Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Times of Trouble

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

How do we respond to people in times of suffering? We must start by avoiding jumping to the conclusion that their suffering must be due to sin on their part. Scripture clearly rebukes this idea (John 9:1-3; Job 1,2; Luke 13:1-5). Now there are cases where suffering may be the results of God's discipline in the person's life (Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Corinthians 11:29-32; 2 Samuel 12:7-14). But we must be very careful of reaching the conclusion that this is what is happening without strong evidence (remember the rebuke of Job's comforters, Job 42:7-9). And if someone is involved in sin we need to correct them with care, following the Scriptural requirements (Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Hebrews 12:12,13).

The Scripture further says we are to be genuinely concerned about the suffering of others (1 Corinthians 12:26,27; Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2). This is hard because when you sympathize with others, you end up hurting with them. It seems easier (if less Scriptural) to keep them at arm's length. One way to do this is to just spout platitudes (it is unfortunately possible to turn Scripture into a platitude) to avoid actually becoming engaged in people's problems. There has been much said about listening versus speaking. I believe there can a place for speaking, but it is hard to be really concerned unless you listen. There has also been much said about whether or not to quote Bible verses. I also believe there is a place to use Bible verses, but not as a quick answer to avoid listening to and sympathizing with the person. Bible verses thoughtlessly quoted to a hurting person can come off as condemning rather then comforting. (As saying, surely you should have already known this.) But the main issue starts with the heart. If you are genuinely concerned with the person and their pain, it will help keep you away from these pitfalls.

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