by Joel Comiskey
When someone shares transparently in the group about struggles, hurt, or doubt, it’s best for the group to listen. When someone is facing a crisis, it’s not the moment to say, “You just need to trust in the Lord. Don’t you know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose?” This advice, while 100 percent correct, will actually do more harm than good to a hurting, grieving person. Before becoming ready to hear advice, the person first must know that God’s people will help bear the burden. He or she is longing for a listening ear—not a quick response of an often-quoted scripture passage.
Healing takes place in the silence of skilled listening and love. God is the sensitive Healer, and He desires that His people listen to others. Listening is so powerful; it works wonders because it causes people to feel special, loved and cared for. When someone shares a huge need, we must allow God to flow in a very special way and manifest Himself. Just be quiet. Be silent before God, and allow Jesus to minister to that person’s needs.
After the burden is shared, there should be a moment of silent understanding. As group members empathize with the person, godly counsel will ensue: “Joan, I can relate to your fears and doubts brought on by your friend’s cancer. When my brother faced brain cancer, I felt those same fears. I wrestled for days, wondering why God would allow this disease to strike my family. But then God showed me . . .” The scales of past wounds will peel away, and the new creature in Christ will appear as the cell group ministers through empathetic listening.
It’s this shared understanding that is so important: not just one person is listening, but the entire group is involved. When a person is truly listened to, grace and love follows and blesses everyone involved.
The Life group leaders should advise the group to listen, rather than quickly responding with pat answers. The leader must demonstrate, however, what she wants others to do by her own actions. People won’t necessarily follow words, but they will follow actions. Preparing a healing community may take some time, but it’s worth the wait. Healing through listening is God’s powerful tool to heal a lost and hurting world.
Listening opens the door for encouragement. Small-group leaders bring healing by tuning their ears for the slightest reason to give praise. If there’s even a hint of excellence, a great small-group leader will spot it and acknowledge it. The enemy seeks to accuse each of us through lies that discourage. He might whisper to one group member, No one respects you. You don’t know the Bible well enough. You wouldn’t dare make that comment. The small-group leader is God’s agent to offer a word of encouragement that will bless the person abundantly and help them to speak up. Listening and encouragement are so essential for healing to take place.