In one of my workshops, I use this cry for help: “I hurt and I feel no one is there. No one I can talk to—no one who will listen—no one who will bear my burden. I feel lonely, fearful and sad. I feel tired and unwanted. I know there’s something better—I’m about to give up. Will you help me? Could you come alongside me? But, can I trust you? Will you be condescending and humiliate me? Oh, I so need your help. Can you show me respect? Can you understand me without belittling me? Guide me without judging? Listen without dictating? Can you offer me hope? Can you live out God’s love to me? Can you show that you really care?”
In order to show we care, we need to be available to others and we need to take time to listen to what is occurring in the lives of those we seek to serve. The latter, listening with the desire to help, is probably the more difficult.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us:
"Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies." (Life Together, p. 57)
We need to include in our agendas time for those in need and not ignore their suffering. Proverbs 18:14 says, “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” And in Philippians 2 the apostle Paul shares, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In order to comfort others, we have to get close to them and not be fearful of that contact. We need people who will not attempt with a “quick fix” to take our pain away but will have the spiritual and mental toughness to walk with us in the suffering.
I encourage deacons to be observant, especially on Sundays. Be on the lookout for members who need help or have been prayed for during the week. “Seek them out,” I say, “as you have the chance. Greet them, speak to, encourage and pray with them.” Count this opportunity as visitation—bring hope and establish a basis for follow-up. At future diaconal meetings, each deacon can share how he or she brought hope and made a difference in someone’s life.
We deacons are in a position to provide people with healthy fellowship and draw them into the unity of the church. We are catalysts for healing. By being with those who suffer, we are able to really help and not just help in the abstract.
How will you make a difference in someone’s life this week? What can you share to encourage others?