How to Encourage Fellow Believers in Their Afflictions?


Mary was going through major depression. After wrestling with her painful emotions all alone, she finally resolves to share her emotional struggle in her closed WhatsApp group. Martha immediately responds, “Don’t worry, Mary. God is with you. Have faith in God, for He will help you.” She even shares a Scripture to encourage Mary.

Although Martha’s intention was to encourage Mary, her approach may not reap the result she intended. Many in the church would love encouraging one another in their afflictions but know not the right approach. Here are a few lessons I have learned in my pursuit of encouraging the afflicted.

1. EMPATHY. When someone shares their struggle, what touches them is our empathetic attitude towards them. Empathy is the ability to understand and connect to the feelings of another.

When Mary shares in the group about her emotional struggle, Martha must empathetically respond, “Mary, I am sorry to hear what you are going through. I think it must be quite painful for you to face this situation.” If she had gone through similar suffering, Martha could even add, “Since I faced such times in my life, I understand how you must be feeling now.”

Martha may also say to Mary, “If you would like to share your struggle, I am available to listen to your heart.” Often times, listening speaks more to the weary soul than a multitude of words.

One must be careful in not using the words “I understand” superficially and vainly. We must mean what we say and say what we mean.

2. PRAY. Another thing that encourages people when they share their struggles is our prayers for them. A lot of people who go through afflictions are most likely aware of what the Holy Bible says but lack the strength to remain strong in their faith. Our assurance of prayers for them encourages them to persevere in their faith.

Martha must respond to Mary, “Thank you for sharing your heart, Mary. I assure you of my prayers for you. May the Lord answer our prayers and strengthen your soul during this difficult phase of your life.”

Keeping in mind Mary’s affliction, it is good for Martha to keep letting know Mary that she has been praying for her. Prayer is a great encouragement to an afflicted soul.

3. HELP. More than what we say to the afflicted, the assurance that we are there for them uplifts them the most. It is easier to offer advice than help. When our brothers or sisters in the church go through affliction, consider what you can do to help them practically rather than simply quote Scriptures or offer advice.

Martha honestly saying to Mary, “Is there anything that I can practically do to help you?” would brighten the heart of Mary more than a thousand words.

When is giving advice or counsel more effective?

Giving advice or counseling is more effective when people ask for it. As a pastor and preacher, I offer counsel to many people because they ask for it. But when people don’t expect your counsel but simply share their struggles, the three approaches mentioned above prove more helpful.

After following the three suggested insights, you may later share your experience about how a particular Scripture or counsel was personally encouraging to you, especially if you have gone through similar suffering.

In your endeavor to encourage the afflicted souls, remember to practice showing empathy, assure them of your prayers, and offer practical help. In doing these, your kindness goes a far way, working wonders for them.

May the Lord give us wisdom and understanding about how to encourage others in their afflictions!

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C. Stephen David is a child of the Living God, a husband to Chaithanya, a father to two children, and an elder/shepherd of Ekklesia Evangelical Fellowship (www.eefchurch.org). He lives with his family in Hyderabad, India.

Enquiries:
mailekklesia@gmail.com

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