This post is the eighth in the 'Pitfalls of Christianity' Series. It's a timely reminder about the special calling we have to bear the burdens of those around us. —Editor
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25)
There is many a brave soul sorely pressed by temptation almost ready to faint in the conflict of self and with the power of evil. Do not discourage such a one in his hard struggle. (SC, 120)
God wants us to encourage one another. We should build each other up and not tear down. In Hebrews 10:24 the Bible says, "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works... encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Let’s suppose a student has very little money. Then the devil presents self-pity to him in order to lament his condition. He could become jealous of others. Or another example; a young lady who can’t find a job. In her case the devil tempts her to accept a wrong picture about herself, tempting her to think she is not valued or appreciated unless she can find an occupation. This is an attack of our enemy (see 1 Peter 5:8).
It is part of his strategy to use our lack of something.
As Ellen White notes, there is a pit we fall into. When somebody struggles and we discourage that individual, we miss a crucial trait. Empathy. That’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a talent we must improve. Ellen White states,
"In your association with others put yourself in their place. Enter into their feelings, their difficulties, their disappointments, their joys, their sorrows. Identify yourself with them and then do to them as, were you to exchange places with them, you would wish them to deal with you." (MOB, 134-135).
We naturally lack this emphatic quality. We are focused on ourselves rather than being concerned with the welfare of others.
Let’s consider Jesus’ example. He foresaw our struggle with sin. Mercifully he identified with us and came to our side in order to help us fight the powers of darkness. When we fasten our attention on his behavior towards us, we perceive the rudeness of our conduct with each other. We are harsh and critical because we do not understand the pain and burden we have to bear.
Imagine the sorrow in the home of Job. He and his wife have lost everything dear to them. The shocking news about loss, death and ruin still hang in the air. Suddenly, Job gets really sick. He takes a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sits in the ashes. What is he thinking? How might this man feel? I imagine him being broken and crushed. Silent tears run down inside his heart. He is tired. His body aches. What would you wish somebody does or says to you if you were him? His battle is severe. Job is fighting the purposes of Satan. He desperately needs spiritual support and encouragement. Now, listen to his wife: "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die" (Job 2:9). She becomes the instrument of Satan, because she has failed to strengthen her husband. Her words tempt him to give up. That’s what the enemy wants.
There is another example of a great prophet. He was in deep trouble. After slaying the enemies of God, his own death decree has been decided. He runs for his life. Elijah is exhausted, tired and fearful (see 1 Kings 17:3). What does he wish? He desires to die! But God’s answer is most precious. He sends his angel to strengthen him. First, he touches him. It was a gentle touch, reaching the soul of Elijah. Then he bids him to eat something, showing that he cares for the physical needs. It amazes me, God is so considerate and careful with the weak, anxious and depressed. That’s genuine love.
Here is a practical lesson that relates to these examples.
"Those who are fighting the battle of life at great odds may be strengthened and encouraged by little attentions that cost only a loving effort. To such the strong, helpful grasp of the hand by a true friend is worth more than gold or silver. Words of kindness are as welcome as the smile of angels." (MH, 158)
Now, I’d like to address every person struggling right now. Scripture says, "A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14).
"On the pages of memory are sad histories that are sacredly guarded from curious eyes." (MH, 158)
I don’t know what you are going through right now. However, there was a dark season when I was crushed in my spirit. Thankfully, God sent me a Christian that spoke faith and courage into my life. She helped me to stay on track or rather to get back up again (Proverbs 24:16).
That’s why Christian fellowship is so important; it strengthens us.
Surround yourself with those that believe in God. When you feel as if you are a complete failure, you need a powerful demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Expose yourself to His Word and realise who you are in his eyes. God loves you. You are not alone in this trouble. Meditate on Jesus hanging on the cross. He wants you to believe in his words,
I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Isaiah 49,15b-16, Hebrews 13:5)
I believe God has to purify our lips (Isaiah 6:6 - 7). We have often failed to encourage one another. Paul said, "bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ"(Galatians 6:2). "In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
I will close by asking you three questions:
Do you want to forsake habits that hurt others?
Will you exchange unfitted words by God’s grace?
Would you like to follow Jesus’ example in dealing with burdened or depressed people?
He will teach both you and I how to truly love others. And by his grace we will be changed into the sweet image of Jesus Christ.
Written by Shaina Strimbu