Cynthia L. Eppley 12/02/2020
Christmas seems to come earlier each year. Stores put up their trees in August! And we are inundated with ads everywhere.
Smiling faces all aglow—or so it seems, doesn’t it? But there are those for whom this Christmas will be very different.
How do we help those who are struggling?
Understand that even those with the smile pasted on their face may be hurting. There have been major changes this year for us all. Ranging from job and food insecurity, illness, COVID, and loss of loved ones.
Look with eyes of accuracy. Look with our hearts as well as our eyes.
Depression and Anxiety
We may find others in this boat; we may find ourselves. What are some practical steps we can take to reach out?
- Don’t assume.
Because that person has shown up at Services, or work, or responsibilities, don’t assume they are “okay.” And don’t take the “Okay” for a final answer.
“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” Rosaria Butterfield
Many are hanging by a thread. “Pandemic Fatigue” is very real. So ask gently: “How are you doing?” “These days are hard. Have you found that to be true?” “You don’t seem quite yourself. Can I help?”
Sometimes people will say “I’m just fine as long as you don’t ask me how I’m doing.” Tears are not an indication of sorrow that you asked. It is an indication of our humanity and that we may have piqued a tender area that needs our comfort. Open the door to a safe emotional place for them.
2. Offer Vulnerability
“I’m struggling, too! And not much of that is the holiday itself.” “I don’t know how to handle this Christmas; it is so different than anything before!” “My losses are so raw.”
This is the time to listen. And listen more. There IS a time to be silent and a time to speak.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,7
Often the best comfort we can give someone is to be silent.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. James 1:19
Repeating what they have just said may often open the door for more thoughts as they take the risk of offering you their struggles. “I can tell you are hurting.”
Recognizing and affirming them offers credibility.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
Carefully explore their hurt and pain. As we find their story credible, we may ask: “I think I understand; can you tell me more about that?” Or, “I don’t understand. Can you try again?”
6. No Competition
This is not the time for “One up man-ship.” “Oh, I know what you mean! My family has…….” “Yeah, really? Let me tell you……” “You think?” “Duh!”
These answers leave the person feeling defeated and minimized. Affirm their pain and experience. And in doing this, we are loving well.
7. “Tis the Season to Drop Platitudes
Offering advice, especially when you haven’t been asked, tends to fall coldly on weary shoulders. Explore carefully.
And have we really “walked in their shoes?” Do we really understand their situation? We rarely see the whole story.
Often people are like Icebergs: What we see on the top side is only revealing a fraction of the pain that runs deep and strong.
8. The Blame Game
“Should have, would have, and could have” will break us. Blaming others for what they could have done leads to guilt and remorse. Blaming ourselves falls into this category, as well.
Can we offer grace and mercy instead?
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Isaiah 42:3
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
This is the time we celebrate the coming of Jesus into our broken world.
An old Christmas Carol tells us:
“Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, All for love’s sake becamest poor; Thrones for a manger didst surrender, Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour, All for love’s sake becomes poor.”
May we, for love’s sake, become poor to love others well.