So often we respond when it is too late! An individual usually hits rock bottom before we begin to take notice. We often say, "I had no idea he/she was going through that." When someone enquires, "Have you ever talked to him?" "Have you helped her find ways to connect with the church?" The answer is usually no. When we greet one another, we usually offer the courteous "How are you?' and we are usually halfway out the door before we get an answer.
We may also ask ourselves, "Where did we go wrong? Could we have done more in this situation?" In some situations the answer is yes, we could have done more. I've had my share of nights sitting in rapt attention while listening to others vent. I also have had others who have sat with me and allowed me to pour out my heart for hours. I've been able to offer a safe place for tears to be shed, but I have also been the person needing a place to sob. I needed that time and place to process, and I know others do as well.
I have witnessed a few churches in my city who strive to create support and fellowship for those who are hurting in the church. One of the churches even has a recovery service. This service is for those struggling with all types of addictions. All are welcome to attend. In this same church, I've seen support groups for those struggling with depression and other mental health disorders. Such churches also offer support to those who have experienced divorce and abortion. These churches want to be places of healing.
How wonderful it is to go to the body of Christ to receive healing and deliverance. Many churches don't support Twelve Step programs, medication, or counseling but fail to offer any alternatives. People need to connect deeply with others, and many times it is crucial for them to connect with people who are going through (or have gone through) the same dilemma.
Second, be present when someone is pouring their heart out to you. If you are meeting in person, it doesn't help if you are on your cell phone the whole time or constantly looking at your watch. If you are speaking on the telephone, it is frustrating if you are constantly talking to others around you or you keep placing the person on hold. This sends a message that the person is not much of a priority. Also keeping the conversation private and confidential is essential. I don't think anything hurts more than when you pour your heart out to someone and that person shares it with someone else. I've shared my deepest and most intimate thoughts with a person, only for her husband to repeat what I said to me later. I felt so violated, especially since her husband is known to gossip.