BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3 New King James Version).
The scripture above is a prophecy about the ministry of Jesus’ Christ. In Luke 4, when Jesus entered the synagogue and the Book of Isaiah was given to Him, He read a passage from this scripture, and to close the reading said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 New King James Version).
He knew the passage was a prophecy concerning Him, and Jesus, during His ministry on earth, fulfilled this prophecy. Jesus ministered to the brokenhearted, those mourning, etc. His miracles, essentially, were targeted at the hurting – those who were suffering from emotional, mental or physical injuries.
The hurting, in the context of this message, are people who have suffered loss or injury and are sorrowing. They are those who are sad, heartbroken or brokenhearted because of a certain occurrence. They are people undergoing physical, emotional or mental pain or suffering.
Ministering to the hurting is part of New Testament ministry that must not be neglected. It is not a ministry for ordained ministers of the Gospel alone; it is a ministry for every believer because we’re all members of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (New King James Version). Believers are not to live a selfish life, unconcerned about others. That won’t be living in love. “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18 New Living Translation). And one way to show our love by our actions is to obey Galatians 6:2 which says, “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (New Living Translation).
Most Bible teachers believe that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. In chapter 4 verse1, he lamented that there was nobody to comfort the hurting from the oppression they suffered: “Again I observed all the oppression that takes place in our world. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and the victims are helpless” (New Living Translation). This made him make extreme conclusion that the dead were better off than the living and those who were never born most fortunate of all. That doesn’t mean Solomon’s conclusion was right. It is this kind of mindset that makes some people, out of frustration, go to commit suicide as an escape route. This is both selfish and cowardly. It is a sin. Those who commit suicide will end in hell fire. Suicide is not right, just as it’s not right to fail to comfort or minister to the hurting. Having someone to lean on may discourage those who are suicidal.
It is also important to note that ministering to the hurting is not towards fellow believers only but also towards non-believers. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (New King James Version). That’s not limited to Christians. Ministering to hurting non-believers is one way to show Christ’s love for the world and be sons of our Father in heaven who makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). As we do this, we are making our light so shine before men, that they’ll see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
How to Minister to the Hurting
1.Be sensitive to people’s mood and look, and ask questions. Prophet Jeremiah was sensitive to the condition of the people of Israel, and said, “I weep for the hurt of my people. I am stunned and silent, mute with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:21-22 New Living Translation)
If you see someone you know in an unusual negative mood or the person looks sad, ask him: Are you okay? Is anything wrong with you? etc. You may be surprised that if the person is hurting, he may start crying. Even if he doesn’t cry, he may show other signs that tell you something is wrong. Take the person aside, and if you handle that opportunity very well, the person will leave better than he was. You may even be able to get the person to give his life to Jesus. “Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (Philippians 2:4 New Living Translation). This is not about poking your nose in or interfering in other people’s affairs.
Don’t be afraid that you may not have solution to the problem. By merely asking a hurting person questions, one after the other, both of you may be able to find solution to the problem confronting the person and probably discover the way you may be able to help.
Look at the case of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 2:1-8. King Artaxerxes noticed his sad face, asked questions, and they both found solution to the problem. He granted Nehemiah’s request to be released to go to Judah to rebuild it and he supported him.
2. Be around them. Your physical presence can be helpful in healing the person’s pain. When people are hurting, they need and appreciate people being around them. That gives them the feeling that people really care. Jesus was on the cross in extreme agony carrying the sins of the whole world and about to die. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, there was darkness over all the land. Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (New King James Version) Jesus had a feeling of loneliness. Remember that before this time, His disciples had deserted Him (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). The desertion by His disciples was not even anything to Him. It was the feeling of being forsaken by God that He had that was extremely painful.
But if Jesus was deserted by His disciples, don’t be disappointed if, in your hour of need, you don’t receive support from those you think you should! May God give you faithful people who will stand with you in life always. You won’t experience tragedies in Jesus’ name.
After the tragedies that befell Job, he was deserted by his family members, neighbors, close friends, servant girls, etc. They despised, scorned, deserted, turned against him (Job 16:20, 19:13-19).
Those who are hurting appreciate people’s presence the most. Paul apostle was in a Roman detention and he needed to be ministered to. He wrote to Timothy, his son in the ministry, “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day — and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:15-18 New King James Version).
Paul shares more with us in 2 Timothy 4:9-16 his experience with people while he was under house arrest in Rome, talking about desertion by Demas and others at first defense and harm by Alexander the coppersmith. In verse 21a, Paul urged Timothy, “Do your utmost to come before winter” (New King James Version). It wasn’t that he was alone at that time because he added by telling Timothy, “Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren” (verse 21b New King James Version). Timothy was precious to him – he could bring cheering news to him from the mission field; also the more, the merrier.
As often as you can create the opportunity, visit the person hurting and spend time with him or her. Don’t be worried about not knowing what to say, how to commiserate with or comfort the person, etc. In fact, saying nothing could be even more beneficial than saying what may be wrong! But your presence will be highly appreciated even when you’re silent.
