when you don't know what to do
First Aid for Emotional Hurts
by Edward E. Moody, Jr.
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“Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
We’ve all been there. A problem or tragedy strikes a family member, friend, or neighbor. Someone needs to do something. Should it be you? As a body of believers, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. Many people look to God when they are in the middle of a stressful situation or experience a tragedy. Our actions, as ambassadors for Christ, may help unbelievers reconcile with God in the midst of tragedy.
A study published in Family and Community Health reports the types of coping strategies utilized by parents who lost a child as a result of a violent death: prayer (75%), church attendance (50%), family prayer (30%). This study reveals that people naturally look to God in the wake of tragedy. If you are His ambassador, they may find Him through you.
Often, however, we are inhibited from helping because we simply do not know what to say. What can you do for those in crisis?
Job’s friends were most helpful to him when they simply took time to be with him after his children died (Job 2:13). No magic words will make the pain go away, but simply sharing your time with someone who is hurting can help.
But I don’t know what to say! If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Just listen. Perhaps Job’s friends didn’t know what to say, and pretty soon they began blurting out some harmful words. Eliphaz said, “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same” (Job 4:8). That sounds a lot like Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap.” The words are true, but his timing was way off the mark. We should follow the advice of Proverbs 10:19, “He that refraineth his lips is wise.”
How can we know when to listen and when to reassure? Be empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of the one you are trying to help. How would you feel if someone quoted Romans 8:28 to you? An ounce of empathy can prevent tons of hurt. What would you need if you were in the same situation? What kinds of acts could you perform to lighten the load? Too often, we look for the right words to fit a situation, when action is really needed.
If only Job’s friends had used their words to pray rather than condemn, how much better would it have gone? Spend time praying for those who are experiencing difficulty. God will guide you into specific acts you can perform to help them.
God is in the business of changing, healing, and rebuilding lives. You can do your part by lifting the burdens of others and serving as an ambassador to hurting people who need Him.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Edward E. Moody, Jr. is the pastor of Tippett’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church and a professor of counselor education. Randall House Publications recently published his book First Aid for Emotional Hurts: Helping People Through Difficult Times. You can find more information at his website: www.FirstAidForEmotionalHurts.com.