Hi, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
How are you doing today? Are you doing okay? We are in the midst of getting ready for Easter, but to be honest, I feel completely unprepared. So I’ll be taking some time over the next couple of weeks to really sit with God and engage with the cross and resurrection. Because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Jesus dying for us and coming back to life so that we can be close to God.
There’s actually a series of podcasts I’d love to recommend to you that I listened to a few years back. It was from Ruth Haley Barton and season 7 of the Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership podcast. She has 9 episodes where she helps us walk through the season of Lent, and I know that Lent is almost over, but even if you listen to just one or two of the episodes… I know I found them so helpful in my slowing down and sitting with God to prepare for Easter. So I’ll link to that podcast in the show notes below.
So today in this podcast, I want to teach you a really simple way to check in with someone without intruding.
And I offer this because I know how difficult it can be to see someone who is struggling, but question the best way to approach them and ask about it. We feel like we’re butting in, or maybe we feel like we’re going to offend them if we ask questions. Or maybe we’re just afraid of rejection, like, if we check in and they give us this weird look like we’re crazy and they’d never talk to us in a million years.
But we’ve got to find a way to break through those fears and concerns because… think about this… what if NO ONE checks in with them? What happens then? They go home thinking that no one cares. And that’s definitely not the message we want to send.
So as I’ve thought about this, I realized that I saw this demonstrated really well to me when I was in college. It was a season where I struggled with some depression and friendships, and there were times when others at the school checked in with me that made me feel noticed and understood, whether or not I actually talked to them about what was going on.
Then later, this question also became the theme, per se, of a campaign from the National Suicide Prevention Center, and again, I just saw how powerful of a question it could be.
Okay, so, let’s imagine that we see someone at church who seems to be having a hard day. Maybe they’re kind of hiding out and avoiding talking with people, maybe they seem about ready to burst into tears. Just something is going on that leads you believe they are struggling.
The first thing I would encourage you to do is pray. Pray for them. You can say something like, “God, so-and-so seems to be having a hard day today. Stay close to her. Let her feel your love. Help her to know that others are here who care about her.”
At some point during the morning, if it seems like a good time to connect, where you can kind of talk to her away from people, then I want you to go up to her slowly. Don’t rush toward her. That might freak her out. Just slowly make your way to her.
Now, if it’s a busy morning and people are everywhere, or maybe she’s got to leave, then this might not be the best time to approach her. But if you both have a few minutes, I think it’s really powerful to catch her there at church rather than trying to get ahold of her later.
So you get her kind of away from everyone else, and you look her in the eye if you can, and you simply ask, “Are you okay?”
And that’s it. You ask, “Are you okay?” and then you wait.
The reason this is such a powerful question is that is communicates a lot in just three short words.
It lets them know that you noticed something is wrong. You wouldn’t be asking that question if they appeared to be okay, right? You would ask something like, “Hey, how are you?” Something normal. But asking, “Are you okay?” indicates that it seems like something is bothering them, and you noticed.
It also lets them know that you care. You care enough to find them and ask them if they are doing okay. You didn’t just walk away. You didn’t whisper to a friend next to you, “Hey, does it seem like so-and-so is okay today? Something’s up… I can tell.” You approached her about it. You went straight to her.
Finally, it also gives her the space to choose how to respond. If she isn’t ready to talk about it, she can simply say, “Yeah, I’m okay,” or she can give you a little shrug, or whatever. And that’s okay. You accept that and can follow up with, “Okay, but I’m here if you ever want to talk.” And that plants the seed in their heart in case a few days later, they are ready to talk but they didn’t know who to talk to, but since you approached them about it, they know that you care and are available. Do you see how that works?
On the other hand, if she is ready to talk about it, you can sit down in your quiet corner and listen, find out what’s going on, see how you can help. Or, if you don’t have time to have that conversation there, invite her over to your house that day and talk then.
There were professors and other students at college who would notice that I was having a hard day in class that day, and they would catch me on the sidewalk or somewhere between classes, walk along next to me, and just ask, “Hey, are you okay?” And that was enough. It really was. Sometimes I shared with them and sometimes I’d say, “No, not really, but I don’t want to talk about it.” But it meant so much to me that they noticed and checked in.
I don’t think anyone would be offended if you asked them this question. Like, let’s just say that we entirely misread the situation and the person we think is having a hard day is actually perfectly fine. You ask, “Are you okay?” What’s going to happen? She’s going to say something like, “Oh, yeah, I’m fine, how are you doing?”
But I would rather take the risk and check in, than to miss the opportunity altogether and let someone go home thinking that no one cares. What about you?
I want you to take a few minutes and think about why it might be so hard for you to check in with someone. Do you feel like you’re intruding by asking questions? Or are you worried about getting rejected? If so, why? Did something in the past lead you to think this way? Take some time to pray through those questions, journal about them, even. And see what God reveals to you.
Then ask Him to help you break through those worries and concerns so that you can check in with others when they appear to be having a hard time. Can you do that? He’ll help you. He really will. Let’s break through these obstacles so that our friends and loved ones know they are not alone.
Until next time…