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Posts tagged ‘extending grace’

The Worst Thing to Say to Someone in Pain

SOURCE:  Heather Gray/Lifehack

People throughout your day ask you how you are. You’ll hear it as you step to the cashier, as you enter the office at work, or when you unexpectedly bump into someone you know. Sometimes, of course, people genuinely want to know how you are.

More often than not, though, it’s just said out of politeness and no one is expecting you to answer honestly with “Today’s been miserable. My car broke down and then my boss blasted me for being late for work.” Everyone just expects your answer to be “I’m fine, how are you?” and they answer in kind.

This same dynamic is often what happens when someone offers “Let me know if you need anything” to someone who is struggling or in pain.

It’s said so automatically and universally that the person struggling tends to offer the predictable response “No, thanks. I’ve got it. I’m fine” even when they are anything but fine.

“Let me know if you need anything.”

This seven word cliché, as well intentioned as you may mean it, really is one if the worst things you can say to someone who is going through a hard time.

It’s just not helpful because it actually requires a lot of the person who is clearly already struggling. They have to be able to know or anticipate their need and be willing to push through any vulnerability that they may be feeling to say their need out loud.

It’s not easy to say “Actually, I have another doctor’s appointment tonight and I don’t want my kids to eat take out for the third night in a row, could you make them dinner?”

In the moment, that feels like a lot to ask of someone so even though the person is struggling and in pain, they will very likely hesitate in asking for that kind of help.

The word “anything” is so daunting to someone who is already feeling vulnerable or compromised.

What are the limits around it? Is what I need too much to ask? Am I going to be a burden? What if things get worse and I am going to need more help later on down the line? Should I just wait?

This is the kind of dialogue that people tend to have with themselves when they are receiving these vague offers for help. Often times, the internal dialogue is so exhausting, they just say nothing.

Just. Show. Up.

Beginning. Middle. End. When someone you love or care about is having a hard time, the best thing you can do is just show up. Visit. Drop by. Check in. Call. Instead of focusing on offers of help, just do your best to be helpful. Look around at the situation, see what you think needs to be done and just work with people to get it done.

Too often, people avoid stepping in because they don’t want to be intrusive. They are leery about just showing up for a visit, coming by with casseroles, or offering a certificate to the spa. What you’re very likely trying to find out when you say “Let me know if you need anything” is that you don’t know what they might need but that you’re willing to help.

You’ll be more helpful if you change the question.

Instead of saying “What do you need?” or “Let me know if you need anything.” Try saying instead “I thought I would come by for a quick visit around 2:00. Would that work out for you or would you prefer another time?” It’s easier for someone who is struggling to turn someone down or reschedule to a better time than it is to say“Actually, I have been kind of lonely. Would you mind stopping by?”

You can also try:

  • When Frank was in the hospital, it really helped me when my mother-in-law made us a week’s worth of meals that we could just heat up and eat whenever. I’d love to pay it forward and do that for you. What do you guys like to eat? I happily take requests.
  • Would it be helpful if I took your kids for the night? I’ll look after them for a day or two if that might give you a break.
  • What kind of movies do you like? I’m stopping by the library and could pick you up a few.
  • I know there’s nothing I can do to make this go away but I sure would like to make it easier. Would you be ok with it if I cleaned your house for you on Saturday morning? I’d love to take a chore or two off your plate.
  • I know you must miss being able to tend to your garden. Would it be ok if the kids and I came by and did some weeding for you? You worked hard to get your garden to where it’s at. I know it’s important to you.

The best way to help someone in pain is to be present in and with their pain.

It’s hard not knowing what to do or how to be helpful but by being really present and not just staying on the sidelines, you’re doing everything a person needs. You’re validating their pain and experience, making it easier where you can, and reminding your loved one that they aren’t alone.

That’s all you can do and more often than not, it’s everything.

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Relationships: Breathe Grace

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

Highly relational people love to breathe grace.

They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they breathe his love, kindness and wisdom into all of their relationships.

This is what the Apostle Paul had in mind in Ephesians 4:29, where he calls each of us to “give grace” to others.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

What does Paul mean by the word “grace”? It is a rich biblical term. In a broad sense, grace often refers to the kindness of God to man (Luke 1:30). But Paul usually uses it to describe something even more wonderful, which is God’s kindness or mercy to those who do not deserve it, actually, to those who deserves just the opposite! (Eph. 2:1-5).

Breathing grace means to breathe in God’s grace, which is the undeserved love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom that he gives to us through Jesus Christ, and then breathe it out to others, even if they do not deserve it.

