Wednesday, 12 May 2021

How Listening to the Holy Spirit Helps Us Listen to Our Clients

I was getting acquainted with a client during her pregnancy options consultation. As we reviewed her history, she explained that she had terminated a pregnancy a few years previous.

She talked cautiously about the abortion, as though tiptoeing around the edge of the wound—but she was willing to talk. 

I sensed that this young woman was ready to go deeper, but I wasn’t quite sure how to take the conversation where it needed to go. Then I heard, 

Ask her if she’s ever forgiven herself for the abortion.

I gently posed the question, and tears began to flow.

“No,” she answered, “I haven’t.”

More of her story came tumbling out. She was in pain, and ready to talk to God about this. I was able to pray with her. By the time she left, she had gained a measure of peace.  

A healing process had begun.

On a different occasion, I spoke with a young woman who’d had a number of sexual partners. When I asked if she wanted a future with the father of her baby, she rolled her eyes.

“He’s way too immature,” she remarked. “I guess we’re just sex buddies.”

This client had marked “Christian” under “religious affiliation” on her intake form. She attended church off and on and seemed to know a bit about the Bible, but she wasn’t connecting the dots in terms of her values.

I wondered what to say next. Then I heard,

Ask her if she’s ever been sexually abused.

Again, I voiced the question which the Holy Spirit had supplied. Immediately, her flippant manner evaporated. 

“I was just a kid,” she said quietly.

We talked further about the wound that had shattered her, how it had gotten her stuck in a negative pattern with regard to men. Eventually, I was able to pray for her, and I invited her to church. 

She not only came, but a few months later, she was baptized.

God knows exactly when a person is ready for a particular conversation—and He’s happy to clue us in.

Tweet This: God knows exactly when a person is ready for a particular conversation—and He’s happy to clue us in. @SusanneMaynes

One thing I have appreciated most about taking part in pregnancy center ministry is the training I have received in effective listening skills.

In the context of this work, I have learned to ask clarifying questions and practice reflective listening. I know how to lovingly confront a self-destructive client.

I’ve even trained myself to look into the left eye of the person I’m counseling. (The left eye is connected to the right brain, where creative function and emotional connection occur, as opposed to the analytical left side of the brain.)

These types of skills are wonderful, and we do well to consistently hone them. We want to be people with open ears, not just people who tell others what to do.

Having said that, Christians also do well to practice a type of listening which goes beyond psychological principles and counseling skills.

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This type of listening is not done with the ears, but with the heart—and the Person we listen to is the Holy Spirit.

We tune into His voice while we converse with our clients, and He gives us what we need in the moment. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

Every situation we encounter in the client room is a little different than anything we have faced before. Every person has unique needs and circumstances. 

No matter how much training we do—and we should do as much as possible—we will still be faced with conversations which require wisdom beyond what we as human beings have to offer.

That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in.

God knows everything about the person you are counseling. He understands that young woman or young couple much better than they know themselves. 

He knows every intricate detail about them. He knows what kind of walls they have put up, and why. He knows what pushes their buttons—what hurts or angers or grieves them.

He also knows how to gently pierce through their armor to reach their hearts.

When we enter the client room, it’s certainly advantageous to come equipped with good counseling skills. It’s even more important to position ourselves to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. 

This work is God’s work. We prepare as well as possible for it—and then we rely on Him for wisdom in the moment.

Tweet This: When we enter the client room, it's important to position ourselves to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. @SusanneMaynes

Susanne Maynes

Susanne Maynes is an author, speaker, and biblical counselor who served at a pregnancy help center for ten years. She blogs about church & culture and spiritual growth at SusanneMaynes.comHer educational devotional, Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion: 40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn, uplifts and strengthens the pregnancy help community. Susanne is currently pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree at Regent University.


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