How to Help a Hurting Friend ~ Part Three

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus . . .”  Philippians 2:5 

I could be jealous, but I choose instead to marvel at people who have the spiritual gift of helps.  In Romans 12, the gifts of “helps” and “encouragement” are practically neighbors, “If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage . . . .”   In my 30+ years of walking with Christ, I have been humbled many times by the fact that people gifted as helpers run circles around us encouragers when it comes to the practical caring for others.  Just now, my dear husband (who is a helper) put his shirt over my shoulders before running out to do errands because, he said, my shoulders “looked cold.”  He was right, my shoulders were cold, but I wasn’t aware of it until I felt the warmth of his shirt!   I appreciate the out working of my husband’s helping as an art form in our home.  One especially sweet piece of evidence of his helper ‘bent’ is a flour scoop he made for me years ago.  He made it out of an empty baking powder can (that he cut in the shape of a scoop) attached to a mimosa tree branch he whittled down to make the handle.  I am blessed every time I use that scoop as it reminds me of the tree that was in our backyard and the love of my helper husband!

I write today, to encourage you~sorry, I sometimes wonder if “encouragement” is my “default” setting!   Let’s try this again . . . No matter what spiritual gift(s) you possess, God can use you to help others if you ask Him.  God has gifted each of us differently, in order to equip us corporately, to honor His commands to: love Him above all else and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  How we help others will naturally differ according to how we are gifted.  It is as we rely on God in our helping, that our gifts become beautiful works of art.  Of course, helping others can be costly and can also be discouraging.  As I counsel, there are times when I feel that my efforts amount to nothing but a childish crayola scrawl.  At those times, I find comfort in knowing that God is able to bring beauty out of my meager efforts.  I offer that comfort to you when you begin to doubt your ability to help a friend.  He is worthy of our trust as “in all things God works  for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

In Part Three, we will focus is on learning to listen and observe hurting people with,

  • The Attitude and Compassion of Christ
  • Our Efforts Balanced with the Guidance of Scripture

The Attitude and Compassion of Christ:  As God’s servants, we find our starting place in helping others by observing Jesus and implementing what we learn from Him.  The apostle Paul’s instructions to the Philippians in chapter two also clues us in as to how we are to proceed as helpers saying, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus . . . .” (vs.3-5)  We are once more reminded to check our motivation in helping.   (See also, Part Two entry dated October 15)  Having done that, Paul points us to the example of Christ in all that He did as He walked on this earth:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. . . He humbled Himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” (vs. 5-8)  What is exceedingly valuable about Christ’s example to us is that as created beings we are not equal with God.   If Jesus (who truly was God) chose to humble Himself on our behalf, then how dare we do any less than to crucify our selfish ways and follow in His steps of righteousness?

You may be wondering, “But HOW can I even begin to emulate the attitude of Christ when I struggle with “self” more than I want to admit?”  Let us look and learn from Christ’s example in three more portions of Scripture:

  1. Mark 1:35 tells us, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”  Jesus repeatedly set the example of making prayer (talking to His Father) His priority as He walked the path set out for Him.  We can do no less if we are to serve Him well.
  2. As Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure He told them about the Holy Spirit.  In John 16:13 Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”  We are never meant to walk a solitary path.  God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we may stay close to Him.  It is God’s Spirit who helps us decipher the truth of Scripture so that we may live and love others to God’s glory.
  3. As we rely on God through prayer, we then open ourselves to the truth of Scripture and the working of His Spirit in our hearts.  This is how we are made ready to walk as Jesus did.  Matthew 9:36 says of Jesus, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  God would have us see others with Jesus’ eyes of compassion.  It is very likely that the crowds that followed Jesus in that day were as varied as crowds are today.  There were honest spiritual seekers as well as people who were merely curious (wanting to be where the action was.)   There were also those who came to spy on Jesus, looking for bad stuff to report to men who hated Him.  The Bible also tells us about the family and friends of Jesus, many were incredulous about what He taught.   Consider this:  Jesus had no illusions about the crowds that followed Him as a perfect reflection of His Father: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)  Jesus loved the crowds because He embodied love.

God stretches us by His example to love, not only the lovable people in our lives, but also those who may reject us!  As you think about offering help to someone you care about, be aware that your offer of help may be rejected.  As a counselor I am privileged to listen to the stories of many people.  For a variety of reasons, it doesn’t always work out that we continue to meet.  When that happens, it doesn’t stop me from caring about that person.  Having heard their story, I still can love that person through prayer.  You also can continue to love your friend through your prayers!

Jesus understood the plight of men living on this earth~  “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”   Jesus witnessed the awfulness of sin as it burdened people in countless ways.  He also knew that He was the answer to the conflict that is on-going in every human heart.

Our Efforts Balanced with the Guidance of Scripture:  Abraham Lincoln has been quoted as saying, “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”  There is some truth to what Lincoln said (who could argue with a man who certainly understood both sides of suffering!)   But for Christians, effective helping comes not so much in forgetting our personal problems but in remembering what God has taught us and passing it on.  Sharing personal stories that bring the truth of the Scriptures alive and underline God’s faithfulness can be helpful.   But remember this, the Scriptures have exceedingly more value in how they bring clarity to our perceptions.  To be effective helpers, we need the compassionate eyes of Christ.  Also needed is the truth of Scripture to help us look beyond the immediate (what we presently see) to our Hope of Eternity when God’s promises will be realized.   (To better understand the concept of  seeing with “the  compassionate eyes of Christ” check out:  Seeing with Cosmic Eyes, October 1 entry. )

Thank You Father for demonstrating Your love to us through the humble example of Your Son and for equipping us with the provision of Your Word.  Help us learn to have compassion for those You put on our path and to use the Scriptures wisely as we lean on Your Spirit.  You are such an awesome God! 

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