3 Ways To Encourage Your Congregation Through Difficulty
We should expect it. There will be a season where our staff, congregation, and world will experience suffering. We all have our own seasons of hardship, but there will be a time where our church (big C or little c) experiences something that could potentially cause devastation among the church. Whether it is a moral failure, natural disaster, debt, or loss of a loved one, the church needs to understand how to stay standing during difficult circumstances. The question is not how to avoid suffering, but how do we suffer well as the church?
Jesus even tells us in John 16:33, “In this world there will be trouble”, not if there is trouble… We should expect it to knock on our door.
Our biggest mistake is letting the loss of jobs, homes, and loved ones rule in our lives. We let feelings of loneliness, guilt, and fear overwhelm us. We allow Satan to tell us we are not good enough and other lies that could have the potential to destroy us. He uses these lies to draw us towards him and against a sacrificing savior who has already defeated sin and death. So, how do we help the church through times of suffering?
1. Be Jesus to people.
Be relatable. Get out in the community or visit a member or volunteer that is suffering. Sometimes people need to see a face of joy and hope, not just a card or flowers. It can bring a level of comfort just knowing that someone reached out or even cared. Serve people in immeasurable ways. A meal, lawn maintenance, cleaning, child care, etc. Let people know that suffering is normal and to be expected, but above all else, remind them that they are not alone.
We were made to live like Jesus. Jesus was the suffering servant. He died on our behalf. So therefore, if we are supposed to live like Jesus did, then shouldn’t that mean we should be suffering servants as well? Being Jesus to people and offering your time and resources to serve them provides a chance to speak truth and remind them who God is.
2. Remind others who God is and what His character says about Him.
God has full control. God brings peace and is our ultimate hope. So, when things happen that we do not understand, we must stand firm in our faith and recognize that God is in control. He is sovereign and He uses these circumstances to teach and mold us. He has a loving character and everything He does has a greater purpose for our lives. Just being reminded of truth is so important during this time. The more truth we can equip them with, the less room Satan has to lie to us.
John 16:33 doesn’t end with there will be trouble. It ends with a “but.” What follows is something that is hard for us to do while we experience suffering. Jesus says, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” Take heart? How can we take heart when everything around us seems to be going in a downward spiral? We are forced to learn true reliance on God and His perfect plan for our lives.
3. Focus on the big picture.
Job is an amazing example of what suffering looks like with a focus on big picture. In Job, chapter 1, he states “we entered this world naked with nothing and that’s how we are leaving this world.” Our treasure is in heaven. Let us not trust in empty things. Don’t ignore the problems that the world, country, community, church, or individual is facing. Recognize them but keep an overarching perspective at the same time.
God is using these times of suffering. He uses suffering to teach us reliance on Him, genuine joy from Him instead of our circumstances, and even how to combat Satan. Our strength doesn’t come from how we are doing, it comes from power and joy in the Lord. This means a firm focus on our eternal home.
People look to the church for a response when times of suffering come, and they will come. So, we want to be well prepared and know how to respond to our people, to the community and to the world. We want the light to shine on Jesus in these times and not in the times of sorrow.
How can you better encourage your congregation?