3. Be a good listener. One error people make in trying to minister to the hurting is being too quick to talk and too quick to shut the person down. Let the person who is hurting talk. Give him a listening ear while he expresses his feelings. He is more interested in expressing his feelings than listening to your sermon! Listen to him first. Your listening actually has a healing effect on him.
When Jews go to condole with others, they sit down with them not talking immediately. When Job’s friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite went to mourn with Job in his affliction, they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great (Job 2:11-13).
Job’s friends did the right thing, sitting down with him for seven day and seven nights not saying a word. But the bad thing was that when they started talking, they didn’t say the right things. They were busy condemning him. They were insensitive to his feelings. That was not the right way to minister to the hurting, and God told them this after everything was over. He was angry with them for trying to defend Him, and in the process condemned a hurting man who needed their compassionate support. Job 42:7 says, “After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘I am angry with you and with your two friends, for you have not been right in what you said about me, as my servant Job was’” (New Living Translation).
We find another example of Jewish mourning in Prophet Ezekiel. He sat where the people (the Jewish captives) in Babylonia sat and remained there astonished among them seven days. He didn’t say a word as he mourned with his fellow Jews (Ezekiel 3:14-15). It was at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to him telling him He had made him a watchman to the house of Israel (verse 16).
4. Don’t be judgmental. James 4:11-12 says, “Don’t speak evil against each other, my dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize each other and condemn each other, then you are criticizing and condemning God’s law. But you are not a judge who can decide whether the law is right or wrong. Your job is to obey it. God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to condemn your neighbor?” (New Living Translation)
People who have made wrong decisions, wrong choices, etc. responsible for the hurting condition they are, most probably, already know. They don’t need you to add to their weight of guilt. What they need is hope; what they need is you pointing them to the mercy of God. They need to know that God is ready to forgive them. They need to know that all is not lost.
How can you come to condole with someone and tell him that the incident happened because he didn’t have faith, his faith wasn’t enough, he was absent from the church service, he didn’t pay his tithe, he didn’t sow seeds, he didn’t pray and fast, etc? That’s unfair and not scriptural. Even if the person is guilty of any of those things, that is not the right time to tell him or her. A hurting person needs words of comfort, not words of condemnation. Come to think of it, are there not some people who did all the aforementioned and still experienced some negative occurrences? How do we explain that? 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He [God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (New Living Translation).
The truth is that we live in a fallen world, an imperfect world, and we can’t blame every hurting person for everything that happens to him or her – there are other factors like other people, the devil and even God allowing (not really causing) certain things to happen. Don’t condemn people; you don’t have all the facts. Don’t even try to explain what happened – you may end up hurting the person more. That was the error of Job’s friends. In their self-righteousness, they argued that Job’s adversity was because of his sins. How could they be so sure? “If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23 New Living Translation).
When we get to heaven, we shall know everything but for now, we may never know certain things. It is better we keep our mouths shut because we may be wrong as the disciples of Jesus were with their conclusion in John 9:1-3: “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Teacher,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?’ ‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him’” ((New Living Translation).
The disciples considered only two options – the sin of the man born blind and the sin of his parents – they didn’t consider the third option that he was born blind so that the power of God could be seen in him. That’s how we can be wrong trying to explain why certain things happened to some people.
5. Avoid making insensitive comments. This is related to the point I have just discussed. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose” (The Message). When people are hurting, they are in pains, therefore, you should be careful about the comments you make. This is not a time to crack jokes or be sarcastic. Don’t get on your high horse and lecture them. Don’t claim the moral high ground. Don’t make it look as if you’re morally better, superior, more knowledgeable or more spiritual or holier than those hurting. Job told his garrulous friends, “But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these?” (Job 12:3 New King James Version)
Nobody prays for grief but someone could be going through that today but the person comforting him today may experience a similar thing tomorrow. You will not mourn in Jesus’ name. So you should be careful about making self-righteous comments or statements that show you’re insensitive to the emotions of the afflicted. Job’s friends were guilty of this, and he told them, “One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you have accused me without the slightest fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14 (New Living Translation).
Many times, people are more devastated by the statements people make while comforting them or in reaction to what happened to them than the negative things that really happened to them. I’ve heard hurting people making reference later to such unfortunate statements others made.
You must be compassionate. Don’t be like Gehazi who treated a hurting woman, his benefactor, without compassion when she ran to Elisha after the child she got through his ministry had died. “Now when she came to the man of God at the hill, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to push her away. But the man of God said, ‘Let her alone; for her soul is in deep distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me, and has not told me’” (2 Kings 4:27 New King James Version).
Why should Gehazi push away a hurting woman, who wasn’t even a stranger to her, a woman who had been giving them accommodation and taking good care of them when they were in Shunem where this woman lived? No compassion for the hurting! He ate the woman’s food and slept under her roof, yet he pushed her away when she was hurting! Thank God Elisha was there to caution Gehazi. Don’t be a Gehazi!
6. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit how to minister rightly to the hurting. Ask the Lord the right word to say. Jesus said when the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in His name would come, he would teach us all things (John 14:26). From Isaiah 61:1-3, we can learn that we need the help of the Holy Spirit to be able to minister effectively to the hurting. “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory” (Isaiah 61:1-3 New Living Translation).
