Chances are good that you know someone who is in trouble. Battered by circumstances or weighed down by discouragement, this person you know may feel as if he or she is at wit’s end and may even be asking the question, “Why is God letting this happen to me?” And it may occur to you that the hand of God has placed you in the life of this individual to encourage or help.
One thing you certainly DON’T want to do is to offer trite or glib remarks that patronize the pain or suffering of the other. For example, one might say to the other that the Lord never gives us more hardship than we can bear. While well intended, it doesn’t enter into the pain of the other nor does it acknowledge the fact of his or her desperation. In fact, it isn’t even correct biblically.
What the Lord doesn’t let us have more of than we can handle is temptation. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV).
Someone being told that God doesn’t permit circumstances in her life that she cannot handle may result in the unhappy effect of bitterness or despair, especially when she is overwhelmed with a hurt or loss that just doesn’t go away. So what perspective can you share with another who is suffering? What is the truth of the matter that brings hope and strength in such times of utter brokenness?
Simply this. That God will ultimately bring about His deliverance in the life of the one who will trust Him and persevere because of hope in Him.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, Who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV).
So what can we say about hardship and suffering that isn’t the result of sin or selfishness on our part, but seem instead to be allowed by God for either no reason or reasons known only to God? First we recall to mind that “God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Second, we remember that while our Lord will permit us to exhaust all our resources, expend all our strength, and even forfeit all our hopes and dreams, He is merely clearing the way in our hearts for His deliverance, His strength, and eternal rewards that infinitely dwarf our meager hopes and shallow dreams. Indeed, “He has delivered us from… deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:810 NIV).
So if this God can deliver us from the deadly peril of our sin through the atoning sacrifice of His Son, can we not count on Him to “hold onto us” through the trials and tribulations that He permits in our lives? “He Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV).
No, I’m not suggesting that you “wax on and on” theologically when keeping company with the hurting, but knowing what God says in His Word does empower you to simply say to the hurting one, as your tears mingle with theirs, “Hold on to Jesus. Trust God through this. He understands and weeps with you, too.”
But do not be an encourager in word only. As a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement, be an encourager in deed, too. Be creative and be ready to go beyond what is necessary to be the friend this other may need. Cards, help with errands or chores, or thoughtful gestures that remind this friend or acquaintance that they’re not alone may be all it takes for him or her to continue to cling to the hope that only Jesus can provide.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead” (James 2:15-17 NIV). So, stay on the lookout and let God make you a source of true encouragement today.
"the Lord never gives us more hardship than we can bear...this isn't even biblically correct." Well, you've no idea how long I've wanted to say this myself and yet had no release to pen those words. How I breathed a sigh of relief that it had been said. Now, since you have requested a critique, here goes. Read this out loud to yourself, it's better to read it to another, then see if the tempo of the piece compliments the message or takes away from it. This is loaded with emotion, rightly so, but the wording just seems stoic. That is, it sounded somewhat like someone trying to describe a pristine waterfall and all they had at hand to do that was a box of Saltines. It's hard work, I realize that, but , you asked for it. Always a pleasure to read your work; I find myself nowadays looking for familiar names on the list before I look at titles and I smiled when I saw your name. Keep writing!