It really stinks to suck at something I thought I was good at. It can be humbling. It can be discouraging. It’s a choice to make it motivating.
I’ve had numerous opportunities recently to be encouraging. In general I see myself as an encouraging person. But when friends and loved ones come to me during a time of crisis or a low point in their life I can really suck at words of encouragement! I have caught myself adding to the anxiety or saying dismissive words that do the opposite of encourage.
Why? Why when the going gets really tough do I resort to cliches? Or why do I panic and add to the panic? Or why do I say anything at all? I’ve lived long enough and walked long enough with Jesus to know way better options.
I know that silence can be golden: shut up and listen to the person who’s in a vulnerable place. I know many great people in the Bible did their share of lamenting and God actually invites that kind of honesty in us. God uses that to build our relationship with him. It’s often the turning point to living a more joyful life. So let them have their season of lament! Timing Carrie, timing!
I know the truth that the trials we face develop perseverance. And perseverance finishes the work of making us mature and not lacking anything. That while we are lacking, God, who is generous to all without finding fault, will bless the man who perseveres under trial. So, why do I add to the fear that comes with trials? Trust God is at work Carrie. Don’t try to solve the trial for the person! Just love them and be confident in the goodness of their life. Timing Carrie, timing!
I’m grateful to the Holy Spirit that I was quick to recognize my recent faux pas. Recognition gives me a chance to partially correct them. Partially because I can’t remove the words from the hearer’s memory! And recognition gives me the opportunity to change my ways. Actually I’m being generous with myself when I call my blunders faux pas. A faux pas is a severe social blunder or major breach in etiquette. Thoughtless words during trying times are a severe misrepresentation of spiritual truths.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 These are words of truth. But they may not be words to be quoted to someone in the midst of their pain. Because timing does make a difference in how words are heard. Rather than encouraging they could come off as reprimanding or out of touch with my friend’s present experience.
The words in Jeremiah are more important for me to remember than for the person at the height of their lament to remember. Why? Because if I know this truth for them to my core, it will inform how I respond to them. It will give me the confidence to be calm when they can’t be (rather than add words that add to their concern). And this truth will give me the sort of compassion that uplifts rather than dismisses their emotions.
Yes lamenting can warp our perspective. There is a time for spurring one another on. But…timing Carrie, timing!