What a weird week. So many people seem to be in a state of shock as they watch the news of COVID-19.
Some people I know are freaking out right now. Others don’t seem to care at all. Most seem to be where I am – just feeling a bit strange. I’m hearing of chaos all around me, but my world seems fairly secure. Maybe I’m just lucky, but it seems many are in a similar place.
I’m not sure where you find yourself today, but you may be wondering, how can I help? As a Jesus-follower, what do I do about those who aren’t at peace? What do I do about the people in my church or office or neighborhood or even in my family who are in fear? What if I am in fear?
Honestly, it can be difficult to know what to do, but in my experience as a pastor, I’ve learned a few things about walking with people who are in fear. I think they’ll help you too. You may also recognize phrases from Mercy’s MPower Workshop. If you have attended, I hope these are great reminders for you.
1. Listen Carefully
A common mistake that well-intending people often make when someone shares their fears is not listening. They respond immediately with something along the lines of, “Well the Bible says to have no fear!” In the case of COVID-19, I’m hearing that a lot.
Instead of helping, when you respond to someone’s fear with “the Bible says…,” you shut them down. This response makes people feel silly for having fears in the first place. They aren’t. The world can be a scary place. Of course, I believe Jesus is the answer. I believe the Bible is a powerful tool. Yet, I also know people need to be heard. Listen carefully, actively, and prayerfully. Pray that the Lord will give you His ears to hear what’s not being said. Engage them. Look them in the eye. Be present! Don’t just start responding.
2. Be a shepherd, not a savior.
Another thing that well-meaning helpers often do is pretending to be experts on things that they are not. For some reason, they think because people come to them with questions they have to answers.
Let me relieve some of that pressure for you: You don’t have to have all the answers! Your job is to point people to The One who does!
Don’t pretend to be a doctor who knows all about COVID-19. You aren’t, and you don’t. Don’t pretend to know how God is going to move in this situation. You don’t. Don’t pretend everyone should think/feel about the situation everything that you do. They shouldn’t, and they won’t. Instead, gently and carefully lead the person to scripture and prayer.
When I don’t know the answer to a question, I often use this phrase: “I don’t know, but let’s find out together.” This phrase allows me to disciple and lead (or shepherd) the person who is asking. Let fear, confusion, and questions be opportunities for discipleship.
3. Inject Hope
Uncertain times are times for helpers to step up. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus tells his listeners, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Be a light in what may be a dark time for those around you. Make yourself available for prayer. Better yet, reach out to those around you and ASK how you can pray for them. Check on your friends and family. Let them know there is hope!
Here’s another thing I’ve learned: How you work with someone is more important than the information you give to them. They will remember the experience of it more than the content of it. You may have heard this Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” There’s a lot of truth in that. As people come to you in fear, be someone who shows empathy, who listens, who leads them to Jesus and who injects hope into their lives.
For more on how you can support others during this time listen to our most recent MercyTalk Podcast. Want to stay connected with Mercy? Follow us on social media @MercyMultiplied.