Last week I shared 15th-century martyr Maeyken Wens’ inspiring story and the Holy Spirit’s press of conviction when I considered my faith in light of her courageous cross-centered example.
This week, the Spirit’s flame lights the page to lead us deeper into the cross-centered life and the power that accompanies it.
I don’t enjoy being convicted about my faith, but I can be coaxed to consider its lack — on my terms, in a climate controlled environment where I control the heat.
But that is shallow living, a superficial faith that doesn’t even flicker with the Spirit’s fire.
Recently at a women’s lunch, Cindy shared a long series of issues she’d been struggling with. The group had heard her story before. After some empathetic murmurs, women began to fiddle with their napkins. You could almost hear their thoughts, Here she goes, focused on the negative . . . I don’t want to listen to this again . . .
A few women shared about God bringing good things out of their struggles, smiling at Cindy and nodding, “It will all work out…” Another woman quoted a Scripture about claiming victory. But Cindy didn’t need a pat answer or positive spin on her situation, she needed a listening heart. People don't need a pat answer or positive spin on their situation, they need a listening heart. Click To Tweet
If I’d been tuned to the Spirit’s voice, I would have loved Cindy by listening and caring about her struggles. I’d have allowed her need to invade my comfort zone. I would have recognized those “negative” vibes as the spur of the Spirit to move me beyond my “Be well, be warm, be gone” mentality.
We’ve all had times when topics or conversations get uncomfortable. But I wonder, is God using our discomfort to stir our spirit? Could it be a clue to sit up and listen? Could it be a call to put the convicting work of the Spirit above the comforting work of the flesh?
Sometimes I wonder if we misread the Spirit’s conviction and label it “negativity.”
No one enjoys negativity. Heaven knows there are plenty of Negative Nellies brandishing red markers. And we’ve all been the pinned victims of monologues featuring “My Suffering,” the “evils” of our world or government or opposing political party.
What I’m talking about is yielding to the Spirit’s call to faithfully listen — and care — when conversations about suffering, struggle, and sin get uncomfortable. I’m talking about holstering our quick fixes and easy answers.
Of course with God in the picture, there is always a long list of hope inspiring positives. He is in control. He is good, trustworthy, and faithful. But foisting a “positive” perspective on people isn’t always helpful. Foisting a “positive” perspective on people isn’t always helpful. Click To Tweet It can be insensitive and hurtful. Romans 12:15
Perhaps you’ve seen, as I have, a “Pollyanna positive” step in to steer someone laboring under the weight of suffering to “see the positives” of the situation?
It makes me want to weep for the added burden such nonsense hoists on the bowed backs of those struggling. (Alas, but I’ve been that Pollyanna, casting about for something “encouraging” to say…)
Or perhaps like me, you can relate to this scenario: Someone shares a frustration, a struggle, or a true but uncomfortable insight and we don a polite smile, cock our head attentively even as our eyes slide over their shoulder seeking someone else to talk to. Someone not so “negative.”
So how do we move out of the shallows and into the deep cross-centered life?
1) Face “negative” issues head on and allow the Spirit to use uncomfortable topics and conversations to deepen our faith. “But they’re always talking about the downside of everything.” Love them by taking the time to really listen. Ask them how you can pray for them and then follow up with them. John 13:34
2) Refuse to cultivate a Spirit quenched mentality focused on “me and my comfort.” “But talking about sin or struggle makes me feel down and uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say.” Allow others to talk about struggles and focus on their needs instead of your comfort. In this way, we fulfill the law of love and bear each others burdens. Plus these deeper conversations can lead to authentic, lasting relationships. Galatians 6:2
3) Allow the cross to crucify our comfy status-quo. “But I like to focus on positive things.” Instead of fishing around in the shallows for something “positive” to contribute, be alert to the Spirit’s call to go deeper. That means bye, bye “Pollyanna positive,” hello Holy Spirit! I Thessalonians 5:11
The truth is when the Spirit applies the cross to our lives it always leads to death. Of sin. Of flesh. Of “me.” And death is never comfortable. Never a “positive” topic. But the cross is at the center of the Christian life and the Holy Spirit applies it to keep our faith “fit.” Matthew 16:24The cross is at the center of the Christian life and the Holy Spirit applies it to keep our faith fit. Click To Tweet
So today, let’s answer the Spirit’s call to anchor deeper in God’s heart. Let’s draw close enough to His holy heat to make us uncomfortable. Conviction uncomfortable. And then let’s yield to the Spirit’s work and reap the powerful fruit of a cross-centered faith.
Now there is a real positive!
What about you? How do you deal with uncomfortable conversations?
Bethany, over the years I’ve learned listening is the first step toward understanding others need God’s grace just as much as we do. When we’re thinking about how to respond to someone while they’re talking, or how we’ve heard their complaints before, we’re focused on self not on the person speaking. I’m praying God will continue to soften my heart with compassion as He teaches me to listen in love and speak in wisdom. Thanks for this refreshing post, Sister.
You really nailed the gist of it with the comment, “listening is the first step toward understanding…” Amen and amen! It certainly does take a softened heart of compassion to really care about others. And I love your insight to, “listen in love and speak in wisdom.” Great thoughts! Thanks so much for sharing them with us. 🙂
Spot on!! Had a similar experience last week when the Holy Spirit prompted me to listen rather than dismiss a young man who was griping. I hope just being available made a difference in his horrible, rotten bad day. Looking back, I wish I’d suggested we pray together!
Praying is always good, but listening–a rare gift! I’m sure he was blessed. 🙂
Really great. My favorite line, “People don’t need a pat answer or positive spin on their situation, they need a listening heart.” Amen and amen. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder that conviction is a good thing.
It’s much harder to listen than to spew solutions when you don’t know what to say. This was not an easy topic to write about. Thanks for the encouraging words. 🙂