The holiday season is around the corner. While many people enjoy the holiday season more than any other time of the year, there are many who struggle to find any joy in it at all. In fact, for many, this time of year is devastating and debilitating. A broken relationship, a haunting seasonal memory, the death of a friend or family member, or the inability to bless their family with the kind of gifts others are receiving plants a dark cloud over many, especially when they’re seeing the masses celebrating passionately when they are hurting deeply.
So, how does a small group leader show the love of Christ to those who are living in the midst of the dark night of the soul?
- Be an active listener while disciplining yourself not to give advice. For many in this situation, all they need is a listening ear. They need the opportunity to share with someone what they’re feeling and why they are hurting so deeply. Allow them to say anything they need to say without telling them what they need to do. You can’t fix what’s broken but you can be the object through which some of the emotional intensity can be released.
- Exercise the ministry of “presence.” For many, aloneness is what is causing their greatest pain. Coffee at a local coffee shop or a meal at a restaurant of their choice may be a great gift to the person who is struggling emotionally.
- Worship with the hurting individual. If the person you’re aiding is single, or they’re single when they attend worship at the church (their spouse doesn’t attend church), simply invite them to sit with you. In the presence of God, emotions often flow freely allowing you to be there to comfort them and, in many instances, allowing you to be there and encourage them to trust God in the midst of their darkness.
- Text encouraging Scripture verses and words of encouragement often. Texting has opened the door for many of us to encourage in the moment when we don’t have the time for elongated conversations. Use this approach wisely. Don’t bombard the person with statements telling them that it will all work out (This is a promise you can’t honestly make.) or that they just need to claim God’s promises. By the way, once a day would be best, twice a day would be optimal.