Everyone encounters people who go through hard times, struggles, conflicts, and tragedies. All of us experience them at one time or another as well. It is just part of the human experience, and while some of it can be avoided, all of it never can be. Sometimes we can see it coming a mile away, other times not so much.
A couple weeks ago a woman came into our church building in the middle of the day in hysteria. Tears were pouring down her face, her breathing was out of control, and she could hardly get a sentence out. She was at the end of her rope and anyone that spent more than a minute with her knew it. She came in to see Keith. Keith was out making hospital visits, so I stepped in and tried to help this woman get back on balance. Once I got her calmed down she said that she had just gotten on her bike, had no idea where she wanted to go, and somehow she end up at our church and wanted to talk and get help.
Many of us (myself included often) would be intimidated to have such a situation thrown in our lap. We don’t know how to view someone in the midst of struggle. Sometimes it is innocent; we are just ignorant and don’t know how to be helpful. Other times it is less than innocent; we make judgments of their character and assume we can’t help them because all their problems are results of their sins and bad decisions. Either way, we don’t feel the desire or the competency to help.
In his book Cross Talk: Where Life & Scripture Meet Michael Emlet provides a practical perspective on how to view the hurting people in your life. He says we must view them holistically as Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners in order to get a full picture of what is going on. So when you encounter the hurting, consider the following…
*What evidence of God’s grace can you see working in their life?
*In what ways can you see the person living out their identity in Jesus?
*How does the person show the character of Jesus in their words and deeds?
*What situational stressors is this person facing? (physical ailments, relationship problems, circumstances, social/cultural problems, etc.)
*What are the events in the person’s life that have shaped them the most?
*How has this person been sinned against?
*How do this person’s problems playing out in their life? What are the problems affecting? (home life, school or work performance, etc.)
*What desires, thoughts, emotions, and actions is this person experiencing that are not in line with the gospel?
*What themes and interpretations of life does this person accept that are contrary to the gospel?
If you can look at a person holistically from all these angles, you can begin to make sense of what is going on. Its not always easy, but I think this is an excellent approach as you begin to put the puzzle together.
I finished Cross Talk: Where Life & Scripture Meet this morning. It is a fairly short, easy read that takes a dab of hermeneutics and mixes it with one's counseling approach. The thrust of the book is to show those who work with hurting people how you can practically use the scriptures as a tool to help bring hope and healing. It’s a pretty good book if you are looking for a basic introduction to the topic. Check it out.