A Season of Suffering

On the last Sunday of January, I interrupted our current sermon series to talk about how suffering affects the church. This initiative came from our Lay Pastors as we identified the number of people in our congregation being directly affected by some very painful circumstances. We concluded that Eagle Heights is experiencing God’s blessing in a season of suffering. At the conclusion of that sermon I attempted to give some helpful advice for sharing the burden with our brothers and sister so that we, like Paul, could be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” I’ll repeat those tips here for your review. Immediately after those comments I’m going to include an article from Luanna. Luanna, of course is one of those in our congregation who is suffering patiently and faithfully. Enjoy. How to encourage: What not to say– “It’s probably for the best.” “Things could be worse.” “You’re strong, you’ll get over it soon.” Or even better: “You think you’ve got it bad, I saw this new TV reality show called ‘worse case scenario and there was this guy . . . .” • Remember we don’t want to try to glorify God by explaining when God wants to be glorified in concealing the matter. Don’t try to say something profound. Joseph Bayly authored a book entitled, The Last Thing We Talk About. Joe and his wife Mary Lou lost three of their children. They lost one son following surgery when he was only 18 days old. Their second son died at age five from leukemia. They lost a third son at age 18 after a sledding accident. He writes, 

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I [already] knew were true. I was unmoved, except I wished he’d go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me for an hour and more; listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply and left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go • Be very careful about saying “I understand.” • Don’t offer unasked for advice. • Offer simple, understanding statements that identify with your friend such as: “I feel for you during this difficult time.” • Say “I’m sorry” but don’t stop there. Add, “I wish I could take the pain away” or something else that your friend can respond to. How to quote the Bible: What not to say– “Hey, guess what I read this morning in my quiet time? Man, this verse was perfect for you. Oh, by the way, I got you this coffee mug with a smiley face on one side and a picture of the cross on the other.” 

The Bible is not a band-aid. Do not go around sticking that favorite verse of yours on suffering believers, believing it will somehow eliminate their pain. Scripture is not aspirin for your suffering friends. Do not say, “Here, take two of these with a cup of tea in your new smiley face mug and call me in the morning.” • Give up the idea that quoting Scripture will eliminate pain • Don’t quote bible verses as a way to correct or minimize feelings (never offer spiritual suggestions from a position of superiority or self-righteousness) • Don’t make promises on behalf of God • Give spiritual encouragement from the heart and include Bible verses that have comforted you at a difficult time. How to help: What not to say– “You know I’m available anytime.” (Click) “Hey I’m really eager to help so if you’ll just make a list of things that someone could do for you, how you’d like them done, and when those things would be considered overdue, I’ll look over the list and pick a couple that I will work for me.” • Begin with thoughtfulness. Ask yourself “What would I need/want in a similar situation?” • Be aggressive without being pushy. Offer specific services that don’t create more work. “I’m on my way to the store. What can I pick up for you?” “Would the children like to come over and play this afternoon.” How can we help? – Luanna Leichliter This may sound a little odd but I am thankful for all of the times I wanted to help someone who was going through a difficult time, but didn’t. I felt awkward and inept. Fearing I would say or do something stupid, I did nothing. It is not that I didn’t care. I was clueless as to where to grab hold. So now that I am in need my feelings are not hurt if someone doesn’t come through for me as I might have hoped. I know they are good willed, they just don’t know what to do. I would like to share a few things that I am learning. Any deed done or word shared out of a loving heart is good! “Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) If you don’t know what would be most helpful, do something you would like someone to do for you. Ask if you can do a specific thing. “Would it be Ok if I came and cleaned your bathrooms?” When someone loves you it is not hard to open up and share what your needs really are and guide them to help in a really beneficial way. Don’t wait till someone is ill or going through some kind of crisis to be helpful. Two friends sorting boxes of pictures, painting a room, or organizing clutter eliminates the drudgery of the task and lifts the spirits like few things can. When you are struggling let someone know that you need help. Anyone you ask for help will feel honored that you felt free to ask. When they are in need they will be much more open to asking for help from you. Scripture is good! Nothing binds up wounds, calms fear, comforts, or gives hope like the truth of the Word of God!! Which verses shall I share? Share passages or verses that are meaningful to you. “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) Prayer is also good! It is a wonderful thing to be supported by the loving prayers of God’s people. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) It is even more special to hear the prayers being spoken. A number of people pray with me over the phone, when they come to visit, or write their prayers in an e-mail. This is an amazing gift!

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