The Burden of Shame

April 14, 2016

Who am I, God?

April 14, 2016

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

April 14, 2016

Have you ever seen one of those romantic comedies or reality shows where the guy proposes to the girl without even knowing what her answer is going to be?!?! Boggles my mind. Seriously, the… courage/tenacity/gall… gumption, maybe? Whatever it is that propels them forward and causes them to open themselves up in such a vulnerable way is completely baffling to me. When my husband proposed to me, we had been talking about marriage for months. The time and date of his proposal surprised me, but the question did not. And that’s exactly how I wanted it!

I like surprises as much as most people but I absolutely hate surprise reactions. The idea of talking to someone about something big, something real, and not knowing how they are going to react is terrifying to me. If I can at all predict how a person is going to respond or what their answer is going to be I am significantly more comfortable. And I suspect I’m not the only one.

I wrote the other day about how I had sinned, and even though I knew God had forgiven me, I was overwhelmed with shame. I told how in the midst of that shame I did something revolutionary for me, I told someone about what was going on. I talked about how important it is for us to be able to share our burdens with trusted people, and how God’s word actually calls us to do just that. But I have to say, I never would have been able to confess to someone if I wasn’t reasonably sure of what their response was going to be. Opening myself up like that, making my heart so very vulnerable, is such a scary thing; so scary in fact, that I had only done it a few times in my entire life.

But the truth is, God has called us to walk this Christian life together. He had told us to confess to one another and to carry each other’s burdens. And if he has told us to do that, then we need to start doing it! Perhaps, though, we can make it a bit easier on each other if we can agree on how to respond when someone shares with us about their struggle with sin?

So here are some preliminary thoughts I had on how to respond if someone confesses to you their struggle with sin…

1: Respond don’t React: I heard someone say this once, I don’t remember who, but I thought it was so profound. Reactions tend to be impulsive, emotional, and are almost always based in defensiveness. Responses, on the other hand, are more thoughtful. When someone is being vulnerable with you, it is imperative that you respond with a calm grace rather than a knee-jerk emotion. Choose now how you will respond should someone gift you with their honest hurts.

2: Relate: My pastor has a saying that I LOVE. He says, “Anyone is capable of any sin at any time.” The idea is this, don’t judge someone harshly for a sin that you yourself are just as capable of committing given the right circumstance. Instead, reach into yourself and try to understand, even a bit, what is going on in their life and heart. I may not struggle with addiction, but I do understand feeling overwhelmed and wanting to escape for a time; I get that, and even a little empathy goes a long way.

3: Repeat the truth of Scripture: It is easy to think that speaking the truths of Scripture will seem trite or like a band-aid response, but, if done with empathy and grace, that is far from the truth. When a person is struggling, what they need most is to be reminded of who they are in God’s eyes. Remind them, over and over again, that they are loved, chosen, forgiven, whole, a child of God, sanctified, justified, etc. Not sure where to start? I’d recommend Ephesians 1!

4: Point them to help: There are some things that you may not be fully equipped to deal with. That’s ok. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to show them that it’s ok to seek help from someone trained to do just that. With compassion, help them connect with someone who will help them. A pastor or a counselor is a great place to turn.

5: Pray: I cannot say this strongly enough. There is so much power in prayer. Go before your heavenly father on their behalf. Pray for them over and over again, knowing that “… the prayers of a righteous person has great power…” James 5:16

6: Follow Up: Call them, pull them aside when you see them next, write them a note/text/email, do something to let them know that you are still praying for them. Ask them how they are doing? Did they get the help you talked about? Show them how seriously you take the honor of them opening up to you; it wasn’t easy for them and they need to know that you take it seriously.

It is such a privilege to have someone share their heart with us. Start thinking now about how you will act should the opportunity arise for you to do just that. When that time comes, know that you are not alone; your Heavenly Father, who has called you to this, will equip you with everything good for doing his will (Heb 13:21)!

I hope these thoughts helped. If you have any to add, let me know in the comments. After all, bearing each other’s burdens is all about living life together; I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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