Retire the Red Cape: How to Help People Who Are Hurting
I remember when I was four years old and received a pair of superhero pajamas (yes, girls can be superheroes too). It came with a cape attached to the back of the shirt. I glided around the house while making whooshing sounds until I tried to “fly” off my bed and ended up hurt and crying on the floor, only to realize I was not a superhero and I had no real superpowers.
Have you ever really wanted to save someone? The dear friend dealing with depression; the family member who is battling cancer; the loved one who cannot seem to catch a break. When we see others hurting, many of us tend to have a desire to swoop in and somehow or some way save the day Instead, however, we must retire the red superhero cape. There is only one Savior, after all, and it is not you.
Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one. (Acts 4:12 MSG)
Watching the people we love suffer can stir up many emotions within ourselves. I cannot stand it; I lose sleep and end up racking my brain for a solution and, when a solution does not come, I become sad and frustrated for my loved one. It is during such times that I cannot help but wonder, "What do you do when someone you love is hurting, suffering, and fighting a seemingly relentless battle?"
You can't save people, you can only love them. -Anais Nin
Love people. Let people know they are loved and shine God's light into their lives, even when it is difficult or it does not seem to be sinking in.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV)
In addition to loving people, it is also important to be mindful of your emotions. Our emotions can be a challenge when we love someone, but being mindful of our emotional state is vital. Our presence should be calming instead of anxious or overly emotional; it should bring peace instead of chaos. Do not minimize or magnify someone's experience or suffering. Know when to be there and when to leave.
Speak the truth. Speak love and life into those who are hurting and speak it gently (Proverbs 15:4, ESV).
You can't save people from themselves. You can only try to wake them up. -Karen Marie Moning
Allow God to work in the lives of His children. Often times, people must face emotional things one on one with God. Do not impede the process by trying to make a shortcut that God never intended for someone to take. People may need to face their hurts directly with God and, often times, this is an extremely difficult process. With this in mind, what you may think is helping someone may actually be harming them. God sees the future and we only see the present, so allow God to do what He does best; heal, love and direct. God reminds us that He has those we love, those we are worried about, those that we cannot help but desperately want to. Leave the end results to Him.
Focus on listening instead of fixing. You can be there for someone without actually trying to control or fix their situation or circumstances. You know you are fulfilling the role of the listener when you do not feel emotionally drained by listening and loving them. Loving and listening to someone should not leave you feeling drained. There will certainly be times where we become a witness to another’s pain and battles, but when we are secure in who God is and what He can do, we will not become entangled in their pain or circumstances.
Pray for them. Intercessory prayer is the act of praying to God on behalf of others. We are called and needed to stand in the gap. If possible, pray with multiple people.
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19 NIV)
The older I become, the more I realize that I must retire the red superhero cape I once wore. In my times of weakness and impatience, I try and pull the cape out and put it back on, only to fall when I try to fly. I am thankful that I do not have the responsibility of saving people. Because of this, my life is more freeing and safe.
"Not all superheroes wear capes...mine wore a cross."