What do you say to a friend who is going through a tough time? You may make more time to talk with them, listen, or help in whatever way you can. You may even distance yourself if what they are going through is beyond anything you can help with. In our society in this region of the country, we often want to do something to help, even if we don’t know exactly what the best thing to do actually is. When a loved one dies, we often see that friends will bring by food, so that they don’t have to worry as much about preparing meals. We may send cards and offer words of encouragement or thoughts and prayers on social media, so that others will think we care. Depending on how close you are to those you are caring for, you may stop by more often and offer additional help or services when possible. But what about when those you are trying to help and they rebuke your offers, push you and others away, and even criticize you…are you as willing to continue to walk with them in those situations as well? Is there anyone in your life that is difficult to deal with, but may need kindness and words of truth or encouragement more than others?
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:15-16
This past week, I received a phone call from some of my family members who are having a dispute over some issues, and are trying to draw me in, essentially to take sides in their conflict. I live hundreds of miles away, so am limited in what I can do directly, but still care for both of them and do wish to have them resolve the conflict in some way. I did say they really need to talk, and not yell or criticize one another, in order to find a solution. I asked directly what I can do to help, but in reality, they mostly wanted a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns, as they seem at a stand-still. When we have loved ones who are sick, there is not always anything we can do to speed their recovery, but we can offer our help and words of encouragement, which might be what they really need, instead of someone else trying to fix things. We all usually appreciate someone sharing their concerns for us, even if there is nothing they can do directly to help. Don’t you?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Have you ever heard tragic news, or known of someone in a very difficult situation and your first response was to immediately offer a prayer for them, or their family? I just received a message today that one member of a family I work with was killed in an accident. There aren’t many words that you can offer that can help at this moment, so I do ask God to comfort their family at this time, and I will have opportunities going forward as we continue to work together. Often, prayer is not the first thing we do, but often the last resort when we have tried other things to help, unsuccessfully. It is often a reminder to me that someone else is in control when our lives are out of control. May we turn to Him at all times, whether in sorrow or celebration, and seek his guidance in our words and actions toward our fellow humans as we do this life thing together.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35-36
Yours in Christ,