“I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall.”
“Nothing I say registers.”
“Everything I say falls on deaf ears.”
“My words are misinterpreted.”
These statements reflect the frustrations of real-life relationships. Fallen, flesh-filled people frequently approach conversations and issues from their own pre-determined point of view, determined to “fix” things by getting the other person to see the situation their way. Inevitably, the result will be hearing words without listening to what is being said.
This is not a new phenomena in human history. Look at the following event from Jeremiah’s ministry:
14 And Jeremiah said, “It is a lie; I am not deserting to the Chaldeans.” But Irijah would not listen to him, and seized Jeremiah and brought him to the officials.
15 And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison. – Jeremiah 37:14-15
Earlier in the passage, God states that Jeremiah intended to go to his hometown and claim his portion. That was his motive. God knew it. Jeremiah knew it. And Irijah refused to listen.
Here are a few observations from this story.
1. Ask yourself if you are guilty of being like Irijah.
It is easy to put yourself in the shoes of the misunderstood instead of the misunderstanding. Be real. You have refused to listen. That’s why James must remind us, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” If we did that on our own, we wouldn’t need reminded.
Not only do we fail to listen to others, we often fail to listen to God. How often has the Word of God revealed a point of growth, a needed change, an unresolved conflict and we ignored it, insisting that our way was better?
How long did it take for your stubborn heart to bow in submission to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Yes, we must begin with identifying ourselves with the antagonist and repenting for the hardness of heart and dullness of hearing.
2. Remember that only God knows motives.
God states Jeremiah’s motives so the reader understands the injustice of what takes place next. Anytime another person insists on assigning motives, that deafens that person to hearing further explanation. God calls people to come alongside one another and “reprove, rebuke, and exhort.” But He does not call us to indict the motives of others.
Again, James deals with this in 4:11-12. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” The context demonstrates that “speaking evil” is a deflective measure in a time of conflict that indicts the other person instead of exercising humility before God. James proves that such deflection and destructive judging claims a place that God alone holds. “There is only one lawgiver, he who is able to save and to destroy.”
Judging the motives of others belongs only to the One Who can save and destroy.
3. Deafness to others hurts (you and that other person)
Irijah destroyed his reputation in the inspired Word of God. He is the guy who falsely accused Jeremiah of what God declares to be false. Ouch.
One day, everyone will stand before a faultless analysis of their actions and treatment of others. Jesus warns the Pharisees that every idle word will be called into account (Matthew 12:36-37). As believers, we use words to build with solid material or with wood, hay, and stubble. For unbelievers, their very words will indict them of their guilt before God.
Jeremiah also suffered because of Irijah’s failure to listen. Jeremiah is God’s man and Irijah refuses to trust his word. Failing to hear what others say will bring tangible pain. Perhaps it will not be a physical beating and imprisonment, but it will create severe emotional pain and the restriction of relationships. It will often unjustly turn others against them.
4. God delivers the unheard.
Jeremiah’s own people treated him poorly. But two chapters later, we find Jeremiah being treated well by the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:11-14). God sees the distress of the people who others refuse to hear. If the people who are supposed to listen fail, God will ultimately vindicate on His timetable for His glory.
5. Strive to be a deliverer instead of a destroyer.
God uses people who listen – and hear – to minister grace to others. Being married to our own opinions through the blindness of pride closes the opportunity to hear what others say, adjust our opinions based on their words, and minister edifying grace. Instead, we simply reveal our own fear. We think trusting the words of someone else and surrending our own opinions will render us vulnerable, Yes, it will. And yes, we will probably be hurt. But, a full gaze at the cross of Christ shows us that God accepted our words of weak faith, knowing full well we would fail Him frequently.
Christ tells Peter not to test the sincerety and believability of someone’s request for forgiveness, but to simply forgive – over and over and over and over . . . Insisting that people see things our own way closes our hearts to forgiveness – and closes us out from the forgiveness of God.
Placing trust in God above our own “perception” always yields much better results – peace with God and others – even if it does cost our fake security of being “right.” Be a listener – a means God uses to deliver.
For those not being heard, recognize that God knows your sorrow. And He does hear. And He will deliver. Keep trusting.