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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by William A. Kolb

Sunday, October 31

…and love your neighbor as yourself.
—Matthew 22:39

“I feel your pain.” This phrase was used by a former president in a press conference years ago. Since then, it has been satirized and made fun of numerous times. Our age is one of cynicism, so maybe that is why that expression of compassion has been “put down.”

But the words were important. One of the most powerful things we can do for another person is to let them talk about their troubles, their pain, and really listen. Listen so deeply and so openly that we actually take on some of their pain. 

It is always easier to try to “fix” another’s problems, and thereby stop them from expressing pain that may make us uncomfortable. But to reach out to our “neighbor” with a willingness to take on some of their hurt is going the extra mile and making a difference in their life.

When we do this, we are doing God’s work. Although God can never be “proved,” I believe that God is intimately involved in this kind of caring. 

One of the signs of his presence, to me, is that when we come away from doing “loving listening,” the person who has been doing the talking often feels better and may even say that their pain has eased. This is a miracle, because usually nothing in the painful situation has changed, and yet the person sees things in a better light.

The other great benefit, which also reflects God’s action in the process, is that we who do the listening also feel better, even though it is at the cost of some pain. We come away with more of a sense of meaning and purpose. We have served. We have been useful to God. Praise the Lord!

Lord, give me the courage to serve your children with openness and selflessness. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.