Do You Need A Listening Ear?

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I wish I could pull up a chair and listen to what’s on your heart. Chances are, it’s something pretty big. And chances are, you’re having trouble finding someone who’s willing to listen, empathize, and share in your pain.

I’ve been there… a few times.

One such time was after Brendan, our fifth child, was born to my husband and me in Haiti, where we’d been missionaries for three years. I was already managing our twin seven-year-olds, one with special needs, our four-year-old, and our seventeen-month-old.

Brendan was colicky and demanding, the weather was unbearable, and I experienced a sense of oppression (or depression) like never before. I felt completely trapped. I felt claustrophobic, even outdoors. We couldn’t leave Haiti for a break, because we were in the process of adopting our oldest three children, and their paperwork was forever stuck.

I despaired. All I could see ahead of me were years of exhaustion.

For the first time in my life I felt no hope that tomorrow or the next day, or any day after that would be any better. For the first time ever, I understood why people would consider suicide. That sounds melodramatic from this point of view seven years later, but back then I had lost perspective.

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I longed for someone to listen to me. Really listen.

Not just listen for two minutes and then offer advice and cheery words like, “Oh, just enjoy these years with your little ones!  They will fly by!” I wanted someone to get it. The funny thing was, I was surrounded by wonderful people. I did have a community of friends, a husband who loved me, and family in the U.S. praying faithfully for me. I wasn’t alone, yet I didn’t feel understood.

I began to grow bitter, wondering why people weren’t helping me. But if they did help, I found myself thinking, “Too little, too late!” When someone would have only five minutes to talk on the phone, instead of being grateful for their gesture of love, I was angry that they could not give more.

I placed heavy expectations on those around me and enjoyed a perverse sense of satisfaction when they failed to meet those expectations. I was miserable.

And in my misery, God reached down to me with a Psalm I had never yet really understood, for all its popularity.

Psalm 23 (NIV)

1) The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

 

2) He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

This grabbed me. The idea of someone letting—no, making me lie down sounded too good to be true!

 

3) he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Here I stopped and cried. My soul was completely dried up. There I was in Haiti as a missionary no less, supposed to being walking “in paths of righteousness,” but unable to do anything to please God because I was so depleted. I begged God to restore my soul.

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4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

I wasn’t dying (except to self), but I perceived my surroundings as the “valley of the shadow of death.”  There was plenty of evil around me to fear. Our nights were serenaded by voodoo drums — part of the neighborhood voodoo ceremonies inviting demon involvement and even possession.

5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

God would prepare a table for me? All day long I was preparing the table for our family of seven. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner — everything was made from scratch, because that’s the only way to cook in Haiti. Every meal was me serving them: cutting their food, giving them seconds before I’d taken a bite, spooning things into their mouths, wiping up spills, listening to complaints about the food!  The idea of God preparing a table for me to feast at — even the figurative picture of it — humbled and amazed me.

 

6) Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I had been completely convinced that “burdens and weariness would follow me all the days of my life and that I would live in Haiti in misery forever.” But God offered me goodness and love and His house.

Change was not instantaneous. I had established a pattern of thinking negatively, and I still had a lot of stress in my life, but God was at work. I meditated on Psalm 23 day after day. When I was tempted to despair, I would come back to Him again, pleading with Him to restore my soul.

And He did.

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Over the days, weeks, and months, His Holy Spirit restored my joy and peace.

God proved to me that His ear was always listening.

I began to realize that no one on the face of the earth could have listened well enough to satisfy me.

Yes, anyone who did listen was a blessing and helped point me to the One Best Listener, but no one else could have restored my soul.

Do you need a listening ear? Like I said, I would love to offer mine—and if you really don’t have a person you can talk to, write me and I’ll listen to you and pray for you. But the Lord’s offer to listen is even better.

Not only will He listen, He will restore your soul.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)

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12 thoughts on “Do You Need A Listening Ear?