We take our first deep breath of God’s grace by believing in his Son and receiving his gift of forgiveness. We can continue to breathe in his grace on a moment-by-moment basis by studying and mediating on his Word, by praying to him, by thanking him for his mercy and rejoicing in our salvation, by delighting in his character and many kindnesses, by worshiping him, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and by enjoying the fellowship of other believers.

As we fill our souls with his grace, he wants us to breathe it out to others. We usually do this with our words, but we can also do it with our actions. This can be done in countless ways (I had to work hard to shorten the list!):

The more deliberately you breathe in the grace of God today, the more you will breathe out his grace to others … and experience the kind of relationships that reflect his love and extend his kingdom (John 13:34-35).

Christians Should be Forgiving People

SOURCE:  R. C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

When someone orders us to do something, or imposes an obligation, it is natural for us to ask two questions. The first question is, “Why should I?” and the second is, “Who says so?” The why and the authority behind the mandate are very important to the question of forgiveness.

To answer the question of why we should be forgiving people, let us look briefly at the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 18, verse 21 and following, we read this account:

Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’

Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

‘But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”

In this parable, the point of Jesus’ teaching is clear, that the why for forgiving others is rooted in the fact that we have been the recipients of extraordinary mercy and compassion. We are all debtors who cannot pay their debts to God. Yet God has been gracious enough to grant us forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs His disciples to say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” There is a parallel, a joint movement of compassion, that is first received from God and then we in turn exercise the same compassion to others. God makes it clear that if we lack that compassion and harbor vengeance in our heart, rather than being ready to forgive again and again, we will forfeit any forgiveness that has been given to us.

Thus, the foundation for a forgiving spirit is the experience of divine grace. It is by grace that we are saved. It is by grace that we live. It is by grace that we have been forgiven. Therefore, the why of forgiving is to manifest our own gratitude for the grace that we have received. Again, the parable of Jesus points to one who took the grace that he received for granted and refused to act in a way that mirrored and reflected the kindness of God.

Why should we forgive? Simply, because God forgives us. It is not an insignificant thing to add on to the why the point that we are commanded by that God of grace to exercise grace in turn.

When we look at the question of forgiveness, however, we also have to ask the second query, “Who says so, and under what conditions are we to keep this requirement?” If we turn our attention to another gospel, we see in Luke 17 the following (vv. 1–4):

And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’”

It’s important that we look closely at this directive from Jesus regarding forgiveness.

It is often taught in the Christian community that Christians are called to forgive those who sin against them unilaterally and universally. We see the example of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were executing Him, even though they offered no visible indication of repentance. From that example of Jesus, it has been inferred that Christians must always forgive all offenses against them, even when repentance is not offered. However, the most that we can legitimately infer from Jesus’ actions on that occasion is that we have the right to forgive people unilaterally. Though that may be indeed a wonderful thing, it is not commanded.

If we look at the commandment that Jesus gives in Luke 17:3, He says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Notice that the first response to the offense is not forgiveness but rather rebuke. The Christian has the right to rebuke those who commit wrong doing against him. That’s the basis for the whole procedure of church discipline in the New Testament. If we were commanded to give unilateral forgiveness to all, under all circumstances, then the whole action of church discipline to redress wrongs, would itself be wrong. But Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents…,” — here is where the command becomes obligatory — if the offender repents, then it is mandatory for the Christian to forgive the one who has offended him. If we refuse to give forgiveness when repentance has been manifest, then we expose ourselves to the same fate as the unforgiving servant. We open ourselves to the wrath of God. If, indeed, I offend someone and then repent and express my apology to them, but he refuses to forgive me, then the coals of fire are on his head. Likewise, if we fail to give forgiveness, when one who has offended us repents of the offense, we expose ourselves to the coals of fire, and we are in worse shape than the one who has given the offense.

In other words, it is transgression against God when we refuse to forgive those who have repented for their offenses to us. This is the teaching of Jesus. It is the mandate of Jesus. As we are united in Christ, we are to show that union by extending the same grace to others that He extends to us.

A Prayer for Letting Go of the Desire to Get Even

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Rom. 12:19). Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice (Prov. 24:17). Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9)

Dear heavenly Father, I love the taste of deep dish, double-crusted apple cobbler, topped with sharp cheddar cheese and homemade vanilla ice cream. But, with less nutritional value, I also savor stories of creative revenge, seasoned with spiteful retaliation, and topped off with the gravy of humiliating retribution—when the bad guys “get it”1000 times worse than they gave it. Alas, the very attitude confronted by these Scriptures.

You commend, even command, that we work for justice, and long for the Day of ultimate righteousness. But we must heed your many warnings to avoid a vengeful spirit, as surely as we’d run from coiled rattlesnakes, toxic fumes, threatened momma bears, or E. coli poisoned waters.

