If nothing else, the current pandemic has taught or reminded us of this: we are touchable. Strong in spirit and resolve, maybe, but vulnerable in our flesh. No matter how much we wished or actually believed that they were, our very temporary bodies—their functions, plans, emotions, thoughts, etc.—are not, for all our efforts, invincible.
There are as many ways to respond to this revelation or reminder as there are people on this earth. This being true, it’s vital to our collective well-being and future that we all extend the same mercy, grace, kindness, compassion, and patience God shows us to one another in the days ahead as we each experience, learn, grieve, process, and grow at our own pace and in our own way.
How? Here are a few suggestions:
Mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15). You don’t have to understand why a person is grieving to share their burden. Let them talk. Pray for them. Tell them they are loved. Let them know you are hurting or have hurt, too, maybe not in the same way or for the same reasons, but that you understand what it is to mourn.
Do not rate or compare grief, one-up, remind them how much worse things could be or once were, tell them how they should or shouldn’t feel, or recite platitudes that cost you nothing. These things rarely help. They could even hurt, causing mourners to withdraw deeper into their grief and/or farther away from you, more convinced than ever that no one gets what they are going through.
Rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15). When a person’s joy bubbles over, let it. Drink from the puddles and thank God for the reminder He is faithful. When people share things that have helped them, be glad for them, whether or not it helps you the same way or at all. Speak words of affirmation and encouragement. Celebrate even when you aren’t really feeling it. Bring God the sacrifice of praise along with everyone else, through tears, if necessary (Heb. 13:15).
Do not rain on other people’s parades or let the Enemy get a foothold (Eph. 4:27). Guard your heart against jealousy, cynicism, bitterness, and the tendency to judge or assume. These things destroy what God wants us to build, bridges of relationship able to bear the burden of truth.
Give without expecting. Time, energy, encouragement, resources, space, the benefit of the doubt. No two people on this earth are having identical experiences right now, and none of us are heart or mind readers. These things being true, none of us are in a position to determine what anyone else can or should be doing for each other or for us during this time. All we know for sure is what we ourselves can and should be doing for others. Focus on that, thanking God for the privilege of service and giving Him all the glory for anything good that comes of your obedience.
Do not keep running tabs of what you are doing for others, what others are doing for others, and/or what others are doing for you. This breeds and fosters pride, competition and self-pity. If you feel like you’re doing more and/or receiving less, be glad! If it’s true—you really have no way of knowing—then it could just mean you’re one of the stronger ones right now, which is a huge blessing, isn’t it?
Expect emotional highs and lows. Remember, we’re all just learning to walk this crazy rope bridge stretched out before us. If you haven’t felt the strength and sway of it yet, you will. We all will, and when that happens, our bodies will respond the way they are wired to respond to threat. Adrenaline will kick in, our senses will be heightened, and the emotional exhaust we express could be disproportionate to the stimuli immediately at hand. Expect this from yourself and from others. Train yourself to look beyond what is said, done, and posted to the heart behind it. Pray for those who seem angry, sad, confused, helpless, anxious, or depressed, and forgive immediately.
Do not argue with them, back them in a corner, force apologies, publicly air grievances, or withdraw emotionally. This only exacerbates the problem, further damages relationships, and delays healing.
Speak the truth in love. Let people know God loves them and that He made a way for them to be rescued from the consequences of sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection so they don’t have to fear death. Invite them to accept God’s forgiveness and become a child of God forever. Show them how. Obey God’s commands even in times of duress and encourage your brothers and sisters to do the same.
Make sure to preach to, though, not at, so you don’t get in the way of the Holy Spirit. He’s more than capable of convincing, drawing, equipping, and transforming all on His own.
Take care of yourself. Maybe not before others, but certainly just as consistently. You are a gift to those around you. Steward that gift well. Rest. Eat right. Commune with God. Take all recommended precautions. Do your part to stay healthy and strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Do not play the martyr unless specifically called to do so. When you don’t take good care of yourself, you diminish your capacity to give and rob others of a source of encouragement and help God meant for them to have.
Want to experience a little victory during these trying times? Simply treat people the way you want and need to be treated so God can work in and through you (Matt. 7:12).
It’s not that hard.
Just remember we’re all made of dust; God does (Psalm 103:14).