So far this week, we’ve talked mainly in terms of personal storms. But to wrap up, let’s switch gears and explore what it looks like to love others well when they are in the midst of their own storms. As today’s verse so clearly states, as followers of Jesus, we are called to carry each other’s burdens. Not only that, but take a closer look at what Jesus told His disciples in John 15:12—“Love each other as I have loved you.” He didn't just say “love each other.” He said, “love each other as I have loved you.” In those words, the standard of love is raised, and this applies to us as well. The way we love others and how we carry their burdens matters. Here are some things that will help us do this well:
- Validate. One of the most helpful things we can do for people who are struggling is to validate the difficulty of what they are going through and how they are feeling. We don’t need to try to change their perspective or make them look at their situation in a more positive light. More often than not, people just need us to meet them in their pain and sit with them in it.
- Listen actively. One of the first things you learn in counseling classes is the importance of active listening, which entails not only paying attention to someone’s words, but responding in a way that reflects understanding. Your friend doesn’t need you to be an expert on their situation and offer the perfect advice; they just need to feel seen and heard by you.
- Embrace silence. You don’t always need to say something. In fact, many times, it’s better to not. Again, people just need us to sit with them in their pain. Silence might feel a little awkward, but sometimes, our presence is often the only thing needed.
- Offer specific ways of helping. In the midst of overwhelm, people don’t always know what they need, so offering help in specific ways can often be better than asking, “What can I do?” For example, “Would you like me to come over tonight and bring you dinner?”
- Pray for and with them. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b, NIV). People who are suffering often struggle to find words to say to God, so interceding on their behalf—especially while you are with them—may mean more to them than you will ever know.