms, but one of the most significant areas of hurt in our lives comes from self-rejection. At some point, many of us have believed or been influenced by the lie that we are no good or inadequate. We struggle to accept or appreciate our own qualities, actions, or achievements, often involving negative self-talk, low self-esteem, perfectionism, shame, and guilt.

God did not mean for us to make such negative generalizations about ourselves. He has provided us with others to help each other through troubling times. When someone mourns, our best recourse is not to correct but rather to listen from the heart – just as Jesus did when He walked alongside the two people on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-25). These two individuals were sad and without hope, believing only what they had heard. However, it was in the presence of Jesus, who first listened to them and then countered the lies they believed, that they finally recognized Jesus as alive and active. Without the presence of Jesus to restore hope, these men may have continued to be downcast.

As soul friends or caregivers, we can follow the example of Jesus. This means listening from the heart without judgment to validate the sufferer’s emotions. Such validation reduces feelings of isolation and self-doubt, making the person feel understood and accepted. The person suffering builds trust and learns to rely on the one giving them attention. By listening to those who are suffering, we also give them a chance to talk about their problems, which reduces the intensity of negative emotions and provides relief. This process, often referred to as catharsis, allows the sufferer to enhance their coping skills as they gain clarity and objectivity in the presence of others.

Above all, being present and establishing a posture of listening gives the Holy Spirit an opportunity to show up and prepare those who are suffering for inner healing. As people talk about how God is interacting in their lives, muddling their way through conversation and prayer, Jesus often intervenes. We see this not just with the people on the road to Emmaus, but also in the stories of the woman at the well (John 4:5-30) and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:2-11). Jesus, the skilled listener, gave these women a chance to express themselves without judgment. When they were ready and open to receive the Word, Jesus offered Himself to them.

Who will you reach out to today to ask how their soul has been and give them your attentive heart?

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