Caring for Those Struggling
My wife and I have been serving in pastoral leadership for more than three decades now, most of which has involved students, specifically college-age adults. Of the many things I have learned about people, there is one thing that has remained constant: people have hurt. Pain comes in many forms -- physical, emotional, relational, and financial, to name a few. All too often, people hide their pain behind the mask of a hopeful smile or by denying reality. The truth is, people around us are going through overwhelming circumstances.
I recently received a text from a student who suffered trauma in her past. Through a leadership session she recently participated in at NU, she realized she needed to process her experience to become a fully functional and healthy leader. One of her discoveries included realizing that people who have suffered abuse frequently become people-pleasers to the point that they work incessantly to prove their worth and value. Of course, we know our value must be found first in our relationship with Christ, and no amount of work will change that fact. As a result of realizing this dynamic in her own life, she identified and shared some new boundaries and habits she is implementing to help create better rhythms for her future.
The apostle Paul offers explicit instruction regarding how we are to care for those who are struggling. He writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves” (Galatians 6:2-3). This verse is such a good reminder for me. I often get busy and quickly forget the time and investment it takes to get behind someone's mask and care about their pain. There are also times I have thought I was too important to deal with someone's presenting need.
Elsewhere, Paul tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). In the context of a caring, hospitable community, how do we best serve people who are hurting? Let me start by saying, we should never underestimate the power of prayer. It doesn’t matter if your prayer includes a hand on the shoulder, a written card, or a text. We are people of prayer, and prayer always brings hope. A hospitable community is also a community which helps people in tangible ways. I am so grateful for the number of people who have received benevolent help at NU. Members of our community make sacrificial contributions as a gesture of support to those who are hurting. Recently, four students received support to fly to the funeral of another student whose mother passed away suddenly. They desired to be present for their friend's funeral service to provide support and comfort. Being present is a great way to show support to those in need. Communicator and author Bob Goff wrote in his book Love Does, “I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them”. As much as technology, social media, and other modern forms of communication have helped us, none of that can replace the presence of a caring, hospitable friend.
Lord, please hear the prayers of those who are struggling. I pray miracles will occur in the lives of those who need to witness the power of your hand and the love of a grieving heavenly Father. Speak to the hearts of your people so that we will be more aware of those around us in pain. Help us understand that we play an essential part in answering the prayers of people who are in need. Amen.