Introduction: by Lory Demshar:
This is an article written by my friend Jeannine Loftus. Jeannine has been through many trials so she is acquainted with suffering and grief. I asked her to write about what it takes to help others through difficult times, and how to help people grow.
Divinity in Helping
We may view helping others as a lower or subservient position. But in truth it is a role that God, Himself, fulfills in our life. In Psalm 54:4 David calls God his helper. In Psalm 27: 9, David praises God because He, God, has been his helper. In Psalm 46:1, the psalmist says God is an ever present help for us. So when we are helping others, we are being like God.
God Directs Us to Help Others
There are many directives in the Bible to help others.
- “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)
- “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17 (ESV)
- Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”” Hebrews 13:6 (ESV)
- “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 (ESV)
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”. Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
There are so many more scriptures that can be shared on this topic and there is no question that this was the example of Jesus in healing physical ailments, forgiving sin, loving people, walking with them in their grief, teaching, spending time etc. This is not optional for us as followers of Jesus, it is essential to our own salvation, consider this scripture.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17
How to Help Others
When reading an article like this most people tend to gravitate to the part of the article that provides practicals. They look for a quick list of ideas for helping someone. You won’t find that in this article, but here are some principles to help.
Immerse yourself in God’s Word and Communion with Him
Be someone God can whisper to through His Holy Spirit. He does this, when we are in step with God, He puts people and actions on our hearts and if we obey His prompting, we find that God uses us to meet a need at the perfect moment. This is not always easy. Sometimes this is a battle with our fleshly nature. We may push down those promptings when the still quiet words say, “You should call that person,” or whatever nudging we receive. If we keep pushing those thoughts down and away, we lose touch with them and with God and his Spirit.
Listen for the Needs
When you learn of a difficulty someone is going through, think about the person and the situation, and ask yourself, “What would I need in a similar circumstance?” Maybe you will need to do the laundry; take care of their children; have coffee and just talk with them; or, have a time with God together of reading the Word of God and praying.
You’ll know best what the needs are if you visit with them and talk to them. If you talk and listen, you can hear the deeper needs that someone has.
I had a period of extended illness some years ago and had one friend who was amazing. She would just jump in and do whatever she saw as a need. At one point, it came out that my head was muddled during what was going on and I was paying my bills late. She offered to help me by taking it over for a bit. She got that under control and then automated some payments for me etc. That released an incredible burden from my shoulders, larger than I realized. Our inability to perform such tasks can become a point of shame for us.
Talk and Share
The caveat in talking and sharing is to share, but keep the focus for the benefit of the other person. Don’t let the conversation become all about you. Don’t talk to expel your own grief or issues. Focus your sharing on what you learned from your experience; what you have learned about how God worked; and what you needed in that time, Such sharing can open people up to talk more deeply.
People can feel ashamed and want to hide their spiritual struggles during the tough times, but that is the time they most need to feel loved and accepted. Sharing how you struggled with some issue will be helpful. They will feel that you can relate to them. They will need reassurance that as people we all grapple to understand what God may be working out, and it won’t always look/sound pretty but if they are to grow through it they need to feel heard.
Lead Them to God
In whatever ways you are helping, whether in physical action or in a listening capacity the most and best we can do for people is to help lift up their eyes to see their Creator for who He is.
There is something about difficult times that flips a switch for us, many of us (myself included) immediately begin to wonder if God is displeased with us. We may even progress to the thought that God doesn’t love us. Or, we may think, “God loves me but I’m not sure if He likes me very much.” We need help to think differently.
Again, I go back to a time of my own illness and difficulty. A time when a faithful friend helped me keep my eyes fixed on God. When the ridiculous thoughts came up she pointed me to the scriptures so I could see the truth about who God really is, how He views me and interacts with me. She was patient, faithful and loving no matter how many times I wrestled with the same thoughts.
Jesus Our Example
There are a lot of ways to help people. Jesus is our role model in this. He knew when a touch was needed with a leper or when He needed to allow a sinful woman to clean His feet. He knew when His disciples needed to be with Him. He knew when they needed a sharp rebuke and to face truth. Jesus knew His followers and what each one needed. He spoke differently to Thomas, than He did to Peter or John. We will do well to be immersed in the Bible and to know God and His example in Jesus, and imitate Him.