No one enjoys struggling. But some people enjoy coming alongside those who are struggling and helping them in any way they can. I think of counselors, pastors, those who serve the community vocationally and/or voluntarily. Something inside of them takes pleasure in helping those in need.
I wish I was made this way. But I’m not. When I take the Spiritual Gifts test, I ALWAYS score lowest on mercy and second lowest on hospitality. In my own strength, I cannot will myself to be more empathetic. I’ll get burnt out. But in the Lord’s strength, I have a fighting chance to be the kind of friend God wants me to be to those who are struggling.
In Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he says, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me,” (Romans 15:30).
Paul’s struggle is irrelevant for the application of this verse to our lives, but, for the record, unbelievers in Judea were after him (Romans 15:31). That never turns out well for Paul. He either winds up in jail, beaten to within an inch of his life, or executed.
So Paul is running for his life, and for the advancement of the Gospel, and he pleads with Roman believers to join him in his struggle by praying for him.
First, we need to join each other in our struggles. This is hard and messy and not fun and time consuming, all things I typically try to avoid. Because, really, my life doesn’t need any more chaos. I have enough of my own, I don’t need to take on your struggles too.
Except I do. Because the Bible tells me so.
And because we simply cannot survive, much less thrive, without prayerful friends. And our friends can’t know what to pray for us if we aren’t transparent with them. Which is hard and messy and not fun and time consuming.
Likewise, we can’t know what to pray for our friends unless we take the time to listen and care about them and their lives. Another word for that is “selflessness”. If that were on the Spiritual Gifts test, I’d probably score zero in that category. Negative zero, even.
But the Spirit, He scores infinity in mercy and hospitality and grace and selflessness and love and power. And it is by His supernatural power in me that I can enter into others’ struggles and help carry them through dark days.
The key to helping them is in my second thought. Prayer.
Paul seems to understand the most powerful way believers can help each other is to pray to God on each other’s behalf. And prayer, it turns out, doesn’t cost money or require a psychology degree. It only costs time and only requires a willing heart.
I may not have mercy in large doses, but I can choose to have time and a willing heart to pray for those who are struggling. And the Spirit can help us become more faithful pray-ers.
Who do you know who is struggling and needs your prayers today?