Have you ever taken one of those spiritual gifts tests?
You answer a few multiple choice questions and the test suggests which spiritual gifts you might have. And then you compare your gifts with your friends, while pretending to be all humble about “leadership” being your spiritual gift. Next, comes the argument about whether or not those pesky charismatic gifts still manifest today or not because Jill got the gift of healing and that just plain doesn’t happen anymore.
I guess it might depend on what you consider “healing”.
For now, let’s ignore physical healing. Instead, let’s talk about emotional and spiritual healing. Some people are gifted in this area. And do you know what they have in common? They’re good listeners.
When someone with an emotional or spiritual wound comes to you, the first thing they need you to do is listen. They need to know that they are heard and understood. After all, if you don’t take the time to learn what their problem is, how could you possibly help them with it?
Shutting up is a spiritual gift. Listening, without adding your two cents, or making suggestions, or pushing your own agenda, is healing.
After that person is done speaking, don’t just jump in with, “OK, now here’s what you ought to do…” or “Well, here’s why that happened…” Don’t compare their pain to anyone else’s pain. Don’t jump all over them and tell them why they should already be over it.
Take time to make sure they know you’ve truly heard them. Express a little empathy. Keep it short and sweet.
“What happened to you was wrong.”
“That really, really sucks.”
“I’m so sorry.”
And then shut up again. Because just that little expression of understanding and validation will probably unleash the flood. Most people are used to everyone ignoring their pain. Like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, most people just avert their eyes and run-walk past a person who’s hurt. It’s not often you run into someone who’s truly willing to listen to you, so it’s not uncommon for people to unload on the first person who’s willing to listen. That’s OK.
Just shut up and let them unload.
Over time, most people will get to the point where they can move forward again. It takes time and patience, but everything worth doing takes time and patience.
Maybe this person isn’t in a place where they feel comfortable talking to God. In that case, it’s up to Christians to step in. We represent Christ to the world, after all. Let the Holy Spirit work through you to be the ears of Christ for that person.
The next time you encounter someone who is suffering some emotional or spiritual hurt, I encourage you to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit, and shut up.