For most of my adult life I have been told,“You’re such a good listener; I’ll bet you are a great Counselor.” I am never sure how to respond to that because, between you and me, listening isn’t everything when it comes to helping people. In fact, if all we do as Christians is listen, then we do no better than our neighbor who does not know Christ. Surprise you? It shouldn’t . . . but living in a feelings-based, secularized culture has caused many to feel inadequate when it comes to helping someone they can see is in trouble.Listening is an important first step in helping someone who is hurting; but meaningful help seeks to move beyond talking about the problem toward healing. As Christians, we are uniquely equipped to prayerfully look to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit for the wisdom we need to help others.
I write to encourage those of you who may not have the best listening skills, but are concerned about a hurting friend or family member. I also write to those who have great listening skills but sometimes feel overwhelmed by the problems others dump on you. Whoever you may be, if you are a servant of Christ, He can and will use you to minister to the needs of others.
Yes, listening is important . . . but so is asking thoughtful, soul-challenging questions that not only deepen our appreciation for their struggle but also causes the one in trouble to look at themselves and their problems more objectively.
Many times in the gospels we see Jesus minister to the people who sought Him, by asking them what initially appear to be odd questions. Jesus asked pointed soul-challenging questions that made people think about what they were doing or what they said:“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27) and “Why do you call me good?” (Mark 10:18) are such. My all-time favorite question Jesus asked is recorded in John 5:5-6,
A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”
Jesus’ question is a practical, soul-challenging question that was important to ask. We might assume that someone who has been ill for thirty-eight years would want to be made well; but Jesus challenges the man to count the cost of what being healed would mean:
- He would no longer have the support system that took care of him all those years . . .
- The man would have to take responsibility for himself!
Sometimes people only want to talk about their problems but they really are not looking to resolve them. There are times when I take a Client to this passage to help them sort out what they really want out of their counseling. Questions that cause us to take a step away from ourselves to check our motivation, can sometimes be the very thing to move us toward a deepened faith and true healing . . . or not. There have been instances when a Client postponed counseling until they were ready to do the work that needed to be done–a good thing! In either case asking that well-placed, soul searching question, helped them come to terms with where they really were emotionally and spiritually and gave me insight into how to pray for them.
Questions are important because they communicate how well we have been listening. What is a well-placed, soul-challenging question? It is a question (or series of questions) that:
- Communicates that what has been said has been received as important and will not be trivialized.
- Is asked out of genuine concern rather than a desire to embarrass.
- Helps the person in need become more objective as they clarify the actual facts that may (or may not) contribute to the problem.
(For more insights check out a list of 135 Questions Jesus Asked PRESS HERE.)
That is why at the start of almost every Session when we pray, I ask God to help me hear and understand what is being said, as well as “to ask good questions that not only grant me better understanding” of what my Client says, “but will also be helpful” to them. Truly, listening isn’t everything. There is tremendous value in a well-placed, soul-challenging question in any relationship–be it between counselor and client, friend to friend, parent and child . . . .
All to His Glory!