Matthew 25:35-40 (NRSV)
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
I admit - I'm selfish. I realize friends and neighbors have needs or are going through hardship, but c'mon. So am I. And my problems are worse than yours. Wow, how very unChristlike of me. Normal, and human, but not very Christian. Therefore...here is what I'm going to try harder to do and not do...
What not to do when someone is going through rough times:
Criticize their decisions - we all deal with things in our own way. We all have our own priorities. If you choose to leave your children with a babysitter so you can be with your spouse in the hospital, that's what is best for your family. If you choose to stay with your children while your spouse is alone in the hospital, that is what is best for your family. I will not criticize.
Add to their responsibilities - when someone is going through hard times, they're most likely overloaded with things they need to do. I will not ask you to babysit my children, or try to guilt trip you into letting my kids come over to your house. I will not add to your responsibilities.
Wait for you to call me - no one likes to ask for help. We're all good at saying "if you need anything, give me a call." But the truth is, very few people actually do this. I know I don't. I know the people who tell me this mean it... but I still don't pick up that phone.
What to do when someone is going through rough times:Offer to help - and by this, I don't mean I'm going to give the "if you need anything, call me" line (see above). Instead, I'm going to call you and say "hey, want me to take the kids for a few hours?" or "mind if I come over and mow your lawn?"
Make sure they're well fed - and by well fed, I personally mean make sure they have a supply of brownies (it's the only thing I can make). But seriously, a plate of food, a pan of bars, a cup of coffee - all of these can go a long way in helping someone out. Even just one meal is one less responsibility for a day that the person has to worry about.
Ask what's up - and yes, I said ask "What's up" and not "how are you doing?" Why? Because when someone is going through something (especially the death of a loved one, or a medical problem of their own or that of a loved one), "how are you" is one of those well intentioned horrible questions. Most people won't even answer it honestly. They feel obligated to say "I'm ok." Instead, I'll ask what's up, or what you've got going on.
Pray with them - I'm not going to say "you're in my prayers." Well, that's not true. I will say that. But, when I'm on the phone with you, or standing in your doorway with a warm pan of gooey brownies, I will also ask if I can say a prayer with you.
I may not always follow these... but I'm going to try...
We can't be there all the time for everyone. I get that - and I hope others understand that as well. But I can try to be more aware. I can take more time to help the hungry, the thirsty, the naked. I can take the time to welcome the stranger, care for the sick, and visit with those who need a friend.
May we all find the time to be more Christlike to those in need.