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How to help someone if they are sad


“The truth is, most of us are uncomfortable with sadness, as individuals and as churches. We want to fix people and help them to feel better, and we are far less patient than God is with the process he uses to bring healing.”  That is what Nancy Guthrie says in an interview someone sent to me recently.

A few more quotes from Guthrie:

“For a church to be a safe place for sad people does not merely mean that we offer comfort and acceptance. Sometimes it means that we gently but boldly challenge misbeliefs or misunderstandings of Scripture.”

“While we make room for people to be sad, we want to walk with people in expectation that God will indeed do a work of healing in their lives so that they do not stay stuck in their sadness, but emerge from it strengthened in their confidence in God, deepened in their understanding of the Scriptures, and equipped to serve others.”

Guthrie says, “Grieving people have four primary needs that the church has a key role in addressing:

  1. They have intense sadness that is lonely and lingering that needs to be respected.
  2. They have significant questions that need to be addressed in light of Scripture.
  3. They have broken relationships that need to be healed and normalized.
  4. They have a deep desire to discover some meaning and purpose in their loss.”

Related to Guthrie’s article is one by Ajith Fernando, “To Serve is to Suffer” in which he writes, “We call our churches and Christian organizations “families,” but families are very inefficient organizations. In a healthy family, everything stops when a member has big needs. We are often not willing to extend this commitment to Christian body life.”

Fernando’s article is hard hitting for those wanting to serve but who do not want to suffer!  More from Fernando,

“When people leave a church because they do not fit the program, it communicates a deadly message: that our commitment is to the work and not to the person, that our unity is primarily in the work and not in Christ and the gospel. The sad result is that Christians do not have the security of a community that will stay by them no matter what happens. They become shallow individuals, never having true fellowship and moving from group to group. Churches committed to programs can grow numerically, but they don’t nurture biblical Christians who understand the implications of belonging to the body of Christ.”

Here is a quote that is particularly painful for me to read,

“I get the strong feeling that many in the West think struggling with tiredness from overwork is evidence of disobedience to God. My contention is that it is wrong if one gets sick from overwork through drivenness and insecurity. But we may have to endure tiredness when we, like Paul, are servants of people.”

In response to Fernando’s article and shortly before her husband died, Libby Little wrote A Small Version of the Grand Narrative in which she concluded, “May the fruitful door of opportunity to embrace suffering in service, or at least embrace those who are suffering, remain open for the sake of God’s kingdom.”

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  1. Charlie
    August 18, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I have someone very close to me who is going through a season of loss and it’s accompanying sadness. At times I feel like I am all thumbs in trying to help. Your post has offered some practical ideas. Thanks.

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