Throughout over a decade of ministry, God has allowed me to walk through moments of crisis with many people that I dearly love. Sometimes the crisis comes in the form of the unexpected loss of a loved one. At other times, it comes as a result of the hurt caused by someone close (such an unfaithful spouse, an abusive parent or a rebellious child). The circumstances have all been different, but the pain has all been the same for those who are experiencing it.
It seems like every time I receive one of those dreaded phone calls from someone who is, all of the sudden, facing a traumatic situation in their life, that I pause to pray the same prayer. As I drive to be with the ones who are hurting, at some point I pause to whisper a prayer to the Lord, pleading, “Father, I do not have the ability to help these hurting people or to give them the comfort they need. Please give me the ability to be Your minister. Enable me to give them Your comfort.”
The Lord teaches us to depend on His ability to comfort others. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the Bible says, “Blessed be the God, even the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Simply put, God comforts us so that we will be able (that is, be given the supernatural ability) to comfort others. This is truly the only way you can help others through moments of crisis.
Recently, as the Lord saw fit to have me walk down this road once again, I began to write down some of the things that God has been teaching me about the process. This is by no means an exhaustive study on the subject. It is really just a compilation of some practical truths God has taught me. It is my prayer that these thoughts can be a help to you as you rely on God’s power to enable you to help others through moments of crisis.
So, here are five ways you can be helpful to others through moments of crisis.
Perhaps the most important way you can help others through a moment of crisis is by simply being there. Proverbs 27:10 says, “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.” When the crisis comes, it is indispensably helpful to have someone who is there for you. (This is especially true when a person is far away from the family members. It is better to have someone who is right there with you than someone far away.)
Far more important than having the right words to say is the fact that you are there to say them. Like Ezekiel of old, you must be willing to “sit where they sit.” (Ezekiel 3:15) You must be willing to truly identify with them in their suffering. The Bible instructs us to do so. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” I Corinthians 12:26 says, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.”
Most of the time, I have found that I don’t need to say anything at all. Just be there to listen. Just be there to offer a hug. Just be there for them.
Also, I have found it incredibly helpful and encouraging to read Scripture to people in the moment of crisis. The Word of God offers a measure of comfort unlike anything we are able to offer. As the psalmist put it, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)
Grief is a process. It comes in waves. One moment the waves are mounting high, and you wonder if you will make it through. The next, things seem to be calm and you feel like things are going to be okay. Because of this, understand it takes time for people to process their grief, especially in moments of crisis.
You must learn to be patient with people. Don’t rush them into talking about things they aren’t ready to talk about. Oftentimes, I witnessed people wanting to speak about funeral plans or estate plans to the family of someone who is fighting for their life. There will come a time for such things to be discussed, but right in the middle of the crisis is not one of them.
Also, you must realize that people tend to be more defensive and unthoughtful when they are hurting. As the old saying goes, “Hurting people hurt people.” Sometimes the person who is in crisis will snap back at you or vent their frustrations at you. Don’t take offense to this. Realize that is why you are there — to be a help to them in any way necessary.
I Corinthians 13 gives us a picture of what true love looks like, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind…Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil…Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.” To act in a truly loving way to those in crisis, you must learn to be long-suffering and kind to them.
Galatians 6:10 tells us, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” As believers, we ought to seek every opportunity we can to do good to others, especially those within our own church family. This includes being proactive in finding ways to be helpful in moments of crisis.
One of the most asked question a person receives during a crisis is, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Let’s be honest, while the intentions in asking this question are good, the sentiment is not helpful at all. It just puts the burden on the person in crisis to come up with something to say.
There are so many ways you can help without even having to ask. You can help them with things they don’t need to be burdened with. This may include such things as bringing them a meal or something to drink, doing menial tasks for them or taking care of business you know they will need to take care of but do not need to be burdened with in the moment (like taking care of pets, securing lodging for them or other loved ones, driving them to the airport, etc.).
Be a prayer-warrior.
The Bible refers to the Lord as “the God of all comfort.” Jesus promised us that, when He departed physically from this earth, He would send us a “another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” (John 13:16) God clearly wanted us to know that He is available to comfort us in moments of crisis. This is why the Bible tells us we can “[Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
In the moment of crisis, you must learn to give people the comfort only God can give them. This involves both praying for them and praying with them.
As I minister to people in crisis, I find myself in a continual process of prayer, pleading with God to comfort them and give me wisdom to help them. I have also found it incredibly helpful just to get them into the presence of God. James 5:13 says, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” Why do they need to pray? Because there, in the presence of God, they will discover His peace that far surpasses their need to understand what is taking place. The Bible explains the power of this process so well, when it says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Be a pass-through.
During a time of crisis, there are so many variables to be dealt with. Even as life comes to a screeching halt for those in crisis, it continues to roll on for everyone else. When possible, it is very helpful to put yourself in the position of being a pass-through of information and a coordinator of details on the behalf of the person in crisis (especially if there is not a family member already in place to do so).
Help communicate details to extended family and church family. Oftentimes there are so many people that want updates and information, but they do not want to be a burden to the family. You can be that liaison to help pass information along.
If you stand in this gap, it is also helpful to emphasize to others the importance of giving the family space to process their circumstances. Encourage people not to flood them with questions, but with prayer. People can be so nosy and unthoughtful during moments of crisis, asking questions that they have no business asking. As much as you can, try to ward off such insensitivity on their behalf.
Sometimes it becomes necessary to deal with inconsiderate people on the behalf of those who are in crisis as well (including extended family members). If you sense that someone is hurting more than helping, it can be so helpful to the those in crisis to have someone to step in on their behalf.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Joy Comes in the Morning
In the midst of a moment of crisis, it seems like the dark night will never pass. Yet, eventually the morning comes and the sun begins to rise. As Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
As you seek to support people through their moments of crisis, you can be that ray of morning light that shines on the other side of someone’s dark night. You can be that word of hope to someone facing a seemingly hopeless circumstance. And, in doing so, God can use you to have an eternal impact on the lives of people all for the glory of God.