Are You Listening?

DB Ryen

I just wanted someone to listen to me, but it took not being heard to catch a glimpse of what God goes through a billion times a day.

[Keywords: active listening, caring, compassion, relationship, frustrated, faith, Christianity, Bible]

Length: Short, 889 words

Our God comes; he does not keep silence…
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak.” 

Psalm 50:3,7

So there I was, many years ago, hanging out at college with my buddy Matt. Just talking. I wasn’t overly cheerful to start out with, but as the conversation went on, I got progressively more upset. That's because, although I was talking, but Matt wasn’t listening. 

For once, It wasn’t because of the distractions. You know, people interrupting us, bipping into his hole-in-the-wall dorm room. He wasn’t texting and there was no TV on. And it wasn’t that Matt didn’t hear my words or understand what I was saying, the trouble was that he simply wasn’t listening. You know, really listening. And it bugged me, because, at that particular moment, I wanted to be heard. I’d had a rough day and wanted to vent about the stupid cafeteria food or chemistry assignments or tuition fees or whatever was under my skin. But the more I tried to share my heart, the less interested Matt became. 

The conversation would repeatedly get off topic and he’d forget what I’d said. One time Matt even put words in my mouth, assuming I’d said something he was thinking. Eventually, he noticed my increasing irritation, but when I tried to explain, he still wouldn’t listen to me, which made me even crankier. I’m making it seem like I was fuming by the end and that he was a jerk. I wasn’t, and he wasn’t either. But by the time I got up and left, I was frustrated and hurt.

I went for a walk to clear my head.

Then it happened: a glimpse of the divine. Maybe this is how God feels every day. I got upset when my buddy didn’t listen to me for twenty minutes - heck, I say dumb stuff half the time anyway. How much worse is it for God! People ignore him for years, lifetimes even! And everything he says is awesome. How awful would it be to see his beloved creations disregarding his wisdom-filled words, and instead going off and making a mess of their lives. If only they’d listen!

The Bible talks about this a lot.

A voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35)

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding… then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Pr 2:1-5)

All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Deut 28:2)

Jeremiah, in particular, had a lot to say about deaf ears and hard hearts.

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. (Jer 6:10)

Every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. (Jer 16:12) 

They did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction. (Jer 17:23)

Yeah, in the end it doesn’t go so great for people who refuse to listen to God. 

Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor. (Jer 16:13)

Listening is an act of obedience, and obedience is an act of love. In fact, God demonstrates his love for us by always hearing our cries for help.

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Is 65:24)

Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I [know] you always hear me. (Jn 11:41)

Just as Jesus listens to the Father, so we must listen to him.

I gave them the words you have me and they accepted them. (Jn 17:8)

Christ loves God, we love Christ, so we need to listen, listen, listen. 

I probably should’ve thanked my Matt all those years ago, since his lousy conversation skills led to my understanding God a bit better. However, I’m not sure it would’ve gone over well. “Hey man, it sucked when you didn’t listen to me. But it’s okay, because now I know how God feels!” Glad I left that one alone.

We all have a lot going in our lives. Heck, any given moment we have a million things zipping around our brains. But there’s no excuse for not listening to the one who means the most to us. 

Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps 46:10)

So, let’s ignore the world for a moment, focus our minds on Christ, and just listen. We all want to be heard - God is no exception. He doesn’t need to be heard, like we do, but he still likes it. So set a timer if you have to, and put aside one minute every day to listen to him. And please, let’s do it better than Matt. 

Catch what I’m saying?

© D. B. Ryen Incorporated, October 2023.  

All biblical references taken from The ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, 2008.