Care First

Over the years, I’ve met with people who gave up on the church when they were left out in a time of personal crisis. I myself experienced a personal crisis, and from this I came to the conclusion that God’s call for us in these times is to Care First.

On June 17, 2002 I experienced the devastation of my apartment building due to a fire set by an arsonist. In more recent days, the USA experienced a disaster with the hurricane Katrina left many victims homeless. Throughout our lives, there may be many others who find themselves in personal crisis, disaster or catastrophe:

  • The single person who’s going through a romantic breakup

  • The person experiencing rejection by a friend

  • The adult receiving shocking news of a deserting spouse

  • The person and family experiencing the death in the family or among their friends

  • The person or family going through job loss

  • The person’s or family’s loss of dwelling

Each of these people and families will need to start a recovery and rebuilding process in their lives. At these times their fellow believers need to take care that their words and actions are a help and demonstrate the wise love of Christ. Otherwise they can, through senseless words and actions, become an annoyance at best,or a hindrance or even a stumbling block. My view is that the call for Christlike love calls each believer to Care First.

  • Ask for Information to Find Where the Need and the Pain Is

    The wrong reactions are to ask for information out of curiosity or even, more perversely, to be looking for something to correct or criticize.

    The call of scripture is for believers to care and love whether someone has made mistakes or acted contrary to wisdom or their expectations. There is no ‘escape clause’ for any believer to think, say or act in a way that implies that he or she can withhold the love and compassion of Christ from a fellow believer who is hurting because that believer may have made some contribution to his or her troubles through their own mistakes, lack of wisdom, or choosing not to follow someone else’s advice.

    I personally found that the most common question that I had from anyone after the fire in my apartment building was, “Did you have insurance?” In my life, I’ve made the personal choice to err on the side of honesty and candor, and answered the question this way: “No, but I have sufficient personal funds to take care of my personal losses.” And indeed my personal needs in those times were not financial, but for others to offer a brief word of sympathy at the least. A more pointed answer would have been, “Why do you ask? So what if I did or didn’t? Do we trust God in the time of emergencies? Do we refuse to pray with and and care for those who are going through a hard time because of a technicality?” The kind of help that I could have used at that time would have been simple things, like helping with laundry and cleaning out the old apartment.

  • Allow Others to Hurt and Recover in God’s Time

    The worst speech to give a person in the process of recovery and rebuilding is the ‘get over it’ speech. In fact, that’s pretty much what the person is actually trying to do. That person will get back to normal life and work eventually. But in the meantime, there is still the need to deal with the shock, the hurt, the pain, the losses, and to adjust to the often radical changes that are necessary. This simply cannot happen according to the timetable of another person. The person working his or her way out of a personal catastrophe or crisis will often be in shock, living moment by moment for a while during the early stages of the rebuilding process. These kinds of speeches are simply cruelty to someone in that situation.

  • Open Your Heart

    Let words of caring and compassion come from your heart. A person in crisis does not need any grandiose, solves everything answers — and you probably don’t have the wisdom or insight to offer them. Offer a brief word of sympathy — “I’m sorry to hear about that” or “I’m sorry that that happened to you.” A brief prayer of faith, hope and encouragement is also often welcome if the other person is comfortable with that at the moment.

  • Open Your Arms

    Sometimes a person in crisis needs a physical demonstration of caring. Provide a hug of comfort and be a caring presence. Note that Jesus often gave his touch to those in need of physical healing, and these were often the most physically repulsive. Be the arms of Jesus in that situation.

  • Open Your Home

    Sometimes those in personal crisis or catastrophe need a place to stay. Be ready to provide temporary housing for those in need, and treat that person as an honored guest. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it“ (Hebrews 13:2).

  • Open Your Hands

    The process of recovery and rebuilding from a crisis may have many small tasks, and the number of tasks may seem overwhelming to one person. Be ready help with these tasks of rebuilding. Be careful, though, not to jump to conclusions about what another person may need. Show up with a helping hand, ask what needs to be done, offer to help with whatever you can. Great skills and deep insights are not what is often needed, but more often simply the heart and availability of someone who is willing to be serve for the sake of Jesus.

  • Open Your Wallet

    Although many people in personal crisis do not need money, some do need financial help from their brothers and sisters in Christ. As I have written, this was not my personal need in the situation with the fire in my apartment building, and I didn’t seek one penny from any church or fellow believer. But for those who are in need, give sensibly, and don’t treat this as an opportunity to unload secondhand junk.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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