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May 18, 2023

For the Days When You Long to be Heard

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Last year at Thanksgiving, I introduced the idea of restoring through our senses, starting with a focus on taste. But God made us with four other senses, and all of them are key to holistic restoration and healthy interactions with God and others throughout our day.  Though every sense carries weight, the one I have to pay careful attention to in seasons of busyness is my sense of hearing, especially in a culture when one of the most common refrains is “I just want to be heard.”  

Believe it or not, when our schedules fill up and the pace of life picks up, it becomes more necessary than ever to slow down enough to voice your daily needs to your Heavenly Father, to cry out when you need to be heard instead of stuffing things down and racing on to the next thing, and to learn how to consistently receive His offer of comfort and faithful, steadfast love.  

But learning how to voice our needs, take time to listen, and receive comfort when we are seasons of busyness or stress can be difficult to do.  That is because when we are stressed, we often default to doing what is comfortable and familiar instead of doing what we know to be life-giving and true.  In order learn how to listen well and operate with the Lord and others from a secure sense of hearing, it helps to learn to practice what is true in seasons of non-stress so we are ready and in good rhythms and habits when difficult or busy seasons come.  

To help us do that, let’s do a quick review of secure and insecure hearing.

Signs of Secure Hearing

  • You were comfortable using your voice to cry out and tell your parents what you needed, believing your parents would respond and had the desire and the resources to meet your needs.
  • You were comforted by your parents’ presence when they came. The parents’ presence did not produce fear, stress, worry, or anxiety but great comfort and peace.
  • You could trust and obey your parents’ answer to your cry, even if the answer was “no” or contrary to what you wanted. It doesn’t mean you never experienced questions, doubts, confusion, or sorrow about your parents’ response, but it does mean you could trust your parents’ response was for your good.

Signs of Insecure Hearing

  • You were not comfortable, whether temporarily or consistently, using your voice to cry out and tell your parents what you needed. You might have believed they didn’t care or weren’t listening, or you might have believed they lacked the resources—either the goodness, character, or power—to give you what you needed.
  • Maybe you didn’t struggle with crying out to your parents and believing they could and would help, but you weren’t comforted by their presence when they responded. You might have felt afraid, uncomfortable, unsettled, resentful, or angry instead of soothed and comforted.
  • You struggled to trust and/or obey what your parents’ commands and requests. You might have done what you wanted anyway when they told you no or maybe you could obey when they said no but didn’t trust their reasoning. You might have struggled with prolonged periods of resentment, anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness if your parents didn’t give you what you were asking for.

An important note as we move forward: Perhaps you were securely attached to your parents as a child, but a significant trauma occurred in your adult life, disrupting that secure attachment and the way you trusted and related to God as your good Father.

You see, securely attached children cry out and know without a doubt their cry will be heard and their needs met. To be heard, you must allow your first cry up and out and believe someone will come when you call. 

When do you feel like you need someone, including God, most? It’s usually not when things are going well—unless you want to celebrate—it’s when you need help.

Can I tell you something? Your aches and wounds are never going to go away. You will fall at times as long as you live on this earth. You will scrape your heart and you will scrape your knee. This is part of what living in this sin-cursed world entails. But you do need comfort—and you do need to learn to cry out. As you do so, you can be confident of one thing: Jesus will be there.

The night before He died, Jesus said this, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). There will never be a time when you will fall and not have your heavenly Father alongside you, waiting right there to scoop you up; right there to whisper words of love and empathy, comfort, and hope into your ear; right there to bandage your wounds, set your broken bones straight, and mend your broken heart once again.

This is what it means to be securely attached, specifically with a healthy, restored sense of hearing: You cry, you receive comfort. You weep, the one you call on weeps right along with you. You need protection, you’re covered. You call out, and the one you called comes.

To begin the journey and move from our ruins to a secure, restored place with our hearing, we cannot wait around for wound-free lives. When we are wounded, we must cry out. And we must learn to look up and see the One who has been there all along.

While these ideas are fleshed out more in my book, we’ll dig into a few questions to help us determine the state of our sense of hearing.

Do I value God’s presence over His provision? 

It’s not that God’s provision isn’t valuable; it’s that we should value nothing more than we value God. Securely attached children may not like hearing no, but they accept it because they have learned to trust that the parent’s presence is more important to them, more vital, and more necessary, than anything the parent could give. We would rather hear a no from God or a quiet “wait” and stay securely attached to His presence, safe in His arms, than lunge for something or someone else who will give us the answer we seek.

