The first of the nine word in this “Words” Blog Series is…

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Let’s face it, we are good at hearing all the noise around us, but we aren’t always so good at listening.

Hearing is easy, because you don’t really have to do anything. Listening, on the other hand, takes focus and patience and learning to tune out the other noises around us. Listening means we may need to stop doing what we are doing, stop saying what we are wanting to say, or stop focusing on what we want to focus on, and instead turn our attention to someone or something else so we can listen.

One of the things that God really broke me of when my life fell apart was the arrogance I had. I have a fairly strong personality, and can be quite stubborn at times. Add to that the fact that for a while I had quite a lot of confidence in myself, and that became a recipe in my life for being arrogant.

I acted as though I had things figured out and all together, thus I didn’t really need the advice or counsel of others. So I often did not listen.

Lately, God has been showing me and convicting me of my unwillingness to listen.

When I went from living with a family to living alone and the silence at times felt deafening, I began to listen to everything around me a lot more. When I started to only see my kids periodically, I began to listen to everything they had to share a lot more closely. When my life circumstances became so difficult that I had no more answers, I began to listen to the counsel and advice of others, and ultimately I began to listen to what God had to say.

I’ve learned the importance of listening a lot more.

God has placed people in my life that he will use to speak to me. These people may have been through similar situations to mine, may be older and wiser because they have experienced more, or may just have a different perspective than I do. I can learn to listen to what they have to say to me, knowing that I can learn and grow from what they tell me.

God’s Word speaks into my life more now than ever before. My time in his word has become so much stronger as I have walked through this difficult season. I’ve learned to not just read the Bible to fulfill some obligation or be able to teach others what it says, but to really listen to what God is saying in his word and let it speak to my heart.

God has spoken into my heart to encourage me many times through music. When I pay attention to the lyrics, rather than just turning on music for background noise, often the words of the songs will speak to my heart.

God has used movies, books, situations…and to be honest, on occasion he has even used people who I’d prefer to not listen to. All because I’ve learned to listen.

When I started to learn to listen, I continued to grow in that skill. As I trained myself to not just hear, but rather to really listen, I continued to get better at it. And in doing so, I have come to understand the value of listening.

The other side of this is that I have learned through listening to distinguish what I need to listen to and consider, and what I need to not listen to and dismiss. A lot of people will give me their thoughts and advice. And while listening is important, that doesn’t mean I need to listen to everyone.

Some people give bad advice. Some people aren’t speaking truth. Some will only share negative things, or will have selfish motives for what they say. Those are things I don’t need to listen to.

But learning to listen is key to being able to distinguish what I need to listen to and what I need to not listen to. Because when we learn to really listen, we can begin to see the person’s heart behind what they are saying.

It’s easy to be deceived when we are distracted by many things and only hear what someone says. When we focus and tune out other distractions and really listen, it becomes harder to be deceived.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)

Before we decide that we have something to say, and before we decide to react to something, we need to learn to listen first. We all have times when we were too quick to speak or react and we regretted it later…but I’ve never heard of someone who regretted listening before they spoke and reacted.

The more we listen, the more we will learn what we need to learn in this life, the more we will be able to hear God’s voice and discern his direction for our life, and the more we will know what we need to not listen to and tune out in this life.

Even though I’m still in a difficult season of life, I have come a long way because I have learned to listen.