Walking Alongside those Experiencing Brokenness

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Last week’s post about brokenness raised a number of questions. For example,

  • What can I do for a friend experiencing brokenness?
  • How can avoid making things worse for fellow staff members who are experiencing brokenness?
  • Generally speaking, how long does restoration from brokenness take?

I will share what helped me, and how I walked alongside others, through the experience of brokenness. That said, while I am an ordained minister, I have no certifications or credentialing as a counselor or therapist. I’m sharing personal experience.

Prepare for the Long Road

There is no way to predict how long restoration from brokenness will take. This side of heaven, there is never a guarantee we will fully recover from brokenness. In my experience, healing takes longer than anticipated or expected.

Ministry of Presence

“Ministry of Presence” is caring for others without providing any tangible assistance other than being present. The biblical story of Ruth and Naomi gives us a sense of ministry of presence. After experiencing the deaths of her husband and sons, Naomi encourages her daughters-in-law to go back to their own people. Daughter-in-law Ruth refused to leave. She says in Ruth 1:16,

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (ESV)

I picture Ruth walking the Naomi on a long dusty road. They are lost in their own thoughts, not processing Naomi’s feelings or plans. But Naomi is still comforted by Naomi’s walking beside her. That’s ministry of presence.

Far too often, ministry of presence is undervalued because we don’t feel like we’re doing anything. In reality, we’re doing exactly what is needed. This is especially true being restored from brokenness.

Application of Law and Gospel

Lutheran Christianity is largely defined by our application of “Law and Gospel” to Scripture and life. In its simplest form, “law” is what we must do according to God. Gospel is what God has done, and will do, for us. One purpose of the law is to convict us of sin, creating our awareness that we can’t save ourselves. The Gospel announces God, through Jesus’ work, saves us.

Urging broken people to “toughen up” or “give it to God” is law. It only makes matters worse. What we need in our brokenness is Gospel. In brokenness, we need to hear God’s promises. We need to hear stories of God’s deliverance in the past. We need reminders of what God has done for us personally.

Breaking the “Never” Rule

I make very, very few promises. I also almost never say “never.” This is an exception. Please, never tell a person experiencing brokenness that you “understand.”

You don’t understand.

When I was experiencing brokenness, I didn’t even understand it. How could someone else?

The only person who truly, fully understands is Jesus.

Asking instead of Assuming

When we experience brokenness, external appearances often do not reflect internal realities. This is not intentionally deceptive. It’s human nature. It can be a defense mechanism to protect ourselves from further damage. It’s also part of the healing process.

This means it’s important to ask questions instead of making assumptions. Ask how your friend or co-worker feels. Ask if they want to be left alone for a while.

As I shared previously, this guidance has proven helpful to me. However, it’s not professional guidance. If you want professional guidance, visit with a counselor or therapist. You might even visit with the person recovering from brokenness.

Now it’s your turn. What have learned about caring for people experiencing brokenness? Share your thoughts in comments or send me an email.


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