This side of eternity is scarred by pain, heartache, disappointment, and danger. Simply living can feel treacherous. Because we live under the curse of sin, all of us will suffer circumstances that we would rather avoid.
When God allows life to take us through a valley, it can be easy to lose sight of reality in the shadows. We will experience this, and so will the people in our lives.
As Christians, this should create a unique bond among us. Here is a question for you to consider: how much do you care about other people’s hardships?
Take a second or two to really think through your answer to that question. I have noticed in my own heart and in the lives of many other Christians a coldness towards the suffering of others…until it’s you.
If we wait to care for the hurting until we are hurting, it will be too late. Here are four questions to consider when you are ministering to someone who is suffering. The first two are introspective, meaning they will (hopefully) correct faulty thinking. The last two are calls to action, asking what can I do to help this person through their difficult season. I challenge myself with these questions often.
- If I had their circumstances, how would my emotional health be? This question may seem like an odd place to start, but often people who are going through impossible circumstances feel like they’re drowning emotionally. Ask some basic questions about how they are, and if they put a guard up, gently persist. If you show genuine care, you might be surprised at what comes out. The information they share may help them as they get a chance to process with a friend and experience outward sympathy.
- Can I be a source of joy for this burdened person? You can see it on their face. It looks like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I’m an over thinker. One of God’s greatest gifts to me when I’m walking through hard times is friends that make me laugh. Can you be the same source of timely humor for someone who is burdened today? Be on the lookout for a long face.
- What unmet needs can I minister to? Sometimes people are hurting physically and could use some help cleaning around their house. Maybe they’re hungry. You may even be able to help out financially with some medication. Without being condescending, check on how their material needs are being supplied and see if you can make any practical contributions.
- Have I asked enough questions? Not everyone welcomes questions, but I would bet most people enjoy verbalizing their struggles. It helps dispel loneliness. Ask thorough, genuine questions. They will be so grateful.
Of course, all of these depend on the fact that you actually care. If you feel cold or distant from hurting folks, pray that God might break your heart for the things that break His, then be His hands and feet to minister to the broken around.