Friday, 10 July 2009

Helping Each Other #2

On Sunday I looked at ways in which we are slow or reluctant to be honest about our struggles in our Christian walk (Helping Each Other #1).

It was written from the point of view of the person struggling… and so today, I’d like to think more about how we can help others when they reach out to us – or perhaps, before they even do.

Kinda sounds obvious, but listening is crucial. It helps the person talk through what is going on, enabling them to express how they are feeling, and what’s going on in their life. Listening shows that we genuinely care and love them, that we want to understand and that we want to help.

It doesn’t mean just sitting there, empathetically nodding our heads… but as we listen, so identify with them, help them to see that they’re not alone, that they are not the only person in the world who is struggling in what ever area it might be. That’ll either be identifying with them from our own personal experience, battles, struggles and temptations – or perhaps (not limited to) back to something like Hebrews 4:15-16 – Jesus understands, he’s taken on flesh, he is not unable to sympathise!

Also, as we listen, we should be wanting to understand what is going on. This will no doubt mean asking questions - sensitively and appropriate to the situation – to ensure that we are not simply making assumptions about what is going on in their life… for example, you know a couple who have been dating/courting… and one of them comes to you and says, “last night we did something – it was a big mistake”… now, we could be hearing “we slept together”… or for others, the big mistake might simply be “we started kissing on the sofa”… actively listening, by asking thoughtful questions, albeit sensitively, will help ensure that we are hearing correctly, and so better able to respond in a meaningful way.

I wonder if we’re often slow to do this… I don’t know why we might be… but here’s a great couple of paragraphs from “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands” which encourages me to keep doing it – I recommend a read of it:

“Asking good questions is vital to helping people face who they really are and what they are really doing. As sinners we all tend to recast our own history in self-serving ways. We hide behind the difficulty and pressures of the situation or the failures of others. We look for external explanations, not internal ones. We are more impressed with our righteousness than we are horrified at our sin.

Because of this, we all need people who love us enough to ask, listen, and, having listened, to ask more. This is not being intrusive. This is helping blind people to embrace their need for Christ. It is helping people to see the foolish ways they have lived for their own glory, and the subtle ways they have exchanged worship and service of the Creator for worship and service of his creation.”
So, actively listening is not just to ensure we’re not hearing something different to what is being spoken, but also to help the person to work backwards, to help identify the root issue… that brings me to my second point.

Help them to think
As we actively listen to someone, so we want to help them think through what is going on, biblically. What is it that sparks an action, a reaction, a line of thinking etc etc.

The heart is the factory of idols, and we’re quick to believe the devils lies… so by actively listening, we’re wanting to help them think through 1) what idols are they worshipping; or 2) what lies are they believing.

We’re trying to help the person identify answers to such questions on such areas… to then be applying Gospel truths themselves, into their own life… to equip them to help themselves.

Point them in the right direction
Having thought a bit about the lies believed or the idols worshipped, so we can think about how the Gospel speaks into those situations, and help fill the Gospel armoury for when the battle comes again. Not that we’d expect change (or at least complete change) to happen overnight… but over time… and so we’d be looking to offer some accountability on what ever issue the person is struggling with – loving them enough to ask how it’s going, to be patient, still quick to listen, quick to understand, and lovingly continue to speak truth applied into the persons situation – but all the time, helping them, to help themselves.

Will we do this?

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