Here are a few questions to guide you as you consider how you feel about God’s presence in your life: 

  • Do you regularly use your voice to cry out and tell Him your needs?
  • If so, was there ever a time when you didn’t feel like you could? Explain.
  • If not, why not? Do you believe He doesn’t care or isn’t listening? Or do you believe He lacks the resources—either the goodness, character, or power—to give you what you needed? Explain.
  • If you are comfortable using your voice and crying out to God, are you able to receive comfort through God’s Word and the presence of His Spirit within you?
  • If not, why not? If so, how did you get to this place of comfort?
  • Is the promise and assurance of His presence enough to stabilize and secure you, or does His presence make you fearful, uncomfortable, unsettled, or even resentful and angry? Explain.

To restore our hearing, we have to build our trust that God is safe—and He is. So we can trust that God’s nos are for our good. And when we call out to Him, more than we want whatever it is we are asking for, we have to learn to want His presence most of all. This is restoration for our hearing and for our souls.

Do I trust and obey whatever God tells me to do?

In Deuteronomy 6, the first and greatest commandment God gives His people begins with this word, “Hear”: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5, emphasis mine).

The word for “hear” in the Hebrew, shama, is an interesting one. The first time we see it in Scripture is Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (emphasis mine). Before it was used in connection with the ear, it was used in connection with learning to keep, or tend, the places on earth where God has settled us. In other words, to “hear” God is to “keep” or obey the commands He gives. It is to cultivate the plots in life He assigns us, and quite simply, to attend to and do whatever He tells us.

To Hebrew scholars, the ear is known as the organ of obedience. To hear means to obey. So, when God tells His people to “hear” or “listen,” His intent is that we actually do what He says. The way God knows His children are listening to His Word is if they obey His commandments.

Here are a few questions to guide you as you consider how you feel about trusting and obeying God: 

  • Are you able to trust and obey what God tells you?
  • If God tells you no, are you able to obey His answer through His Word, or do you go ahead and do whatever you want to do? Explain.
  • Or maybe you can obey His no, but struggle obeying with an attitude of trust. Do you struggle with having long periods of resentment, anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness if God doesn’t give you what you are asking for? Explain.
  • If you consistently and regularly struggle with any of these indicators of a securely attached child, I want you to think about why. In other words, where do these attitudes and behaviors come from?

If you were not securely attached to your primary caretaker as a child and have not actively worked on earned secure attachment to God as an adult, then walking securely in your relationships with God, your spouse, children, friends, or any other significant relationship in your life will be extremely difficult. But healing is possible. Restoration is possible. We just have to cry out, to trust, and to obey a God who loves us more than we could ever understand.

So, we’ve determined the state of our hearing, but how do we heal to the point where we can hear and obey God’s voice?

The answer is simple but oh so hard: 

  • Use your voice. Start by crying out and telling God what you need, then stand back and watch Him answer.
  • Begin to build a history of trust, especially through your pain, recognizing that He answers every time you cry out. Consider keeping a journal writing out your cries as well as His answers.
  • Receive His comfort. Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit to believers; One who is called Comforter or Helper, depending on your Bible version (John 16:7).
  • Follow where He leads. When we learn to recognize the voice of our Comforter, we learn to follow where He leads and do what He says.
  • Heed His warnings. Trust His “no,” knowing that when we obey and do what He says, we will flourish and live, even when we do not understand why.
  • Rest in His love—He isn’t going anywhere. His love is not based on our performance of the behaviors of the people around us but on His character and promises. And His Word never fails nor do His promises ever change.

The change starts with small, everyday decisions. You pause instead of reacting in an argument. You hold off on sending a text that could be harmful. You say no when you mean no instead of saying yes out of guilt or obligation.

We learn to obey little by little, decision by decision, trust by trust, day by day. As we do so, our walls of fear, anger, doubt, worry, despair, depression, and anxiety come tumbling down and secure connection comes rushing in. We connect through our ears: through our crying out, through our receiving comfort, through our listening, and through our trust of His love and learning to obey.

As we do so, choice by choice, morning by morning, hour by hour, story by story, day by day, we move from the orphan we think we are to the daughter we have been adopted to be. Our hearing is restored, and our hearts are secured in God’s love.

*All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For more information on restoring your attachment through your senses or earned secure attachment, check out Susannah’s book, Restore and download the first chapter for free!