I watched a TV show called “Focus on the Family” today. They were discussing Christians doing spontaneous things to put joy in others lives. The woman who was on the show said, that Christians don’t do spontaneous things for others simply to bring joy into their lives.
She gave an example of her family making a big present for their postman. He was so touched that a few days later he told her when dropping off her mail that no one had ever done something like it in the 30 years he delivered mail. She said he was visibly moved.
This got me thinking about how as a Christian not only don’t I always look for the opportunity to lift others up in this manner or when another Christian express that they are not having a good day, but I actually find it awkward. Why is that?
I started thinking about this question. I realised I find it awkward because I don’t know what to do or say. I also, feel somehow that it’s not my business. But is that right? Well….No.
The bible says:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”1 Thessalonians 5:11
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building”. Romans 14:19
From these passages I have to conclude that as a Christian I am to work to build other Christians up. I believe that means when a person starts talking about what is troubling them, I need to silently pray for the Lord to give me the right words to comfort them. I also need to remember that the Lord could have placed the person in my path to help them as best I can. The best way I can, may only mean by listening to them.
I think that too many Christians either don’t say what is actually bothering them, or as Christians we don’t ask other what is wrong because we are not sure we will be able to comfort or help them. I know that I have refrained from telling others what is actually troubling me for fear that they will not be comfortable. I have also refrained from asking others what is troubling them because I didn’t feel confident I would be comfortable hearing their troubles, or know how to help them.
But, that really means I am not asking the Lord to guide me. I know that I found the best comfort came from those that didn’t try to comfort me with some kind of generic reply, but were honest even if all they said was “I don’t know what you are going through, but I will listen”. When my daughter moved away, I felt great loss. It felt “not right” like something was stolen from me. Many well meaning people said “well, she is going to leave home soon anyway so try to view it that way” or “She would be going to college in the fall anyway, so really you are only dealing with this early”… Not helpful… I felt like no one understood. Then my husband and a friend said to me “I don’t know how you feel right now, but I know it’s not fair, and I don’t know when it will get better, but you’re allowed to be upset and hurt”. Both said this to me (funny right? great minds think alike). That was way more helpful. I actually felt heard.
My pastor explained to me that an experience a person goes through gives them “earned authority” in that area. That “earned authority” allows us to speak into others people’s lives with honest understanding. I have many areas of “earned authority”. I am using my blog as a way to speak into others lives with my own “earned authority”. When I first was told about this, I said to my pastor “well I don’t really need any more earned authority, so I would love the Lord to stop giving me more”. But, after speaking into the lives of others myself, I now see the value of having gone through all the things I have, because I was able to empathise, and give comfort with honest understanding.
I believe that understanding ones “earned authority” is the key to knowing how to respond to others pain with sincerity. But, even if we don’t have earned authority in the area someone is troubled in, we can still comfort them by responding with honesty. I know that I appreciate people being honest and saying that they don’t understand rather than say some flip comment to say something.
As a Christian I need to work at responding from my own experience, and if I haven’t experienced what the person is going through I need to be honest and say I am willing to listen even though I have never gone through something similar. Jesus didn’t go through what the prostitutes, thieves or money lenders did but he still listened with an empathetic ear. What earned authority do you have that you can speak into others lives about? So, that is what I need to do. I plan to reflect on what other areas I gained earned authority so that I am aware of where I can help others.