Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
One of the books that have meant the most to me in this season of caring for others is Becoming a Stretcher Bearer, by Michael Slater. In fact, you heard me mention it back in episode 30 when I talked about three of my favorite books when it comes to encouraging and caring for others.
One of the most common quotes you’ll hear from me comes from Michael Slater in this book, and it is, “To hurt is bad enough, but to hurt alone destroys people physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
I mean, can you think about a time in your life where you felt like you were hurting alone, without anyone to help you? It’s devastating. It truly is.
The whole premise of Slater’s book is how we can be like the four men who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus on a mat, digging a hole through the roof, even, to get him to Jesus. We can help carry our friends through their difficult seasons until they are well enough to walk on their own again.
But today, we’re turning that around and thinking about when we are the one on the stretcher. Because at some point, we all end up there, don’t we?
And so, I want to break this down a little bit and help us figure out this question: If you found yourself on a stretcher—physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, or spiritually—who could help carry you through that season?
Sometimes, you might just need one or two people to lean on for a little while, but sometimes you’ll need a whole team. Because one person cannot carry you on a stretcher by themselves for any extended period of time. It’s too much. They’ll run out of strength. And so it’s important to put together a team who can support you.
But it can be hard to identify who those people are and what role they can play in your healing journey. And so today, I want to run through some ideas of who those people might be for you based on your season of difficulty. And I’m actually going to group them into two categories because I think that will help us think through some different people, but there is, of course, a bit of overlap there.
The first category is peer support. These are people you have relationships with, who can care for you, but who don’t have any specific training.
And in this, we know that friends are peer support for us. These are the people who know you personally, that you trust and get along with. They are probably the ones you go to first when you are having a challenging time. Okay, so friends can be some of our stretcher bearers.
These are people who have known you your entire life and are often committed to you in a way that others aren’t. Now, I realize this isn’t true for everyone, but if you have family members you trust and are close to, it can be so incredibly helpful to get their support during this difficult season in your life.
Support Group Members
These are people who have been through what you’re going through. They are someone you can talk with and they know in a way that others don’t what you might be experiencing. So, for example, finding a grief support group or an anxiety support group at a local church or counseling center.
So we have friends, family members, and support groups. But we might also have church members, people we can talk to and who can pray for us.
The second category is professional support. These are people who have been trained to support you in specific ways.
Medical doctors who can help you look after your physical well-being. It can be important to keep your regular doctor appointments during difficult seasons even if it’s not directly health-related because a doctor can help you keep an eye on your physical health and might be able to see things you can’t see. If it’s a family doctor you’ve had for a while, you may also feel comfortable enough talking about what’s going on, at least in broad terms, so he or she can support you in that. For example, if it’s a season of grief and you’re having trouble sleeping, they might be able to recommend a few things for you to try.
Counselors can help you care for your mental and emotional health. They offer you a safe place to talk about what’s going on, what you’re thinking about and feeling, and what you can do with those things. Counselors can be really good at asking you some powerful questions to help you process what is going on, and also offer you some techniques and strategies for dealing with the mental and emotional side of things, like fear or anxiety.
Your pastor is someone who can pray for you and support you personally. Many pastors are willing to chat after services or meet up later in the week to listen to you and pray for you. If you go to a larger church, this might be a Care Team pastor or small group leader. But there is likely someone at your church whom God has gifted to help care for people during difficult times. Find them and talk with them. It can make a world of difference just to have someone listen to you and pray for you.
Spiritual directors can help you tend to your soul and relationship with God. So while you are experiencing fear or anxiety or grief, they can help you take those things to God and see where He might be working in your life. Many spiritual directors meet in person or on a video call. If you know me, I like to offer written spiritual direction for those of us who need more time and space to process what’s going on. But either way, these individuals can support you in your walk with Christ and talk through faith questions together.
Life coaches can help you process what you’re going through and put plans and actions into place for this season. There are coaches that specialize in different areas, like caregiving or grief or trauma, and so finding one that focuses on your difficult season can be incredibly helpful and empowering.
Other people who can fall into professional support could be home health care nurses, a physical therapist, a psychiatrist, or even house cleaners or nannies. They can all help support you in different ways.
So I want to walk through just a couple examples of what this might look like as you put your team of stretcher bearers together.
Let’s say that you were just diagnosed with cancer. Obviously, your medical doctors are going to play a huge support role for you as they help you navigate tests and treatment plans. Your family will also be there for you, emotionally supporting you and praying for you. They might take over some of the housekeeping and meal preparation so you can get the rest you need.
Maybe you also join a cancer support group at a local hospital, giving you a safe place to share what you’re experiencing and hear from others who are experiencing similar things, or have already been through it.
Friends are there to give you hugs and sit with you for an hour or two, or drop off meals, or drive you to your doctor’s appointments. And maybe you decide you want to work with a spiritual director because this has rocked your faith a little bit. Why would God allow this to happen? How can you possibly trust Him now?
As another example, let’s say you just miscarried your little baby. Unimaginable. While your medical doctors can provide some care for you in the months following this, you really are struggling with grief and sadness. And so you meet with a counselor to discuss what is going on and how you can move forward from this.
You also decide to meet with your pastor to share more about your grief and have him pray for you. He mentions another lady in the church who has been through something similar, and you decide to reach out to her for more support, meeting with her every so often when things are especially hard. She’s been there. She understands.
Your spouse is also there to support you in whatever way he can as you grieve together. Maybe he takes over some of the cleaning chores to give you some time and space to just be. And your friends… you know you can text them anytime you’re struggling and ask for prayers or a coffee date.
Putting Together Your Team
So you can see how, depending on the situation and your personality, you can put together a team of stretcher bearers to help carry you through a season of grief and hurt. Again, one person cannot carry you through alone. Not for any extended period of time. And so you have to decide who to invite in, who you trust to help care for you and carry you through.
And just as a gentle reminder, on the flip side, you cannot carry someone through a difficult season on your own. You can’t rescue them. But you can help support them in the role God has called you to fill—whether as friend, family member, or pastor.
As we end, if you are going through a difficult season right now, I want you to get out a piece of paper and write down who these people are for you. Who are your stretcher bearers?
And if now isn’t a particularly trying time for you, maybe think back to a challenging season and remember who those people were. Who helped get you through? Write down their names and maybe send them a thank you note this week, letting them know how much you appreciate the part they played in carrying through a difficult season.
Okay, that’s all for today, my friends. Until next time…
- Book: Becoming a Stretcher Bearer, by Michael Slater
- Episode 30: Three Favorite Books About Encouraging One Another
- Mark 2:1-12
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