Don’t just open your mouth and start talking. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the right words and speak through you. Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will” (New Living Translation). God will give you comforting words of wisdom to speak if you ask Him. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Isaiah 5:21 says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (New King James Version).
7. Pray with them and for them. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brethren, pray for us” (New King James Version). He said a similar thing in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 and Colossians 4:3. The writer of the book of Hebrews also said, “Pray for us” (Hebrews 13:18 New Living Translation). Every minister of God, whether he is hurting or not, needs the prayer of other Christians. It is either pride or ignorance or both for anyone, including ministers, to say he doesn’t.
More importantly, those who’re hurting need prayer support. Pray with them when you visit them, not necessarily a lengthy prayer. But be led by the Spirit of God to make the right requests. Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (New King James Version).
If someone is already leading a prayer when you visit, don’t start another one – just join them. Beyond the public prayer you pray, you should remember to pray for a hurting person in your closet for healing. Be faithful to do this, and you’ll see the effect of praying for them. Many Christians fail in doing this though they may be good at visitation and expression of sympathy. But our concern should go beyond just showing sympathy which non-believers can also do. Hurting people need our faithfulness in prayer to overcome what they’re going through because, many times, people who’re hurting are in a condition that they may not be able to pray.
In Acts 12:5-6, we’re told that while the church was praying without ceasing for Peter, he was sleeping in prison, chained between two soldiers, with others standing guard at the prison gate. What prayer could Peter have prayed in such a condition? But there was a praying church, not a playing church or a gossiping church! The Lord answered their prayer and sent an angel to release him.
8. Show love through counseling and practical assistance. A hurting person may come to you for counseling or counseling may be needed after the person opens up following your enquiries about his mood or appearance. Counseling is not something that everyone or anyone can do. Counseling the hurting is something that one should not jump in without seeking the help of the Holy Spirit so that one doesn’t go to complicate the person’s situation. If you don’t have the right counsel for the person who has asked you for it, you may refer him to someone you trust can help the person with the right and Godly counsel. “The advice of the wise is like a life-giving fountain; those who accept it avoid the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14 New Living Translation).
The difference between taking a wise counsel and taking a foolish counsel sometimes can be like the difference between life and death! A foolish counsel may actually worsen someone’s difficult situation. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success” (New Living Translation). The Bible is talking here about wise counselors, not foolish counselors; otherwise the advice of one wise man is better than the advice of multitude of foolish counselors!
Every counsel should be founded on the Word of God and be inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God doesn’t contradict the Word of God. Do not give counsel based on worldly values. For example, the principle of the world is tit-for-tat (revenge) but that’s not the Spirit of Christ. Jesus said, “But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back” (Luke 6:27-30 New Living Translation). That means don’t seek revenge.
Practical assistance includes giving finances and material things as the Lord blesses you and helping them to do some things. This will go a long way to strengthen them in going through the season. When someone is hurting, he can be weak physically, emotionally and even financially as some negative experiences of life can drain someone financially. For example, sickness, flood and fire disasters, etc. Praying for such person is good but it won’t be enough. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Since you excel in so many ways — you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us — now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7 New Living Translation).
Giving is one area where many people fail including several who expect others to give to them but are themselves not givers! Many can pray for others and encourage them, but in giving finances or materials, they, like the Corinthians, still need a special encouragement! According to the Bible, there are situations in which prayer will not be enough! Something more needs to be done by assisting practically. James 2:15-17 says, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (New King James Version). This scripture is not talking about those who may not have material things to give, and nobody should abuse the generosity of others. Everyone must first accept responsibility for his life.
9. Keep people’s confidences. Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence” (New Living Translation). Don’t go about disclosing what people confide in you while they’re in grief or distress. They can confess to you their error of judgment, their mistakes, their sins, etc. while praying for/with them or during counseling. These are not things you go about sharing with others or a third party. Even, as a pastor, you should be very careful making reference to such things in your preaching or teaching directly or indirectly in a way that the person will know you’re talking about him or people will know who you’re referring to, and they go back to tell the person or even give him the recorded message! You must avoid making this mistake.
Nobody wants to be shepherded by a pastor who cannot keep a secret shared with him. Pastors should avoid this rather than be blaming such hurting persons who feel betrayed and leave the church. When people are in pain, they can take some emotional decisions, and that doesn’t mean they are right.
Learn how to keep the secrets, confidences people share with you. John writes, “When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But a voice from heaven called to me: ‘Keep secret what the seven thunders said. Do not write it down’” (Revelation 10:4 New Living Translation). John didn’t go ahead to write the details. Till today, we don’t know what the seven thunders spoke. Obviously, God doesn’t want us to know it now. Can you be trusted with other people’s secrets?
Conclusion: God is a compassionate God. Even when He punishes people, He is quick to show them His compassion especially when they repent and cry unto Him for mercy. Lamentation 3:31-33 says, “For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (New Living Translation). Believers should emulate God and minister to the hurting in compassion.
If you’re not born again, kindly take the following steps: *Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, soul-winning church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you’ve said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You’ll need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you’ll be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May the LORD make you a Cedar Christian. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. May the LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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