Walking the Path of Encouragement
Let us not love with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth.
1 JOHN 3:18 (NIV)
We know that comforting those who hurt is difficult and unfamiliar territory. It isn’t easy to step in and help carry the load for a hurting friend. The pitfalls and unexpected turns that line the path of encouragement are unsettling—even frightening. We don’t know what to do or when. We’re afraid of doing or saying the “wrong” thing. We don’t know where to turn for help. This uncertainty causes many would-be encouragers to feel inadequate and to turn back.
Although Jan and I and the Outreach of Hope staff encourage others on a daily basis, we haven’t always known how to do this. There was a time before cancer, before depression, when Jan and I didn’t have a clue. And there are times now when we still don’t know what to do. One time I knew I needed to call a woman whose cancer was terminal, and, even though I have had cancer, I didn’t know what to say to her. My cancer wasn’t terminal and I kept thinking, What do I say to someone who is dying? I was so troubled by my inadequacy that I put off calling her for weeks. When I finally mustered the courage to call her, she had died. In my eyes, I had blown it.
Many others who have tried to share the burdens of those who suffer know how painfully inadequate we are to fully meet their needs. Several years ago our ministry coordinator, Kim Jones, who is experienced in health-care and ministry, was called upon to walk with her friend through a year-long battle with terminal cancer. “My best friend learned how real and loving God could be in the midst of her pain,” Kim explains, “and I learned how inadequate and ill-prepared I was to walk with her through it. School had taught me to use my head, everyday life taught me to use my hands, but nothing had taught my heart how to bear this burden.” Yet God was faithful, and Kim discovered the truth of the saying, “God’s hand will never lead you where His grace cannot keep you.”
Despite our inadequacy, God intends for us to walk with those who suffer and to share His love by bearing one another’s burdens. This is something we each must learn how to do. Our desire is to take those who would be encouragers a little further down the pathway of encouragement. We want to point you in a direction that will help you bear some of the pain that weighs heavily on your friend or loved one. We want to help you discover the actions of love that will encourage and comfort someone who is suffering.
By Dave Dravecky