Faith is about you. That’s only to be expected, because until you are right in your own heart, you are not going to be of spiritual use to anybody else. But there comes a point when you have to put what you’ve learnt to use, to help others, which is really the heart of the Christian faith. Sure, our faith is about personal salvation, but it’s also about bringing others into their own portion of grace, and in particular helping those who struggle with any spiritual identity altogether.
If you find it hard to be outward looking, to consider others, make a pact with God that at least once a day you will endeavour to put someone else first. Now what sort of people are you going to be helping and what can you do for them?
To begin with, look around at your own congregation. It is easy to assume people who are already in church have their rock in Jesus. But you would be wrong to assume this. In any church there are people at every single stage of their faith walk, including novices, skeptics and lapsed pew-warmers. Even someone who appears to be the most God-led among you will occasionally experience a massive faith crisis. This is normal. In fact it is often the most ardent-for-Jesus who fall out with Jesus. Begin by watching out for the signs: for instance, a change in someone’s normal, cheerful disposition may be more than just a temporary melancholy moment. It may suggest depression or fear. As a Christian, approach them and talk. Say nothing provocative or distressing. Make light conversation, then be prepared to listen. If you have that person’s trust you may have to prepare yourself for a mighty confession. The advice on these occasions is always the same:
1 – Refrain from being judgmental or critical
2 – Show empathy with your friend, prove that you understand their situation. If you have been through something similar yourself, share.
3 – Your friend is not looking for a lecture, just someone to talk to. Sometimes just lending an ear for ten minutes is enough to pull them through.
4 – Be forgiving.
5 – Don’t get excited and look traumatised, no matter what you hear.
6 – If you think the problem goes deep, suggest to your friend that you involve the pastor or get expert help. Make this the first step to a more intensive plan of action if required.
Once you have become experienced at dealing with problems within the church, you can then take your skills into the community. You will become expert at spotting the signs of addiction or depression or domestic crises. People will begin to treat you with respect. Never preach, but make it clear to whoever you are talking to that your are a Christian, that you have been saved, and that hope springs eternal.