I recently read an article title by Jarrid Wilson titled Stop Telling Hurt People They Need to Pray More. It’s a great read, you should check it out. I wanted to expand on my experience with this.
I am very familiar with pain. It seems to be the theme of my life experience. That isn’t for a pity party, that just is what it is. And most times I don’t think I really talk about what that has felt like without hesitation about what others might think of me. But, I think a lot of people are in a lot of pain and I think so many would benefit with a more open dialogue about what pain entails.
But I don’t want to talk about the benefit of the dialogue.
I want to talk about the messiness of following Christ while your heart and mind feel broken. I want to talk about the importance of community when you’re in pain. I want to talk about being intentional when you know someone is hurting. And lastly, I want to talk about just being with someone without talking -OR- to speaking up if need be.
When you feel broken emotionally, chances are you are not doing hot spiritually. I will mention physically as that is just as effected, but that could be a post all on it’s own for me. But back to emotional and spiritual. When you are emotionally unable to find balance, it becomes nearly impossible to invite Christ into the mess (at least in my experience). This may feel like or look like consistent patterns of: desperation, blankness, indifference, deep sorrow, hopelessness, weeping, rage, self-hate, anxiety, or inconsistency in any of these areas in general. This is not a comprehensive list, it is based on my own experience and seeing my friends experiences as well. When someone is caught in those things it becomes very hard for that person to evaluate that they should invite Christ into it. Why? There is already so much going on for that person. AND THAT IS OK.
I want to explain why it’s ok. It’s ok because God does not expect any part of us to be nicely put together. He does not look at us and think that we should be able to accept Christ as Savior, learn this or that, go to counseling, go to Bible College, actively serve in a Church, and then magically be able to handle the throws of life without struggle. I am talking about the lingering issues left from abuse, bad choices, and whatever you may have done that lead you to the messiness of the things listed above. Choosing to follow Christ may not fix your heart break, depression, anxiety, or broken identity right away. Quite frankly, don’t excuse my french, I’m tired of that bullshit lie being fed to Church culture that Jesus heals you once. Absolutely not. Someone show me where that is in the Bible.
Jesus heals you over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over.
He is continually involved in our process of being reconciled to Himself. He is reconciling all things to Himself, which means that desperation, blankness, indifference, deep sorrow, hopelessness, weeping, rage, self-hate, anxiety, and inconsistency are being worked on by the hand of God. And from what I know of my Jesus and how He has cared for me, He cares so deeply about those wounds the ways He will show Himself to you will blow your mind.
The point when life is far more than you can bare is still a place the love of God can find you. I promise. Therefore, when you are nothing but an emotional mess, friend if you are identifying with anything I am saying- Jesus is with us. He is above our instability. He is still the truth. He is still holding everything together. He is still unchanging.
I am blessed in this area, but most times I will find things to complain about. But, when I really think about what I have with my Church I realize very quickly I have something millions of people don’t have. I am connected to people deeply. I am cared for by people deeply. I can weep and be prayed for. I can jump with joy in times of gladness. I really do enjoy so many friends in my Church. Well really they are my only friends. LOL. Love yall.
This community has given me the space to be. What I mean is they have given me the support to be a human. They have given me the space to cry for hours if need be. They have given me the space to be challenged when I’m taking steps backwards. They have built me up and spoken truth to me when I didn’t believe it. They text me and tell me they love me and they are there for me.
These people have been the hands and feet of God in my life. That is the main reason is is important to have a Christ centered community when you are really struggling (and even when you’re not struggling). When you are a part of a healthy community you are adding to your life things you cannot give to yourself.
Shout out to Take Hold Church hollaaaaaaa.
It takes 30 seconds to send a text message saying “thinking about you,” did you know that? Did you also know that being a Christian still means you are a human? Furthermore, that you don’t have to over-spiritualize things if you don’t mean it? For example, don’t text someone and say “I’m praying for you” if you aren’t praying for them. It is totally ok to text, call, go up to a friend and say “you’ve been on my mind a lot and I want you to know I care for you and love you”. You do not have to use the phrase “I am praying for you” as a magic word to love on someone. By all means, if you are truly going to pray for someone do it. Heck, go the extra mile and ask them what you can specifically pray for. If the Holy Spirit is highlighting someone to you, listen. We have a responsibility to bare each other’s burdens.
Here is something I have learned from being the person who is sitting, and being the person sitting with someone- people don’t know what to do when people start pouring out their heart.
And that’s kind of a bummer. Here are a couple tips-
It’s ok if it’s awkward. Don’t try to make it not awkward. That can make things even more awkward.
Don’t overcompensate. If you don’t have experience with what the person is upset about, don’t try to warp something you have dealt with to match their situation.
Don’t talk at them. They are not your project to fix. They do not have to be “better” after talking to you for your time spent with them to have value.
Don’t ramble should you decide to talk. In the moment is not always appropriate for a dump of wisdom or advice.
Be an undistracted listener. When someone is pouring their heart out to you, they are offering all of their vulnerability. Your phone, lunch plans, other people talking are not important in that moment. Obviously, emergencies happen.
Be sensitive to what hurts them. It may not sound like a huge deal to you, or you may not relate. But just because you don’t “feel” what they do doesn’t mean you have an out to not listen.
Be careful. Unless you are a trained counselor, or pastor don’t make recommendations that you aren’t licensed to.
Be proactive. I can’t believe I even have to say this… but I do. When someone has opened up to you about their hurt, you are responsible to be their friend. Be decent and call, or text them and tell them you are thinking about them and that they aren’t alone. So many times in my experience I have opened up to someone at Church and then I don’t hear from them again until we’re at Church the next week. PSA- loving others should happen outside the walls of the Church Monday-Saturday.
Listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Go reach out if you should, and don’t if you shouldn’t. If you are unclear and can’t discern what you should do, go ask someone with the gift of discernment to pray for you for direction. Then, be obedient. Side notes, I have missed opportunities to reach out because of fear, and that’s not right. And I know there are plenty of moments when I need someone but they aren’t being obedient in reaching out- and you guys, that hurts. Listen to the Spirit, and be obedient. It’s simple.
So, back to my first paragraph. Jarrid’s article was beautiful and simple- stop telling people to pray more. People- that is so hollow, so unloving, and so not compassionate. I realize the reason that answer happens is because there are so many Christians walking around emotionally broken. So many believers can’t reconcile their emotional self with their spiritual self. I believe that causes responses like “you should pray harder”.
This quote is from the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero…
Few Christians committed to contemplative spirituality integrate the inner workings of emotional health. At the same time few people committed to emotional health integrate contemplative spirituality. Both are powerful, life-changing emphases when engaged in separately. But together they offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface. When the emotional health and contemplative spirituality are interwoven together in an individual’s life, a small group, a church, a university fellowship, or a community, people’s lives are dramatically transformed. They work as an antidote to heal the symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality.
- Evaluate your responses to people, or lack of responses to people. Could you do better? If so, what is holding you back? Do you possibly have to reconcile your own emotional issues?
- Read the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. It really is something all believers should read.