ENCOURAGING THE DISCOURAGED
Despite our hopes and best efforts, we all know that walking with Jesus isn’t all mountain tops and smooth sailing. We understand that a combination of doubts and difficult circumstances could lead someone away from Jesus. Maybe you’ve experienced a rough patch in your journey of faith or continue to struggle with nagging skepticism. Or, maybe you’ve seen someone in your life make that choice and become less engaged with church and other believers.
James’ answer for our tough times is prayer and loving accountability. To close his letter, James reminds us,
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” | James 5:19-20
James reminds us that as a part of the family of God, we are each others’ keepers. We were meant to look after one another, just like you would your biological brothers and sisters. Instead of passively standing by as others wander from the truth, we can remind them of who they are and call them back to faith. We aren’t responsible for other’s decisions, but we are responsible to them as brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, what are some things you can do for your friend who is struggling with faith? Here are some good places to start:
1 // Don’t make the mistake of Job’s friends by offering unsolicited (and ultimately unhelpful) advice. Allowing someone the space to express their hurts and frustrations can help them feel less alone and show you other ways you can best encourage them.
Pray for them.
2 // Believe that prayer works and pray for your friend. Especially if your friend ask for you to pray for them, make sure you do it. If you think your friend would appreciate it, let them know you’re praying for them. It lets them know you care and want good things for them.
Connect with them.
3 // After you notice your friend stepping away, don’t simply expect them to come to you, even if you continue to invite them back to your study, small group, or Sunday service. Like Jesus would, go to them by inviting them to coffee or out to lunch—places outside of church or small group—so that you can have a one on one conversation and show that you’re personally invested.
At the end of the day, the most compelling thing is to show someone you care and to love them back towards faith. Resist the temptation to use guilt or begin to gossip. Instead, be the kind of person you’d like to experience when you’re in a tough spot: a friend who cares deeply, acts intentionally, and encourages your faith.