No one goes around looking to strike up a hard conversation.
And yet, I’m not sure we can expect to walk fully in light of the gospel without a willingness to do it. Thankfully, people like Lori Roeleveld are able to take not-so-comfortable conversations and break them into hearty, but bite-sized morsels.
For almost a decade, I’ve watched Lori’s life beautifully reflect her zeal for God and His Word. She’s the real deal and I’m honored to have her guest post today. In typical Lori fashion, she went above and beyond by offering an autographed copy of The Art of Hard Conversations to one blessed recipient. For now, be blessed as you read directly from Lori’s heart because that’s the kind of writer she is.
If you’re anything like me, my prayer preparation for any conversation that I anticipate may be challenging or uncomfortable used to sound like this. “Please make this go away. Don’t make me be the one to discuss this. Please send someone else.” (Total transparency – sometimes they still sound like that.)
I comforted myself in that it sounded a lot like Moses, but really it was my “turtle” self, longing to escape my responsibility to speak truth, share my faith, encourage a struggling believer, or resolve a conflict.
Through years of engaging in all manner of hard conversations, I’ve learned that most effective ones begin with showing up for a “hard conversation” with God.
This is where I pour my heart out to Him in prayer about the situation first. I read relevant passages of Scripture and sit quietly while He helps me sort through my feelings, the facts, His truth, and my love for the other person in order to inform my approach, timing, and words.
There are many, many times when this time of prayer is the end of the matter. This is usually when I’ve taken some offense or harbor self-righteous anger about a situation. As I confess emotions that aren’t based in His Word and read what Scripture has to say about my words, I often realize that the log in my own eye is most of the problem.
Other times, this period of prayer highlights a lack of love on my part.
Love lapses are responsible for much of our lack of evangelism, internal church conflict, even family struggles. Too often, I try to operate solely from a foundation of my own human affection. God prods me, always, to rely on His perfect love to infuse me and inform my relationships with others, as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This gets worked out in this time of prayer.
Always, this time of prayer reduces my fear and reminds me of God’s presence with me and His desire to include me in His work. That’s exciting! Hard conversations may begin as a painful exercise, but often, they are the vehicles of transformation and breakthrough God desires and how blessed are we to be witness to that!
When I feel there may be a hard conversation in my future with another person, I pray for God to give me His heart for that person and let me see them through His eyes. I pray for their heart to be fertile soil and for God to go before my words to prepare the way. I pray for the right opportunity and timing to appear with clarity and favor. And, I ask God to remove any barriers in me and in the other person that may interfere with communication and with God’s Work in our hearts.
Preparatory prayer is as vital for hard conversations as it is at the beginning of any worthy endeavor.
If you anticipate a challenging chat – being open with someone about your faith or biblically-informed belief, confronting sin, working through a conflict, or sharing tough news – commit to daily prayer leading up to your tough talk.
Show up with God unguarded.
Read the Psalms and see how David exposed his messy heart to God in prayer. Doing this with friends is unproductive and sometimes sinful. Doing it with God is life-altering. Admit your anger, envy, self-righteousness, fear, or even your lack of faith that the conversation will make any difference. Receive His forgiveness and correction, knowing we all must keep growing until we are home with Him.
Keep the Word of God open before you and read several passages that pertain to the topic of your conversation or about what God expects of our words (such as James 1:19-25 or James 4:13-18). Confess thoughts or emotions that are not in line with God’s expectations for believers. Then pray those Scriptures for the person with whom you hope to speak.
Ask for God’s wisdom and then believe He’ll provide it.
Ask for Him to clearly provide an opportunity to speak and then, watch for it. Be persistent in prayer and see what God will do when you take the risk of engaging in an uncomfortable conversation to speak His truth into someone’s life.
Too often, I think everything there is to know about a situation is what I can see. Prayer reminds me there is an entire dimension – the spiritual realm – that is at work. It’s strengthening, encouraging, and informing when I connect with that dimension in prayer before I engage in conversation – hard or otherwise.
Do you want your next hard conversation to be effective? Show up for the first hard conversation by praying and inviting God into a tough talk with you. Then, watch how the adventure unfolds.Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.
To enter for an autographed copy of The Art of Hard Conversations, simply leave a comment below. A winner will be selected randomly on Sunday, March 3rd. Thank you for sharing a few minutes of your day in the Tiny House on the Hill.