I was on campus at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently when someone asked how I was doing. I looked at the books I had just purchased at the bookstore and remarked I just purchased three copies of a book entitled, “I Have PTSD” — one for me and two for friends — if that tells you anything.
Not everyone is doing well. People we are around each day have been through, or are going through, things that none of us knows anything about.
Ian Maclaren, a Scottish minister, is sometimes cited as the original source of the quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Whoever said it, we can be certain of its truthfulness. An open and honest conversation soon reveals challenges and struggles in the lives of those we love that we knew nothing about.
Unfortunately, though, many of us are so consumed with our own challenges that we may not even notice what others around us are going through — but we should.
How can we grow in our sensitivity to the needs of those we care about and rub elbows with each day? Here are some things to consider:
1. Get help from Jesus. Jesus our Good Shepherd is also the Wonderful Counselor and knows how to care for people. Christ lives in us and will help us grow in our sensitivity and ministry to those around us. If we ask Jesus to grow us in this area, then we can be sure we are praying and asking for something that is in His heart to give.
2. Get help from friends. Some Christians are more naturally gifted than others with the skills of a nurturer. Ask these brothers or sisters to help you learn to be more sensitive. Consider asking someone to coach you through this growth area in your life. Coaching doesn’t have to be formal, though it can be. Coaching can simply be finding a friend who is sensitive to the goings on of others and asking them to help you grow in that area. They will likely be glad to do it.
3. Get help from your spouse. If you are married, it is possible that your spouse has a greater sensitivity to what others are going through than you do. But whether your spouse is stronger in this area than you are, they will likely be glad to pray for you and support you as you desire to be more understanding toward other people.
4. Get help from books. The book I referenced at the beginning of this article, I Have PTSD: Reorienting After Trauma, is written by Dr. Curtis Solomon, executive director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and professor at Boyce College. He has insight into post-traumatic stress that many of us do not have. Books like this can be used by God to stir our thinking beyond our natural interest and open potential growth areas for us all.
5. Get help from seminars. There is much help available today for people who want to develop greater skills in caring for others. A Google search for Biblical Counseling seminars, in person or online, will yield a plethora of training opportunities. Completing courses and training in the skills needed for pastoral care can help sensitize us to the people around us and what they may be experiencing.
6. Get help from God’s Word. Meditating on Scripture is one of the best and easiest ways to renew your mind and develop a greater sensitivity to hurting people. Jesus prayed that God the Father would sanctify us by His truth and His Word is truth (John 17:17). Paul instructed us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Scripture meditation will be used by God to grow us in our love and care for other people.
7. Get help from your church. Ask those closest to you in your church family, Sunday school class or small group to pray for you that God will do a work in your life in this area.
People are going through all kinds of difficulties, but they need not go through it alone. May the Lord help us all develop a greater sensitivity to others so we can help bear each other’s burdens and in doing so fulfill the law of Christ.