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Listening well?

The other day, I read a quote I could immediately relate to. ‘Every post I’ve had in ministry I’ve felt out of my depth when I’ve set out (‘This is where they finally rumble me’), and each time I’ve got into my stride as I’ve tried to follow my leader.'[1] It was written by John Pritchard in his excellent little book 'God Lost and Found'.

Feeling anxiety is a common experience for many of us. It reveals the weakness of our confidence, the fragility of our self-esteem. But it can provide a marker to look back at and from which we can identify that we have moved forward. There have been times in my life when anxiety has pushed me into the centre of a very deep and dark cloud, deeper than any fog and blacker than coal, a place of despair. And yet, those times have been few, less than can be counted on one hand.

Do we have to experience periods of anxiety or depression? I don’t think so. God’s desire is that we should have life in all its fullness. And yet even Jesus knew anxiety such that he appeared to sweat drops of blood. David describes times of deep anguish and Elijah asked God to take his life. But for each of them it was not the end of their story. The best was yet to come!

Maintaining good mental health is a challenge for many of us. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.[2] During Covid-19 the rate of anxiety has probably been far greater.[3] Time will tell how mentally challenging the pandemic has been.

Recently, I’ve been interviewing local charity leaders about the impact of Covid-19 (you can hear from King's Lynn Foodbank below). One emerging theme is that many people are going to need support to become mentally strong once again. My hope is that, from among us, a team of volunteers may emerge who will be good listeners. Perhaps, never in our lifetime will there be a greater demand for people who can listen well.

Could I be a better listener? I certainly want to be, for as Pritchard says, ‘When we listen attentively to another person telling us things of significance in their life we are standing on sacred ground.'[4]

  1. Pritchard J (2011), God lost and found page 135
  2. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/#collapse8cc1f
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53820425?SThisFB
  4. Pritchard J (2011), God lost and found page 90