Over the past few weeks, in our study through Job, we have been talking about the tendency for those who suffer to feel isolated. This is due, in part, to the discomfort and mess that suffering brings, which keeps many well-intentioned friends from effectively loving those in need. Instead, we can avoid the discomfort by remaining aloof from those who are in the midst of suffering, or we can try to provide quick-fixes and advice without entering into and sharing in their pain (involvement without empathy), or we can just lack the kind of perseverance needed to come alongside someone whose suffering doesn’t go away.
Here are some helpful and practical suggestions for ways we can come alongside those who are suffering. These are from a lady in the church body who has suffered through health challenges for nearly a decade.
- Don’t try to “fix” the situation. God may have them there a long time.
- Wash them with the Word - remind them of truth. Share what God is teaching you.
- STOP! Take time to listen.
- STOP! Take time to pray on the spot.
- Pray first, then ask considerate, caring questions, seeking to understand their circumstances.
- Be willing to walk through the discomfort of processing the ups and downs. (You don’t have to provide answers, just listen).
- Don’t judge - you don’t know God's purposes and what He is truly doing in their circumstances.
- Be prepared for a long haul - small touches mean A LOT. (i.e. text, phone call, card with verses, email, etc…)
- Consider what would speak love and support beyond physical service…TIME spent!
- Don’t get sucked into the prosperity gospel. Job was righteous but God still let Satan test him. John the Baptist and Paul’s lives ended badly but the end of this life is not the end.
- Be a patient listener.
- Reiterate your love for them because when the darkness surrounds you, you feel isolated and unlovable.
- Repeat God’s promises and truth frequently.
- If possible, laugh with them.
- Be willing to trust God to teach you how to walk through the darkness with them.