Lately, my mind has been all over the place. I’m finding it hard to concentrate on one vein of thought. It feels like problems and burdens are surrounding me on all sides as if I am in the eye of a devastating hurricane. I know all the good Christian clichés. “The Lord never gives you more than you can handle”, “If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it”, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it”, “Let go and let God”, “Pain forces you to grow”. But here is my question. Do Christian clichés work in tragedy? When someone has gone through a devastating loss or is battling cancer or has experienced life changing pain or hurt, why is our first instinct sometimes to regurgitate Jesus jargon? What about when someone you care about is in deep sin? Do our nicely wrapped go to phrases work then? I am the first to step up and say, I’m guilty of this! Sometimes its out of fear. I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Sometimes it’s because you don’t know what else to say. Sometimes its pride. Sometimes ignorance. How then should we respond and encourage when we see someone suffering or living in sin?
Some of you may not know my sister. Her name is Nadjia and she is the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. No really. She is stunning. Nadjia has a beautiful, feisty little nugget named Claire. When Claire was 3 she was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. It’s a type of childhood cancer. I remember getting the call from her. We were living in Paris at the time and I was sitting on the couch. I listened to the words “Claire has cancer” come out of her mouth and it’s almost as if the world stood still. My mind thought, this can’t be real life. No, I am dreaming, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to our family. It happens to other people. For the next 2 years, we watched and prayed as Claire fought for her little life. Chemo, surgery to remove a grapefruit size tumor, bone marrow transplant, radiation, antibody therapy and more scans that you can imagine. All before the age of 5 years old. It was an extremely painful and scary thing to watch. The body of Christ really stepped up and surrounded our family with care. We are eternally grateful for our brothers and sisters in Christ who helped them through this difficult time. I am happy to say that Claire has been in remission for 4+ years now!! God IS faithful! During Claire’s treatments, many well-meaning people felt that they needed to share their wisdom with my sister about how she should be handling what was happening. I sat and watched as people did just what I spoke about before. Spewing up cliché’s and walking away as if their task was complete. She even had one person go so far as to tell her that Claire’s cancer was a result of some kind of sin. Yeah, that one got my blood boiling. I can site so many other examples that I’ve seen and continue to see even now as I watch some of the people I love most go through some of the most difficult things they will ever experience. Divorce, death, cancer and devastating sin. If this is not real encouragement, then what does it look like? When someone you love is living in sin, how do you encourage repentance with love instead of judgement.
The Word of God gives us so many verses about encouraging one another. Here are some that really speak to my heart.
Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
1 Peter 4:8-10 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
So, here are just a few key elements that the Lord pointed out to me in my personal life that are necessary when encouraging others.
The Word of God – without the knowledge of God’s word, our words are useless. No one needs my opinion on the matter. I am not all-knowing and I do not have the answers based on my life experiences. 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Prayer – Before I speak with anyone about anything going on in their life, I need to commit it to serious prayer. I need prayer for wisdom and God’s diving intervention. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” If I attempt to do it on my own, I will fail. When confronting someone about sin, I need to spend time before the Lord examining my own life and asking the Lord to show me any unclean way in me.
Love – My goal in any given situation is love and restoration. If my brother or sister is in pain, my goal is to love them and leave them more encouraged than when I found them. My goal is not to prove how spiritual or knowledgeable I am. If my brother or sister is in sin, my goal is love and restoration, not to show that I’m a better christian than them.
Listen – I should do far more listening than talking. When I don’t know what to say, I shouldn’t say anything. Just listen and tell them you love them and you are praying. Make sure you have all the information before you make a judgement.
Serve – I should try to find ways of doing things that are an encouragement to others. Actions speak so much louder than our words. How can I show my support and love to others?
Trust – At the end of the day, I must learn to trust my Savior with those who are hurting around me. It is not for me to fix their problems, but to be a support and encouragement to them through the storm. God IS faithful, he will move and act according to His perfect will.
These are things that I need to meditate on. God has surrounded me lately with so many difficult and painful situations. People that I love who are hurting and in need of encouragement and support. I pray that the Lord will teach me and help me to encourage in such a way that pleases Him.
I hope that you are encouraged today!