People are hurting all around us. It’s overwhelming!
As Christians, sometimes it’s difficult to know how we should respond to the hardships experienced by others. Their pain and suffering may come in various forms including such things as physical and/or medical problems, hunger and homelessness, abuse and neglect, grief and loss, guilt and shame, emotional difficulties such as depression and anxiety, or broken relationships.
The question is this: What would Jesus have us do when confronted with the suffering of others? While I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, I would like to make a few suggestions to help you help others.
In other words, show up in person! There is tremendous power in a ministry of presence. After all, Jesus’ ministry was incarnational by its very nature. He made himself physically present to humanity and all its suffering, showing up in person to help and heal.
John 1:14 (ESV) says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Job’s friends did their best work in providing support and comfort when they simply remained quiet in their attentive presence (Job 2:11-13). Did you know that the words LISTEN and SILENT are comprised of the same letters?
People who are suffering are often confused, frustrated, scared, angry, and demoralized. They need tender loving care that might require a significant sacrifice of time and the gift of patience on your part. Their faith is often tested and their emotions are frequently all over the place.
They may even lash out at you since you’re close by with displaced feelings arising from their anxiety. Realize that it’s not about you, but rather their deep-seated pain. Therefore, give them the benefit of the doubt and demonstrate much patience and kindness. Try to put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic.
Pray for individuals who are suffering. Remember them in your personal prayers when you’re alone. Also, offer to pray with them, but don’t force it on them.
James 5:16 (ESV) says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Keep in mind that it is God who has the real power to help and strengthen the weak. Plug in to your spiritual power source through prayer.
Respect the space and privacy of those who are hurting. When visiting someone in the hospital or in his or her home, don’t overstay your welcome. Follow their lead and pay attention to social cues. Sometimes, individuals simply aren’t up for a visit for whatever reason. Perhaps they’re just physically tired and need rest at the moment. Or else, they would like to be alone for time to decompress and relax.
Often the best visit is a short one. A brief phone call may actually be more appreciated at times. Also, be careful not to insult their intelligence by imposing your own personal opinion and perspective on what they should or shouldn’t do. Respect their freedom to choose their own course of action. And limit your advice giving.
Instead of saying something like, “If there’s ever anything I can do, don’t hesitate to ask,” actually think of hands-on ways you can help. If they are ill or injured, maybe they need some meals provided, house-cleaning performed, or yard work assistance. Perhaps they would benefit from transportation to and from doctor’s appointments.
Maybe they’re desperate for some free childcare. If they are financially strained, they could likely use some cash. Whatever the circumstances, think of practical avenues whereby you could provide some real aid. Offer specific things you’re willing and able to do, but leave it up to them to decide if they feel comfortable accepting your help.
If they’re not in a position to respond for some reason, just take care of whatever needs to be done. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus describes this type of hands on, practical care in providing food, shelter, clothing, and emotional support.
Those who are suffering are generally in need of consolation and hope. Remind them that they’re not alone and that God will see them through come what may.
As a caregiver, try to remain optimistic and upbeat. Positivity is contagious. Encourage sufferers not to give up in the face of their struggles. Things often have a way of working out in the end when we keep our trust in the Lord.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”