Is Your Advice Harmful or Helpful?

‘Mourn with those who mourn’ should be applied to when someone is sharing their burdens and prayer requests with you. Its happy, faith filled Christians, myself included, that are most likely to offend in this situation. Love sometimes is best shown through just listening with empathy. Every time someone comes to us with a prayer need we don’t have to give our opinion or unsolicited advise. For starters, unless we are speaking the very words of God in and for that situation we may just be puffed up with pride believing we have all the answers. When someone is trusting us enough to share their heart and struggles with us its important that we show them respect enough to listen in humility and not jump on their position of vulnerability as a captive audience to spout off cliche Christian statements and affirmations or to preach about what they could be doing differently (that we often believe we are already doing better; after all we don’t have the problem they are sharing with us!)

It’s not always pride that motivates this annoying habit; genuine concern, coupled with enthusiasm for the things of God can cause us to blurt out whatever first pops in our head if we are not walking in godly wisdom.

This is not to say God’s Spirit will not nudge us to give a word of knowledge or even correction, but lets begin to take a moment to listen to people’s hearts and bear each others burdens when they are entrusted to us and not immediately jump to the conclusion that a prayer request is automatically an opportunity to council. Pause for a moment before plowing ahead with words and wait for discernment. Then, if the Spirit has a timely word for the person, speak it. Otherwise, remain silent and pray as was requested.

‘After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned…strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”’

-Acts 14:21-22

‘Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” said Paul to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3.

I believe it is a fallacy that every bit of suffering and setback is due to something we are lacking spiritually speaking. God’s ways are often unfathomable. Lets encourage each other in The Lord. Instruction and rebuke have their place in the body of Christ but I am not so sure that their place is always to be in the moment when someone is hurting or lacking and shares a prayer need. Let’s be compassionate. If we must speak, perhaps a timely word about a situation where we have also been hurting or in need and how God carried us through would be most appropriate and helpful.

-Emily R Lewis, July 4th 2014

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