There are times when, very often unexpectedly, someone will come up to you and start to speak about an issue which weighs heavy upon them. They start to open their heart. This can happen with someone you have regular contact with and therefore are often speaking with them. And suddenly they come to you and things are different they obviously are wanting to interact in a different way. There is either one thing they simply want to reveal to you which is of significant importance or there is something they want help with.
Sometimes in this situation they will probe to see if you make a response. If you make an appropriately positive response then they will be led on to open their heart. To have an awareness that this is happening is vital for pastoral ministry, but it is critical in any caring ministry. If you are a parent you must be sensitive to the times when your child approaches you in this way.
If we fail to recognise what is happening in these situations the outcome can be most harmful:
- The person is left somewhat downcast because they have genuinely had to pluck up courage to bring this issue up and you have not appreciated the depth of their trouble.
- That person feels that you do not care and therefore is very unlikely to come again regarding an issue that is troubling them.
- The troubled person may well go off and seek help from someone who may not be so helpful. A rebuffed son or daughter may well seek counsel from their friends which may not be the best scenario.
So we should have our antennae up for these kinds of encounters. In fact we should be praying that the LORD would make us sensitive. When we do gather that someone is revealing something sensitive to us we need to be very careful in how we respond. And that gets us back into other issues of counselling which are dealt with here and here.
Finally, I write as someone who more than once has determined to reveal something deep in my heart which I need to share or need help on, and have been left in a situation where the other person has just not grasped it. As a result I have withdrawn feeling somewhat vanquished.
Oh LORD help me to learn from such hard experiences and have my antennae up and heart ready to minister to those who are in need. Help me to be a better, friend, pastor husband and father. Please LORD.