Help for helpers

If you’re caring for someone who’s struggling…

  1. Don’t try to be the Messiah, (that job’s taken).  You can’t make it all better. But you can reach out as a friend – someone with your own struggles; who wants to walk alongside them, not pat them on their head.
  2. Count the cost.  If you want to help someone long-term, what will that mean for you?  What boundaries do you need to set?  What can you provide and what support do you have?
  3. Stay in the light. As you walk with those in the dark, you will need to nurture your own spiritual flame. How will you remind yourself of the gospel and focus on Jesus?
  4. Look to your own heart. Your friend’s issues may bring up issues for you too. Give yourself space and time to process them; ideally with a trusted friend. As your own feelings are stirred, how will you bring your own brokenness and sadness to Jesus and to others?
  5. Give them space to talk. Don’t shut them down, (whether with Bible verses or stories of your own experience or positive thoughts or advice).  Listen. Let them know you hear them and you’re not afraid. Be curious.  Reassure them that they’re not *weirdcrazyboringaburden..* and that what they’re saying is clear.
  6. You don’t need ‘the answers’. If you don’t know why something is happening or the way out, then say so.  You don’t need to defend God, you don’t need to solve all the problems, you don’t have to silence their doubts, and you don’t have to make them feel better.  For many, the worst has already happened: and you are still here.
  7. Don’t try to enforce change. If they’re acting out, don’t try to disarm them.  Remember, they’ve developed (bad) coping mechanisms because they needed help – and at one time, those things worked.  Instead of forcing them to change, encourage them to see that they no longer need these crutches.  There are other ways of coping and with help, they can be learned.
  8. Educate yourself about what they’re facing and ask questions if you don’t understand.
  9. Respond with truth Don’t be afraid to weep with those who weep and to call things what they are: evil, wrong, unfair, cruel. But even in this, speak of the love of Jesus and the grace that covers over what has been torn apart.
  10. Be a gracious presence. Gently correct them when they call themselves names or blame themselves for past mistakes.  Those mistakes are already paid for. In Jesus they are precious, forgiven and made new; as are you.


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5 thoughts on “Help for helpers

  1. Bypassing the great firewall (ha) to say that this list is on point – and thank you for practicing what you preach. thank you for never patting me on the head (metaphorically), for cutting through all my mental noise (Me: I’m weirdcrazyboringaburden and probably quite rubbish and useless .. / Emma: you’re not rubbish, that’s the noise in your head when you’re tired)

    And #6! You’re definitely #6. Haha I’m not even sure how you’re still replying after almost 2 years of one sided convo mumblings(!), but I appreciate it – you haven’t run away! And the replies still come (!!) And #10 too – ” In Jesus they are precious, forgiven and made new; as are you.” When you tell them to me (& others), I hope you remember it is as true for you too :-)

  2. Thanks, this is really important stuff to remember.

    Especially #2 (setting good boundaries for the long haul). This is so hard for me to remember and maintain. I tend to see so many things as “EMERGENCY!!”, and my good boundaries are likely to go out the window. The costs of missing this vital step can be huge.

    Also #9, (Respond with truth) Easy to water down and lie, easy to slap hard with the raw truth when I’m hurt. Much harder to speak truth in love.

  3. Hi Emma!
    Can you recommend any good books, such as give good advise like the above?
    This article is so helpful.

  4. Hi Trish

    For books on serving without burning out – ‘Refuel’ by Kate Middleton; ‘Serving without sinking’ (John Hindley, Good Book Co) and Peter Brain ‘Going the Distance’…Love to hear more recommendations..

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