How to Show Love to Those in Crisis

Reading Level: Gratifying

This is the fifth article in our series in answer to Readers’ Questions.

First, since God is the source of love, focus on demonstrating His characteristics to those in crisis.

For some of us this will be easier than others, depending on your knowledge of God’s character. If you grew up in a religious culture of misinformation that portrayed God as unforgiving, unkind, basically inhumane, you may not have as much knowledge in that area to draw from. You may want to read through or listen to some of my previous posts on that topic, such as, “Healing by an Understanding of God’s Love” and “A Love that Isn’t Earned.” God describes Himself as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, having mercy (undeserved favor) that is everlasting, forgiving, patient, comforting, encouraging, protective; this is just a partial list. These characteristics of God are all traits that each of us need in our lives. We were created with the need to receive these emotional, spiritual, relational exchanges with God. In the same way, we were also created with the need to share or live out these character traits with each other. Usually, life is so busy that pouring these traits of God into each other’s lives gets set aside. It is worth mentioning that most all of us need to restructure our lives so as to have the time to consistently invest in this valuable and necessary exchange with each other, but we most certainly must focus on expressing God’s loving aspects with those who are in crisis. If you are already in the habit of living this way, it will be easier, but if your life has been too busy and you’ve neglected fine tuning these traits, God will still help you and honor your efforts to bless the person in crisis by living out His loving characteristics to them in their time of need.

The second, third, and fourth points are all based on drawing from your own experiences, such as recalling what you received during your own crisis that was good.

One of my favorites passages throughout life has been this one, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Cor. 1:3,4).” Again, this quote reminds that we are created to invest in valuable spiritual, emotional, relational exchange with people, using the comfort we received from the love of God and loving people during our various life crises to bring comfort to those in present crises. Remember what helped you in your time of need and share it, whether it is a story, a listening ear, or a kind deed.

Third, also drawing from your past experiences, recall what you wish people would have done for you during your crisis and do it for the person in need.

For example, maybe when you faced that same crisis, you needed someone to just listen and not give advice. Now be a listener! Or maybe in your crisis you could have used some positive distractions. I recall hearing about an elderly widow who had been very involved in her husband’s whole career and raising children, so when he died, she suddenly had free time that she never had before in her entire adult life. Normally, this could easily draw a person into depression by just using all the free time to focus on her loss. Instead, friends started planning day trips and out-of-state trips, taking her places she had never been so that, instead of focusing on the loss, they enabled her to make the transition to enjoying the life she still had to live.

Fourth, again drawing from your past experiences, remember what you wish people would not have said or done and don’t do it!

I read an interview by a certain author of popularity in recent years which listed things she wished people would not have said to her while she had cancer. I haven’t been able to locate the article so far, but I will post a link to it if I find it later. It listed things such as, “You look good for someone with cancer.” “At least you don’t have this type of cancer. I hear that’s always fatal.” “At least you haven’t lost your hair.” Scripture says we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (Jms. 1:9). When a friend is in a crisis, this is a very good point to apply. You don’t always need to say something. It is better to not speak than to speak carelessly just to keep up the conversation. Your physical presence-just being there-is often better than saying anything! The person is crisis does not expect you to have all of life’s answers, but they do want you to show that you care, that you love them, and that you are there when they need you. If you recall things that people said or did to you without thinking during your crisis, be careful not to repeat those same mistakes in your loved one’s crisis.

Fifth, ask the person in crisis what he or she feels they need.

Obviously, be sincere when asking! Ask if there is anything you can help them with, even if it is something that they would normally hesitate to ask or think that you wouldn’t want to do. If the person in crisis cannot think of anything at the moment, make sure they have your phone number and assure them that they should call you when they do think of something. Check again with them later.

Sixth, keep in touch.

I am very close to my brother. He is my only sibling. He has had a year of multiple crises. Though we talk fairly often, when he was going through an extreme crisis recently, I emailed and called every day during the worst of it, which lasted a few weeks. Did it take commitment? Absolutely. Did I always know what to say? No. Some days it was just a matter of asking how he was and letting him talk. If he didn’t have much to say because nothing had changed yet, I would try to share an encouraging word about God or tell something good or funny that happened to me. For example, my brother loves gardening. One phone call he asked me just to talk about what was blooming in my garden. See, it was not as much a matter of having all the answers; it was him knowing that I was showing the love of God by taking time to be with him-even if over the phone–to be supportive. It was a matter of showing how much I value him by seeing how he is and just taking some time with him. Keep in touch with your loved one in crisis on a daily basis, whether on the phone, via email, by sending a card, or visiting in person if you are local. You will be able to tell when the other person is getting stronger and coming out of their crisis to determine when to gradually begin moving toward the level of contact your relationship normally had prior to the crisis.

The main issue to overcome in helping a loved one in crisis is not doing anything because you don’t feel capable.

Remember, your time and presence are more valuable than your knowledge; they don’t expect you to know answers that only God has. God will bless your efforts to show His loving-kindness to someone else. These steps listed above are all ones that anyone can implement. The only way you fail your loved one in crisis is by not doing anything.

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