  1. Cheryl November 5, 2012 at 6:33 pm Reply

    Jennifer, I know just what you were going through. I’ve been there myself and found this Psalm and other scriptures that I meditated on and a very special prayer that lifted me into a greater communion with our Lord.

    • jenniferebenhack November 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm Reply

      It’s definitely amazing how God brings just the right passages to us at the right times and they suddenly “come alive!”

  2. Kate November 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm Reply

    Jennifer, just found your blog. LOVE IT! Please keep writing!

    • jenniferebenhack November 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm Reply

      Kate! Great to hear from you! Thank you so much… I will keep writing. Encouragement helps a lot. 🙂

  3. Laura k November 9, 2012 at 1:03 am Reply

    Jen, you are amazing. Thanks for your honesty and what you are learning and sharing it with the rest of us. Love you, my friend!

    • jenniferebenhack November 9, 2012 at 1:23 am Reply

      Hey Laura! I think you should blog about all the beautiful things God has done in your life!! Well, maybe in a few years when you’re not so busy with your BEAUTIFUL kids. (LOVED Katelin’s comments today!)

  4. Dana Adams February 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm Reply

    That’s beautiful Jennifer. I really enjoy reading your blog. You share straight from the heart. I remember feeling just the same way when the kids were little. When they’re young like that, a mother has to give and give and give. At times, one just becomes depleted & it’s hard to see beyond the wall in front of you. Looking forward to more of your writing!

    • jenniferebenhack February 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm Reply

      Thank you so much, Dana! I want you to know that when we had you over for dinner when our kids were so little, I thought, “This lady gets it! I really appreciate her empathy!” I admire and appreciate you. 🙂

  5. Sarah Young February 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm Reply

    Jen, I remember that day exactly — the one when you read Psalm 23 and shared with me what you got out of it. Reading this I feel guilty — I was living with you at the time and wish I could have helped more! By the grace of God you did survive, and somehow managed to inspire me, in many different ways. When you gave birth to Brendan (and let me sit in the corner to watch), I realized how amazing birth is. I decided right then and there if you give have a baby without any meds, then I could too! And now I have two girls of my own and teach childbirth classes! You also showed me how demanding being a wife and mother could be, but also how rewarding it is. You were a living example of loving and respecting your husband, of being his help-mate (remember that book you encouraged me to read). Well, now I am happily married to my best friend and try to apply the things I learned from you and that book 🙂 The other day someone on facebook mentioned they didn’t have a dishwasher so they were eating out quite a bit, and I thought of you and all the dishes you washed in your time in Haiti. Your life did seem to revolve around food — making food, feeding your children, cleaning up the food, washing the dishes, and then making more food. When Coralyn hands me her breakfast plate and asks for a snack, I think of you. I am so glad I got to live with you those 2 years and learn from you. I am a better woman because of it!

    • jenniferebenhack February 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm Reply

      Ah, Sarah! You were such a blessing — don’t feel bad at all! You helped so much… especially by listening and being my friend. I am SO honored that Brendan’s birth was used by God as a catalyst for you to bless so many others. I was just thinking about that the other day — how I haven’t been called to any kind of midwifery ministry even though I loved the thought of it back then; but then I was so happy to realize that you took it up and are using it for God’s glory!

      About my life revolving around food… oh man! Seriously! Those were quite the days. Now as I walk through Aldi, pick up my groceries with such ease, and slap meals together instead of laboring for hours, I marvel! I guess I’d have to say God has truly given grace to be content in all circumstances!

      Love you lots and so glad for the memories of those adventurous days in Haiti!

  6. Andrea Wiles February 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm Reply

    Jennifer, your blog is such an encouragement to me! It’s like you’re in my head. 🙂 Thank you for writing things that are/have been in your heart and letting us be a part. I’m praying for you, friend!

    • jenniferebenhack February 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm Reply

      Well, I hope me being in your head isn’t giving you a headache or anything… 😉 So glad to know that some of what I’m learning can be of encouragement to you. I’d love to see you and catch up on everything, but since that’s not exactly possible right now, thanks for being in touch on here!

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