Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
Many years ago I received a phone call from a friend. When I first heard her voice I could not make out her words; all I heard was panic. I tried to calm her, telling her to “slow down . . . take a deep breath . . . I’m here to listen.” The line went quiet (for a moment I was afraid she had hung the phone up) but then she started to tell me about her fears for her middle child, a daughter. Her daughter was away at college, in her senior year and had started having panic attacks. As an education major she was just starting her student teaching but my friend was concerned that she would not be able to finish because her daughter was (very literally) afraid to step out of her own door. The attacks had gotten so bad that they decided to bring her home. My friend asked, “Can you help her?” I told her, “I can pray.”
I saw her daughter later that afternoon in my office. I could see the stress and fear in her face. Her body seemed to be wound tight into itself as an attempt at self-protection. I could see that her anxiety level was so high that it was going to be next to impossible to work with her. I recommended that my friend take her daughter to their family doctor to have her evaluated, I wanted to make sure there was nothing else going on. Her doctor prescribed some medication to help with the anxiety. We then met again, this time to begin asking questions . . . questions to help me understand what had turned this beautiful young woman into a crumpled, bundle of exposed nerves.
As we talked I learned that she was engaged to be married. Her fiance had graduated the year before from the school she was still attending and had secured a teaching job several states away. As she spoke I saw her face brighten as she talked about their relationship and how very much she missed seeing him each day as her knight in shining armor. Having an idea as to what got this young woman into such an awful place, I asked her to read Jeremiah 17:5-10 to me. (The passage begins, “Cursed is the one who depends on men for his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD . . . .” Verse 7 teaches, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him . . . .”) I then asked her what she thought God was saying to her through Jeremiah? The simple clarity of her answer astounded me: “I’m a mess because I have been too dependent on my boyfriend. I need to trust God more in my life.” ( That’s one of the things that I love about working in the Scriptures; God’s Word speaks to the heart of what ails us in amazing ways!) It was a healthy step in the right direction as she took responsibility for her plight. To help her look to God and think about Him more, she started Journey Notes Praise Journaling. She and her boyfriend made a pact that when they talked on the phone he would ask her, “What are three things you are thankful to God for today?” We met for a few more sessions, but she had to get back to school to finish her student teaching. The last I heard they married, had children and God continues to bless.
I share this story to encourage you. What I did that day (and have done with countless others) is really not difficult. In fact, it is entirely appropriate for Christians to look to the Scriptures for spiritual insight into facing the challenges that are part of living on this earth. Having said that, the difference I invite you to consider between what I do to help others (have them read whole passages of Scripture) and what many do (sprinkle Bible verses into the conversation that seem appropriate) essentially is to widen the door for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those I serve. Many times I have had a client read a certain passage to me with an idea of where I think we should be going. However, it all changes when their response is different from what I expected. When that happens I am temporarily blown away (stunned would probably be a better choice of wording!) but, without exception, that diversion has always proved to be more helpful to my client. That, my friend, is part of the adventure of serving others with the Holy Spirit working as our “third strand”~ KA-POW!
In this final entry on How to Help a Hurting Friend, I also write to challenge you to think about setting godly goals for helping others. To help get you started, I’m going to share my basic goals for helping my clients (as well as for family and friends) that have evolved over the years:
- To help them grow spiritually mature through the challenges they face. Where we see only the negative side of problems, the Bible offers hope as we learn about how God has our best in mind as we learn to trust in Him. That is why many times we focus on James 1 in early sessions. What is God’s goal for His kids in trial? James very clearly states: “the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (verses 3b-4.)
- That every client would learn to cultivate a discipline of prayer with praising to their God of Hope. When we meet I always start with prayer and when we finish we both close with prayer. (Clients new to praying with someone are shy, but I try to encourage them by telling them to “Thank God that He loves you and that He has a plan and a purpose for your life.”) I believe that joint prayer to God after talking about their problems kind of “seals the deal” for my clients. What is God’s will for us in good season and in bad? I Thessalonians 5:16-18 declares: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- To be a signpost to Christ as we look to the Scriptures as an organic whole:
- Too often, I think we use Scripture the way some children pick through their food, skipping everything to get to dessert! Just as a child’s growth can be stunted when left to their own poor choices, we face the same danger of stunted spiritual growth unless we face the harsh reality of sin and our need for repentance and faith. I try to keep a balance between Old and New Testaments so clients can recognize God’s voice as the same throughout Scripture. Isaiah 30: 15 and 18 state, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quiet and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it . . . Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
- That I be held personally accountable in handling the Word through doing my Journey Notes, Bible study, worship and fellowship with other Believers. Accountability is a critical piece in helping lest we, “think of ourselves more highly than we ought!” (Romans 12:3)
How we help is not nearly as important as our willingness to be used by God to help others. God may use you in a big way, more often it will be in a small way ~ PRAISE HIM FOR THE PRIVILEGE! My point in writing this is to urge you to not give way to fear of “messing things up” when you have a friend who is already a mess or when you see someone making unwise and even dangerous choices. I love what the apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Galatia: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6b) What a combination . . . FAITH + LOVE= KA-POW! Go and do likewise!
Thank You for the privilege it is to be part of Your forever family and for equipping us with everything we need to live our lives well before you. Help us Lord to continue to mature in our faith as we reach out to those who need help. Give us courage as we place our confidence fully in You. Praise Your Holy Name!
(Trust that I am praying for each of you who read my entries to be encouraged to walk worthy of Christ. Feel free to leave your comments, questions or ways that I can pray for you . . . All to His Glory, Kathie )