David L. Goetsch
Helping Others Who are Suffering Because of COVID-19 (Psalm 34:18)
A lot of people who have not contracted COVID-19 themselves are still suffering because of it. Some have lost loved ones to the virus; others have lost jobs. Some are struggling with whether to put their children in school; others are struggling because they have no choice in the matter. If they don’t work, their families won’t eat and their bills will go unpaid. COVID-19 is presenting a lot of people with impossible choices. Then you throw in the ever-changing advice from healthcare experts who are really learning as they go, and it is no wonder that so many people are suffering because of COVID-19.
This is why it is so important for Christians to be willing help those who are suffering. Few people in life are appreciated more than those who step forward and help when others are suffering; when they are being crushed by worry, anguish, fear, and uncertainty. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” If you are willing to help people who are hurting, you can be a missionary in carrying out this verse from Scripture. Never forget that God often works through His children.
HELPING OTHERS COPE WITH WORRY, FEAR, AND UNCERTAINTY
Rain falls on sinners and saints alike. Consequently, you are probably no stranger to adversity. In fact, enduring adversity is an integral part of the Christian walk. As Christians, we know that God uses adversity to draw us closer to Him, which in turn strengthens us. Romans 5:3-5 tells us to rejoice in our suffering because suffering leads to endurance, endurance builds character, and character gives hope. These verses summarize how we, as Christians, are supposed to cope with worry, fear, and uncertainty.
But coping with adversity is only half the battle. Christ also expects us to help others cope. Suffering people are our “neighbors” in Christ’s eyes. What follows are several strategies you can use to help friends and neighbors cope with the worry, fear, and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19:
Pray for the person who is struggling. When someone is struggling with adversity, the first step in helping that individual is to pray. Pray that God will comfort and strengthen your neighbor. Pray that God will use the adversity your neighbor is struggling with to turn that individual’s heart to Christ. Finally, pray that God will help you be an effective COVID-19 missionary who shows hurting people a Christ-like response to the tribulations they are facing.
Be there for neighbors who are struggling. People who are struggling with adversity are sometimes inadvertently treated like pariahs. Because their friends don’t know what to say to them or what to do for them, they simply avoid those who are struggling. When they do interact with a hurting friend, they often treat that individual’s pain like the proverbial elephant in the living room. It’s there, but nobody talks about it. Hurting people are sometimes treated as if their pain might be contagious. As a consequence, hurting people often feel abandoned at the very time they need help most. Consequently, when you see that a neighbor is struggling, be there for that individual. Don’t ignore the obvious. Give the hurting person a shoulder to lean on.
Listen to neighbors who are struggling. People often feel tongue-tied around someone who is struggling with adversity. They want to say something helpful, but don’t know what to say. Fortunately, you don’t have to say anything. Instead, just ask if the individual in question needs to talk. Then listen. People who are struggling typically need to unburden themselves, to give voice to their feelings and fears. Just listening without interrupting or trying to solve their problems can be surprisingly helpful to people who are struggling. Often the best medicine for worry, fear, uncertainty, and the other emotions generated by adversity is someone who will listen.
Avoid platitudes and false optimism. Some people respond to those who are struggling by voicing platitudes or being falsely optimistic. “Cheer up. Everything’s going to be alright.” “The pain won’t last; just give it some time. Although these kinds of statements might be true, they are not necessarily helpful to people who are suffering. This is because even though the messages they convey are good, their timing may be bad. The best time for these kinds of messages is down the road when the individual in question is no longer caught in the grip of emotional turmoil.
Be proactive and do specific things that help the struggling neighbor in practical ways. When people are struggling with adversity, even the simplest everyday responsibilities can seem like major burdens or insurmountable obstacles. This is an area where you can be especially helpful. Don’t just say, “If you need help with anything call me.” People who need help most are often the least likely to ask for it. Instead, be proactive. Run errands for your hurting neighbors, prepare meals, clean their house, mow their lawn, wash their car, and help with their kids. Doing practical things for those who are hurting is one of the most effective ways to help them. Just as Christ made a powerful statement by washing the feet of his Apostles, you can make a powerful statement by doing practical things for neighbors who are hurting.
Be patient with neighbors who are struggling. Something that often happens to people who are struggling with adversity is that friends want them to “get over it.” How many times have you heard someone ask questions similar to these? “How long is this going to continue? It’s been two weeks. When is she going to get over it?” People heal in their own time. Give them the time they need. Be patient and keep doing the things recommended in this blog.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.