“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” Psalm 46:1-5
I cannot think of a more frightening scenario than that of watching someone who is drowning and cannot be saved. To get too close when someone is in a panicky state is to risk being pulled down with them. Several times this year, tragedies have been reported in our local newspaper of people drowning when a friend or family member got in trouble in the water. Popular wisdom advises “would-be” rescuers to throw a rope attached to something that floats out to the victim for them to grab and hold onto. From there, they can be pulled to safety.
Many times, that same wisdom can be applied to helping people who are “drowning” in their problems. I think that is why I love Psalm 46, it expresses the overwhelming experience of tragedy that can strike unexpectedly. I have found that:
- It is far better to throw out the Lifeline of the Scriptures for people to hold onto as we begin to work together. As we continue to work, they begin to focus on our God of Hope to be safely encouraged to the “shore” of godly wisdom and a strengthened faith.
- It is important to remember as we think about helping others, that WE cannot SAVE anyone. It is Christ Jesus, the wisdom of the Scriptures and the active working of the Holy Spirit that bring each of us through the “troubled waters” of life.
In Part Two of How to Help a Hurting Friend, we are going to talk about needed preparations for helping. If we do things in our own strength “burn-out” is common (even among counselors!) Thankfully, as Christians, God gives us what we need to help one another as we lean on Him for the wisdom and strength we need. However, that rarely just “happens.” Here are some of the key ways to prepare to be godly helpers:
- Humility Before God (Luke 6:42)
- Confidence in God’s Sovereign Goodness (Jeremiah 17:5-10)
- Commitment to Prayer, Thanksgiving and the Word (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Humility Before God: Jesus gives us our starting place in our process of preparation in Luke 6: 42, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I don’t know about you, but when I read Jesus’ words I respond inwardly with an “Ouch!” To be wise in helping those who are in danger of being pulled down by the sin of others or by their own sin, it is important that we stay close to God because we are vulnerable to sin too! To safely remove our “planks” we need His help. Psalm 139: 23, 24 leads us in a wise direction in our quest: “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Humility before God will always be key to our effectiveness in helping others.
Confidence in God’s Sovereign Goodness: In probably ninety-seven percent of first-time sessions, Jeremiah 17:5-10 is our starting place. As you prepare to help a friend, Jeremiah helps to understand the importance of being intentional in where we place our trust. What we trust in impacts our motivation which then influences what we think, say or do. The Lord says through Jeremiah, our choices in who or what we trust in boil down to three:
- “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a saltland where no one lives.” (Vs. 5, 6)
- “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Vs. 7, 8)
- “The heart (ourselves) is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.'” (Vs. 9, 10)