By Lori Hatcher, Crosswalk.com
They’ve been a pillar of spiritual strength. A source of biblical wisdom. A prayer warrior who’s bolstered others with their faith and love.
But now they’re struggling.
A health crisis has entered their lives. Or a wayward child, or a job loss. Perhaps a mountain of unanswered prayers are weighing them down. Ministry is difficult, unappreciated, or non-existent. Instead of speaking words of faith and hope, they’re drowning in a sea of questions and disappointment. They’re struggling spiritually, and you don’t know how to help.
What can we do when someone we love is struggling spiritually?
1. Be Patient. The deeper the hurt, the longer it can take to heal. When someone’s been through a serious personal, financial, or spiritual crisis, we can’t expect them to reorient immediately. If you’ve ever experienced grief of any kind, you know that oftentimes the process involves two steps forward and one step backward.
2. Resist the urge to set them straight theologically. If they say “God doesn’t love me,” don’t quote John 3:16 to them. They already know it, and deep inside they believe it. John Piper, in A Godward Life, says,” How quickly we are given to defending God—or sometimes the truth—from words that are for the wind alone. There are enough words, premeditated and studied, that need our rebuttal, but not every despairing heresy blurted out in the hour of agony needs to be answered. If we had discernment, we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.”
3. Recognize the source of their words. When they speak foolish, faithless words, recognize that the source of these words is pain and hurt, not true disbelief. When someone is hurting, they have a tendency to strike out at those closest to them. For men and women of faith, that Someone is God. When they fling hurtful, faithless accusations at the One they know could have spared them this crisis, they speak from their humanity. Even David did this as penned the words of Psalm 22: “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?”
4. Pray often and intensely for them. Consider fasting. While it’s ok to pray that God will lift their burdens, pray also for them to accept and live in the grace God has provided. Ask God to strengthen their faith and give them a vision for to glorify him in their circumstances. Pray that God will reveal himself to them in personal, intimate ways that demonstrate his love and care for them.
5. Trust the Holy Spirit. Pray for God’s Spirit to speak truth to their hurting hearts and break through the pain. Rest confidently that he will take the truth they know and apply it to their hearts.
6. Do what you can to restore their bodies and souls. When Elijah alternated between despair and depression while hiding from wicked Queen Jezebel, God ministered to his physical needs first. He fed him and encouraged him to rest. It was only after his physical needs were met that Elijah was ready to hear the “still, small voice” of God (1 Kings 19).
This might mean taking them a meal, babysitting their kids, or inviting them out for a fun, lighthearted afternoon. Send them a silly card that makes them smile, text an encouraging Bible verse, or share a video like Mandisa’s “He Is with You” or Third Day’s “Cry Out to Jesus.” Invite them over for dinner with a few close friends and end the evening by laying hands on them and praying.
Piper gives wise insight into how to minister to someone whose spirit is hurting: “Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind—spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul, not reproving the sore, is the aim of our love.”
This originally appeared on Lori’s blog, Hungry for God...Starving for Time.
Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, and women’s ministry speaker. She shares an empty nest in Columbia, South Carolina, with her ministry and marriage partner, David, and her freckle-faced, four-footed boy, Winston. A homeschool mom for 17 years, she’s the author of the devotional book, Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God...Starving for Time.
Original Publication date: August 1, 2013