A note from Kelly King: Last week, Deb Douglas began a three-part look at ways to help hurting families. In part two, Deb takes a closer look at how we respond to hurting people.
Last week, we began with a list of ways families are suffering from heartaches in this messy world. (You can read that article by clicking here.) Today we will continue with a look into our personal responses when helping hurting families.
At times we shy away from helping others. Maybe it is because our own lives are complicated, or maybe it’s because we do not feel equipped and ready to help.
What prevents us from helping people who are hurting?
- We do not know what to say.
- Solution: Hurting people need a listening ear, a hug, and the presence of someone who cares more than words.
- We do not want to become involved.
- Solution: Pray, asking for:
- Discernment for when to help and when not to
- Boldness to become involved when you should
- A heart of compassion
- Solution: Pray, asking for:
- We do not want to put our own families at risk.
- Solution: Pray for wisdom in determining which situations you should intervene in and which you should not. When helping hurting families, there are some forms of messiness that you need to refer on to someone else.
- Solution: Be sure to protect your family’s time and resources by creating good boundaries.
- We fear for our personal safety.
- Solution: Be bold enough to step away when your personal safety is at risk. A few weeks ago, a husband and wife came to me for counseling. The husband began physically poking my leg and shouting. I rarely feel fearful, but this man was out of control. I stood up and told them to leave my office. The shock of me doing so encouraged them to comply.
- Solution: Sometimes God calls us into dangerous situations. Be prepared:
- Take someone with you.
- Alert others to your plans and location.
- Keep a cell phone handy.
- Pray before you go!
- We fear our lack experience will make the situation worse.
- Solution: Realize that you are not alone when you step out in faith to help the hurting. Prepare before the event through prayer and knowing local resources for help.
- Solution: Do what you know how to do. Recruit help in areas that you are not equipped or prepared.
- Minister to the heart, mind, body, and soul of the hurting family.
- Meet practical needs (more about this next week!)
- Respect your own limitations. Instead of counseling beyond your abilities or training, refer them to a qualified counselor.
- Ask for help from others. By doing so you share the joy of serving, and you better help the hurting families.
There is another end of the spectrum of helping others: sometimes we do too much. When we become the controller or the fixer of problems instead of the one helping to point to solutions, we create other problems.
How do you know when you have crossed boundaries and become too involved in fixing the problems of others?
- Spending more time with the hurting family than your own
- Feeling guilty when you are not with the hurting family
- Strategizing how you can do without in order to meet all the needs of the hurting family
- Not involving others in helping the hurting family and trying to do it all on your own
- Finding yourself talking more about the hurting family than you do our own
Does all this sound complicated? Or too hard to fit into your already bulging schedules and lives? Probably so! But somehow, when we take the time to follow Christ into ministering in the messy, it all works out. Maybe it is because He changes our priorities and perspectives. Or maybe we see that the world is a much bigger place than just our own problems. But I believe it is because as we minister in the messy, we see God work in amazing ways in the lives of others and in our own lives.
In week 3 of this series on ministering in the messiness of hurting families, we will look at practical ways to help without turning our own lives into messy ones.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.