Sometimes it’s a struggle to deal with tough situations – that’s what makes them tough! We get word of a tragedy in someone’s life. We go see them and don’t know what to say. We want to express concern for a sick person, but stumble around with stories we’ve heard of others who had the same sickness. Often we’re awkward and unconsoling, but that’s rarely the goal. We may not know how to best help people going through tough times. It takes some thoughtful preparing, praying and thinking of what is best for them – not us.
Curiosity is always present. Naturally, most of us are curious to hear how somebody is doing, how they’re dealing with whatever stresses are in their life. So, it’s likely that many people approach others going through tough times with a focus on themselves, rather than the person who needs our help. We want to learn more. We want our curiosity satisfied. That doesn’t make us bad people – but it does often make us inconsiderate people.
First things first, measure your words and questions carefully whenever you are attempting to help somebody else. Perhaps it’s wise to ask yourself, ” Will this comment or question help this person or will it help me?” If it won’t help the person in trouble, rethink it. Your Christian obligation is to help others, not yourself. Let others lean on you as they want or as they need. Don’t force it. Don’t meddle. Don’t be nosy. Make yourself of service and if they decide to fill in details for you, fine. If they don’t, accept it and keep working to help them.
Comforting words are almost always the goal, even if they often fail us. We’ve all been in those conversations where we just don’t know what to say – and more often than not, we say the wrong thing. Prepare what you’d like to say. Better yet, say little and listen often.
James 1:19 says, “So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
Nobody cares about your stories of defeat. I recall some years ago being in a hospital room visiting a person who had been diagnosed with an ailment. While there other visitors entered and began telling a horrid story of somebody they knew with the same illness. I looked at them and realized they had absolutely no idea the impact of their visit on this sick person. They were more interested in the story they had to tell than in helping the person they were visiting. I’m certain that wasn’t their intent. They just came totally unprepared to help this person through their difficult time. We can’t be so careless in our work to help others.
It’s not about YOU. It’s about the person we serve. It’s about leaving them better off than when we found them. One of the best questions to ask yourself is, “Will this person be better off when I enter the room or when I leave the room?” If the answer is when you leave, then maybe you should stay home until you can figure out how to make your visit profitable for them.
The purpose of our visit has to be more than duty or sense of obligation. The heart of each visit must be to help this person who is having a tough time. The purpose can’t be to meddle, get all the gory details, or quiz them down about everything that’s curious to us. The purpose must be to leave them spiritually uplifted and to do our best to tend to their physical, emotional and mental needs. We want to leave them better than when we found them. If we fail to do that, then our visit was in vain, even hurtful.
Sometimes others need to know we’re there should they require our help. They may not want to see us. They may not feel like talking to us. We shouldn’t be offended (again, remember – it’s not about us).
Sometimes they may need us to do something useful for them. They may need their lawn mowed, house cleaned, errands run. It may not be company they need, but work done. Offer to help without engaging them in conversation.
Sometimes they may just need to know we’re praying for them and thinking of them. That’s easily done with a short note mailed to them. It may be done in a quietly spoken sentence, “I’m thinking and praying for you.”
Sometimes, perhaps all the time, they need encouragement. I say “sometimes” because there are times when people just don’t feel like interaction of any kind. They just want to be left alone. Respect that and don’t read more into it than you should. You don’t know their state of mind. You don’t know their worries. Give them space and respect that today may not be a good day to engage them. You can still let them know you’re thinking of them and available to help them whenever they are ready.
Don’t make the adversity of their life the focus of their life. Whether it’s an illness, a financial burden, a relationship difficulty or something else – life is more than the problem. People do not want their challenge becoming the focal point of their own life, muchless of your life. Imagine being a person with a health issue and every time you encounter others they make your health the focus of the conversation. How would that make YOU feel? Well, it makes them feel exactly the same way – awful. So stop it. And remember how many people are probably dealing with them in that fashion – almost everybody! What a beating that must be. Don’t contribute to the beating. Be the person who talks to them about normal stuff – things other than their problem. They’ll know you’re there for them if they decide to lean on you about their problem.
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” We’ve all heard that phrase before. Well, it’s appropriate to remember whenever you’re visiting the sick. Don’t play doctor. People lose all their sensibilities when dealing with folks who are sick. They offer medical advice, books to read, diets to follow and a host of other things that serve to intrude, not help. Sick members have doctors, dieticians and other professionals who are helping them. That’s not our role. Imagine everybody coming up to you offering medical advice. How would you enjoy it? Stop doing it to others. I’ll reiterate that these behaviors stem, in my opinion, from people who can’t get the focus off of themselves long enough to serve others. They’re often more interested in the advice they’ve got to offer than they are in the impact it may negatively have on the person who is the object of their advice. Our best course is to always be thinking of the person who is the object of our service.
I’m sure more could be said (and probably should be said), but hopefully these few paragraphs of ramblings help you serve others through difficult times. Measure your behaviors and words carefully. Take the focus off yourself and put it on the object of your service – the person going through tough times. Make sure everything you do is helpful. Pray for them. Pray for wisdom to know how to best help them.
Life deals each of us hard body blows from time to time. We can overcome the adversities of life with the help of the Lord and each other. Even so, we need wisdom to know how to help others. We know how the story will end for all of us if we’re faithful to the end, so during the span of our lives we’re working hard to help other remain true to the end. Nothing else really matters.
With so many among us who need our visits and our help, it’s always useful to step back, review our behaviors, review our words and conversations and make sure we’re doing the most profitable things we can to help others endure difficult times.
Rev. 2:10, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (NKJV)