No matter what the provocation—from a personal “dissing,” to evil parading its hatred of beauty—you tell us that we have no right to revenge, no right to gloat when an enemy falls, no right to get even with anybody. The gospel calls us to a different way of stewarding our hurts and anger.

Father, I’m so glad you didn’t “get even” with me, for all the ways I’ve rebelled (and do rebel) against you; for all the ways I’ve chosen my gain over your glory; for all the ways I’ve misrepresented you to the world, even to my own heart.

You didn’t get even; you got generous—lavishing mercy and grace upon this ill-deserving man. May the gospel keep me humble and patient, prayerful and expectant of the Day of consummate justice. I don’t want to waste one more self-absorbed moment rehearsing things that hurt me and relishing personal revenge.  So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

Changing My Perspective About Others

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon/Tolle Lege

“He who grows in grace”

“We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians. Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart.

He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.

As he has sometimes to say of himself, ‘This is my infirmity,’ so he often says of his Brethren, ‘This is their infirmity.’ And he does not judge them as he once did. I know we who are young beginners in grace think ourselves qualified to reform the whole Christian Church.

We drag her before us and condemn her straightway. But when our virtues become more mature, I trust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms. Sweetness towards sinners is another sign of ripeness.”

–Charles Spurgeon, “Ripe Fruit” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 16 (1870) – Sermon 945.

Arguing Well: 5 Helpful Tips

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

It is impossible to live and not argue or disagree with another person. From birth to the grave, disagreements are part of our life. The odds are so stacked against us that you will not be able to get through life without conflict. Because this is true, it would be good to learn how to argue or disagree with others.

Here Are Five Helpful Tips To Help You Disagree Well

Expect the Obvious – A right understanding of the doctrines of man and sin will bring your expectations down to a realistic level. There are no authentic, innate, self-righteous people in the world today. We all are sinners. No one has escaped the curse of Adam. I think when we are surprised by another person’s sin, we have forgotten the obvious: sin is the one thing we do very well. I am not making a case for you to sin more or making light of sin, but I am stating the obvious: we are sinners.

Be Suspicious – The only time when suspicion is allowed is when you are suspicious of yourself. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:3-5 that if you realize the log is in your eye, then you are in a good place to engage another sinner. I am well-aware that I’m self-deceived and because of this, I’m typically not understanding the conflict correctly. A person who is humbly suspicious of himself is a person who has true understanding.

Remember Who You Really Are – This one thing I know: I killed Christ. Because of my sin, the Father executed His Son on the Cross. Because of my sin, the Son willingly chose to die on the Cross. It was my sin that put the Son on the Tree. I am the biggest sinner I know. All of the things that have been done to me do not compare to what I have done to Him. All other sins cannot compare to the sin I have committed. Paul understood this, even at the end of his life. He also understood that his great God showed mercy on him, the chief of sinners. Most assuredly, I can extend a similar mercy toward others.

Ask Questions – Typically I charge into conflict making statements, rather than asking questions. I’m rarely suspicious of my tendency to be self-deceived and, therefore, I state my opinion with insufficient data. More times than not it would have been better for me to ask more questions before stating my opinion. Because of my high opinion of my views and the rightness that I generally feel, I tend to not ask enough questions, choosing rather to make more statements.

Little to Die Over – As I reflect over my past arguments, it is hard to remember any of them that were important enough to sin against God and others. I remember as a kid getting into an argument with my four brothers over a Snickers Bar. We were very poor and on that day we had only one candy bar. One brother measured the candy with a ruler, but did not divide the five parts equally. An argument ensued. Sadly, many of my arguments have not evolved much beyond the trivialities of dividing a candy bar.

How Can You Respond to this Article?

Perhaps you are currently in a disagreement with another person. Let me ask you some questions, based on the five tips above and encourage you to respond to God first and then to the person you’re in conflict with:

  1. Expectations: Are you really surprised your offender has done wrong? (Assuming they have done wrong.) Can you extend grace? If not, why not? If not, then you have totally missed the point of the Gospel.
  2. Suspicious: Are you more suspicious of yourself? …or your friend? If you are genuinely more suspicious of yourself, then will you respond in grace to your offender?
  3. Remember: Who is the biggest sinner you know? If you say anything other than yourself, then you have some heart-work to do. But if you really believe you are the worst sinner you know, then you can extend mercy to your offender, because mercy has been extended to you. This is the point of the Gospel.
  4. Questions: Do you really think you have all the facts? Ask yourself if you are missing anything. Assume you are. Get more data. Ask more questions. Make less statements.
  5. Trivialities – How important is it for you to be right? How important is the issue you are arguing over? Is this really a hill to die on?

Will you go to the person you are in conflict with and seek to reconcile the relationship? This is the point of the Gospel.

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