Over the past thirty years of ministry, the Lord has shown me—time and again—the sufficiency of His grace in difficulty. And He’s taught me, especially during recent seasons, how to extend His grace to hurting people.
So often, when those we lead and love are hurting, we hurt too. We hurt for them, and, in many cases, we also feel the loss they are experiencing.
When we are hurting with others, how do we, as spiritual leaders, extend God’s grace to them? Below is a collection of grace-extending lessons that I’ve recently shared with our staff:
1. Trust the Lord.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.—Psalm 18:30
We cannot lead if we are floundering in perplexed confusion. Although we hurt and grieve, we must anchor our trust in God—for our own walk and to strengthen the faith of those we lead.
2. Cast your care upon the Lord.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.—1 Peter 5:7
Before you counsel or seek to encourage others, try to get alone with the Lord to cast your care upon Him. You want to be a burden bearer, not a burden giver to those who are hurting.
3. Listen to the Lord.
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.—1 Kings 19:12
Grief has a way of quieting our hearts so we can hear the still, small voice of the Lord. Take care during this time to spend time alone with God reading His Word. Ask Him to guide you, and be sensitive to His voice.
4. Guard your heart.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.—Proverbs 4:23
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:—1 Peter 5:8
If there is a time you are especially vulnerable to Satan’s deception it is when you are hurting and bearing the hurts of others as well. Be vigilant, and guard your heart.
5. Speak with grace.
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.—Proverbs 29:11
Let your speech be alway with grace….—Colossians 4:6
The church should be a refuge where hurting people experience God’s grace. One of the quickest ways to tear apart this refuge is with criticism, gossip, or even unneeded details.
During World War II, the United States used the phrase “Loose lips sink ships” to warn servicemen and citizens to avoid careless talk concerning secure information. Loose lips also hurt people. Be careful not to talk frivolously, and be sensitive and wise with your words. Be a grace-giver by guarding your tongue.
6. Go to the need.
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:—2 Timothy 1:16
Don’t hide from those who are hurting, and don’t assume everyone else is serving the hurting. Do what you can to help. Notes, meals, groceries, gift cards—all of these are need-meeting expressions of care.
7. Give sustained support.
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.—2 Corinthians 8:11
The best of intentions don’t help people. As Paul advised the church of Corinth, we must “perform the doing of it.”
People who are hurting need us to continue to preform the doing of it. An immediate word of prayer with a hurting person is great. A follow up note with a helpful resource is even better. Remember, their trial continues even when you are not with them. Continue to pray, love, and give grace.
8. Inform others as needed.
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:—Proverbs 2:11
One of the most gracious things you can do for another person is keep confidence. You should absolutely share what must be shared, But there is no need to give information to others who do not need to know or to inquire concerning details you do not need to know. Ask the Lord to give you understanding discernment.
9. Ask for wisdom.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.—James 1:5
One of our greatest needs in times of difficulty is wisdom—especially as we are ministering to others. Thankfully, God promises to give us wisdom in trials if we will but ask Him for it. So ask!
10. Maintain focus.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith….—Hebrews 12:1–2
Years ago, Dr. David Gibbs shared with me, “Your greatest sermon is you in the valley.” As spiritual leaders, our very response during times of difficulty is a teaching tool in itself.
We weep. We pray. We love. We counsel. But in the midst of it all, we need to remain faithful in our personal prayer time, preparing the next sermon, teaching our class, taking a young Christian out soulwinning—being faithful in ministry.
Any grace that we have to give to others can only come from Christ. To be grace-givers, we must be grace-receivers, keeping our focus on Him!