Deep pain and intense trial have a way of giving one perspective. You realize what really matters. You realize where your priorities weren’t in line with Scripture. You realize that God truly is the only One in control (Especially when it seems like everything is spiraling out of control.). You get a front row seat into where your faith is growing and where it really falls short. You see the enormity of God’s grace and power. You feel God’s care and nearness is a unique way (Even though at times it can also seem like He’s nowhere to be found.)
And you are uniquely positioned to care for others. Mark Altrogge put it very well…
No one can identify with the “fury of depression” or severe anxiety like someone who’s experienced it. No one can sympathize with someone who has lost a loved one like one who has also been through a loss. But God says we can comfort those in “any affliction” because we have had an experience of affliction. We may not go through the precise suffering someone else does, but we know what pain feels like. We know what suffering feels like. And we can tell others from experience that God cares for them. We can assure them that God was faithful to us and will be faithful to them too.
It think comforting and supporting others is one of the reasons God allows us to walk through intense seasons of trials and suffering. But, what do you do if God is calling you to care for someone and you really can’t relate to their trials? Here’s a couple of suggestions:
- Don’t shrink back from caring just because you can’t relate. The gospel and truths in Scripture apply to EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness. Nothing is more important and helpful than objective truth on a hurting and often very subjective soul.
- HOWEVER, preach truth with DISCERNMENT, compassion, and careful care. When someone is hurting or deeply struggling it’s not helpful to simply preach truth with no thought to how it will land on your friends ears.
- Do more listening than talking. You can’t speak truth unless you know what’s really going on, so listen and listen a lot. Often times the speaker is aware of the truth and they just need a listening ear. Sometimes just a chosen, appropriate Scripture after listening is all that’s needed to encourage their soul. Or a simple, I’m praying for you, what can I do to help? And if you listen more than you talk, they feel like you really care and want to understand. Nothing is more discouraging than a friend who thinks they’re helping and in reality all they do is talk, thinking they understand you when they don’t.
- Cry and hug! I know guys probably don’t do this a lot, but for girls this serves a lot! Romans 12 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Sometimes the best thing to do is just to sit, cry, and give them a hug.
Ultimately, God is the One working in their lives. He has promised to see them through. As we serve and care for our friends we have to remember that He is the One that died for their soul. We aren’t called to fix all our friends problems. We’re called to care, love, and remind them of the One Who paid the greatest price and suffered more than we can ever imagine. But, we’re not Mr./Ms. Fix It and we’re not the answer to all their problems.