Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
There’s a song by Casting Crowns called “Does Anybody Hear Her?” about a girl who is hurting. And in the chorus, they ask,
Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see?
I remember first hearing this song when it came out, and it really got to me. Because the truth is, there are a lot of hurting and discouraged people who just aren’t noticed by you and me. We look right over them.
We say we want to encourage others, and I completely believe that desire is within us. Yet I think one of the things that trips us up the most is that we simply aren’t paying much attention to those around us. We’re too busy. We’re too focused on us. And that’s what I want to talk about today. How do we cultivate the habit of paying attention so that those around us who are hurting don’t get overlooked?
When we pay attention, we observe. We notice things. We see the details, the nuances. I think we’re each good at paying attention to different things. Me, I’m not so good at noticing hair cuts and new clothes. Maybe you are. But we want to learn how to pay attention to the people around us, to their non-verbal language and their behavior. And we want this to become second-nature to us. Something we do naturally.
So how do we do this?
First, pray for God to open your eyes to those who are hurting.
Praying is a vital first response to this issue. We need God to help us see what we normally don’t see. We need Him to help us change our ways, to change our hearts, and help us become more others-focused.
Like blind Bartimaeus, we could cry out to Jesus, “I want to see!” (Mark 10:51) Help me to see. I don’t want to be blind to the needs of others. I don’t want to just walk past them. Show me who is hurting today, Lord.
And I believe that as we begin to pray that, God will change our hearts and open our eyes to pay more attention. To see those who might be struggling. We start to feel those little nudges from Holy Spirit saying, “See her? Reach out to her. Say hi.”
And here’s the deal: you need to act on those nudges. Because if you don’t, how likely is it that He’s going to keep prompting you like that? In his book Hearing God, Dallas Willard writes that one reason we don’t hear from God is that we don’t act on what He tells us.
This is what he says “It may also be that they could make no good use of a word from God because of how they are living. Do they stand ready to obey and change if God directs that? Do they want to know if they are on a wrong path?”
We don’t want to be like that. If God nudges you, act on it. Listen to Him. Even if you feel foolish. Even if you don’t notice any impact. That person may not respond to you in the way you were hoping. They may not pour out their heart to you, saying, “Oh, man, this is going on and I’m really struggling today…” But you’re planting seeds of hope and life, and maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what that person needed.
So pray. Ask God to open your eyes and show you those around you who are hurting.
Second, slow down and look around.
As you go about your day, slow down and look–really look–at those around you. Look at their posture and body language. Look to see if they make eye contact with anyone. What is their general demeanor? Can you see if anything is bothering them or discouraging them?
Sometimes we have a hard time seeing the hurt because we see it all the time and it simply doesn’t register with us anymore. Do any of these examples connect with you?
- your neighbor who cannot get out of the house that much due to health concerns
- the older gentlemen at the store who has a hard time getting his money out of his wallet because of the arthritis in his hands
- your church friend who is juggling multiple kids and trying to worship and listen during the service
- a coworker who is struggling with a work project
- the parents who have a chronically ill child
- your family member who just got unwanted news
- a business owner or ministry leader who feels alone and isolated
- the new parents who aren’t getting a lot of sleep or a lot of work done
- the nursing home patient who doesn’t have a lot of visitors
- your friend who just had a loved one pass away
- the hopeful mom who miscarried her baby
Some of these things have become “normal” and so we don’t necessarily think about the hurt and heartache that can occur with each one. But if you’re ever the one who is struggling, you realize just how much of an impact it can have on your life.
We think, “Oh, she just had a baby, she should be so happy and excited!” But if you’ve ever had a baby, you know how exhausting it can be. How hard it is to get any real sleep. The changes it has on your body. The impact it can have on a marriage or with the other kids in the house. You’re all adjusting to having another human in the family. One that is quite demanding at times.
Or we know a loved one is at the nursing home and know they are well taken care of, but do we stop and think about what their day looks like? How much life has changed for them? What they are—or are not—able to do anymore? Is visiting once a month really enough? Is that enough to let them know you care about them?
Slow down and look at those in your life. Really look at them. And see if God reveals anyone to you who needs some extra care and encouragement right now.
Finally, be willing to ask.
Okay, I’m going to call us out on something. I think sometimes we aren’t ready to step in and help others, and so we kind of make ourselves blind to their needs. Like, if I have a friend who is struggling with depression, it can be hard to keep asking how they’re doing, knowing that they’re probably going to say it’s not going well and they are struggling. And then I’m not going to know what to do with that, and so I avoid the question altogether. That’s hard for me to admit. It could be chronic illness. Or a friend looking for a job. Or someone struggling in their marriage.
I’ve been going through Kelly Minter’s Bible study of Nehemiah, and in that she writes, “Sometimes I shield myself from finding out what’s really going on with people for fear I’ll be held responsible. Because with information often comes responsibility; if we know, we might be required to do something.”
We don’t want to know. So we don’t ask. We don’t look around. We don’t pay attention.
But if we don’t… those who are hurting will feel like they are on their own, with no one to walk with them through that season. Remember that quote from Michael Slater? “To hurt is bad enough, but to hurt alone destroys people physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
My friends, we have to be willing to ask. We have to be willing to sit in the pain and hurt with them. Even when we don’t have the answers. Even when we don’t know what to say.
Think about what happens if you are struggling with something, and every time you’re with a friend, they never ask you about it. How would that make you feel? Like it’s not important. Like you’re not important. We don’t want.
Let’s not hurry past, my friends. Let’s not let our hearts grow hard. Let’s be the one who slows down and reaches out, with God’s help.
Until next time…
QUOTES + BIBLE VERSES:
- “‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked. ‘My Rabbi,’ the blind man said, ‘I want to see!’” (Mark 10:51 NLT)
- “It may also be that they could make no good use of a word from God because of how they are living. Do they stand ready to obey and change if God directs that? Do they want to know if they are on a wrong path?” (Dallas Willard, Hearing God)
- “Sometimes I shield myself from finding out what’s really going on with people for fear I’ll be held responsible. Because with information often comes responsibility; if we know, we might be required to do something.” (Kelly Minter, Nehemiah Bible Study)