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For many of us, life can be described as an intricate interaction of good times and bad. The overused metaphor of a rollercoaster springs to mind and I am sure many would agree with the with the illustration it provides when it comes to the ups and downs we all experience. Life is filled with moments of joy, love, and happiness, right alongside times of sadness, difficulty and trials. There is this deep intermingling of joy and sorrow in the life of a Christian.

God has blessed us with all these highs and lows. Every moment is a moment that has been given to us by Him. How then do we move through those times of hardship? What do we do when we find ourselves suffering? What do we do when we see that neediness and suffering of a brother or sister in Christ?

It can be hard to know where to turn or what to do, especially when the challenges are so very big and heavy. God has created us so that we live in a close and intimate relationship with him and our fellow man. When we hold onto this knowledge, moving through difficult times looks like reaching out and crying out to God, it looks like asking for help from those he has placed in our lives, it means finding strength from outside of ourselves. When we turn that around to supporting others, we see that as a call to reach out in compassion, offering care and support in ways that it is needed.

 

Body of Christ

In Ephesians 4, Paul exhorts us to walk in unity with each other, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. United by the Spirit, we have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Pet 3:8). These are just some examples of what the New Testament has to say about the unity of the church as the body of Christ. Together as one body, the pain and hurt of one person, or one part is the pain and hurt of the others. As the body of Christ we rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). As a member of the church of Christ, no one is ever alone in their hardship and struggles.

 

Asking for Help

So, what does it look like to ask for help when we are struggling? How do we reach out?

Asking for help involves a whole lot of humility. Our sinful, human pride does not like to admit that we are struggling or in need of help. We would much rather that everyone think that everything is going great, even when things really are not. Acknowledging our burdens to each other is never easy but it is worth it.

One place that we find an example of this is in the ministry of Paul. He knew what it meant to need God and to need others and in many of his letters, Paul asked for the prayers of his readers (Col. 4:3, Eph. 6:19-20, 1 Cor. 1:10-11, 1 Thess. 5:25). He knew that he was not able to do anything in his own strength and was not embarrassed by being in need. He knew how dependent he was on the God’s strength for everything (2 Cor. 12:10). In the same way we too can approach others and share our needs and struggles, asking them to pray for us and support us in our need.

God’s strength is found in our weakness. When we acknowledge our weaknesses, we see how strong God is. In our mess and brokenness we see the strength of his grace, love and care. It is in these moments that we are able to see how much we need God and how much we need people around us.

I would like to encourage you to ask for prayers from those in your closest circle, to reach out to them and let them see your weakness. Be real, be open, be vulnerable. In our moments of honesty and vulnerability, we grow closer in our relationships with God and with each other. 

 

Offering Help

What about when people approach us for help? How do we respond when someone does open up to us? How do we show compassion and care to those who are struggling?

Caring for, responding to and walking alongside someone who is suffering, requires us to love without bounds. To love with the same love God has shown us.  Let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7). This love feeds our compassion, our kindness and humility (Col 3:12-15). Love and care for the souls of those around us then guides the actions and words that follow. 

Prayer is also essential in walking alongside someone who is suffering. We are never fully equipped to provide the support that someone needs, prayer is what leads us to the real source of our strength. Prayer reminds us that God is in control of every situation. During times of trouble we can pray for each other. Asking, “How can I pray for you?” provides opportunity to get closer to the real things of life. When someone is real and open about their struggles, pray with each other. At the end of the conversation, or even in the middle, respond to the vulnerability and pain that has been exposed by bringing it before our Almighty God, acknowledging His power and sovereignty in the situation and putting your trust in Him.  

 

Recommended Reading

There is so much more that can be said about this topic, especially when it comes to caring for others wisely. It is an area we all need encouragement in. The following books are a great start for more information.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in need of Change Helping People in Need of Change 
By Paul Tripp

No matter how inadequate we may feel, God still uses us to help others change. Paul Tripp explains the biblical principles of how God uses the body of Christ to grown and change each other. He explores how we are all tools for Christ and outlines how we can point others to the ‘Wonderful Counsellor’.

Purchase from Pro Ecclesia

Side by Side: Walking with others in Wisdom and Love
By Ed Welch

Ed Welch explores how we are to come alongside fellow believers and friends, and what we can do to reach out with a helping hand. It is a book filled with practical advice on how we are to first open up and share our burdens with others, and secondly how we can support and encourage others with their burdens.

Purchase from Pro Ecclesia

Just Show Up: the dance of walking through suffering together
By Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn

Kara Tippetts wrote this book along with her best friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn, while battling terminal cancer. By the use of personal anecdotes and drawing from their own experience, these women share what it means to show up and walk alongside each other in times of suffering.

Purchase from Pro Ecclesia

Caring for one Another: 8 ways to cultivate meaningful relationships
By Ed Welch

In this book, Ed Welch outlines how we can move towards each other in our suffering and deepen our relationships. It is short and ideally structured to be moved through in a small group or bible study environment. The goal is that meaningful relationships become a part of everyday church life.

Purchase from Pro Ecclesia