Have you ever been faced with a moment when someone you care for is having a crisis, a pain, a struggle or situation and find yourself wondering “how am I supposed to help THEM?”.
That is a hard place to be in, but at least in that situation, you’re able to acknowledge your inability & the uniqueness of their situation.
What is worse it that more often when faced with a problem in the life of someone we care for we jump to conclusions about that they need. We think “they should read X, or follow Y on twitter, or attend Z event”.
We jump to trying to solve the problem, struggle, doubt with a prescription of pithy sayings and a list of things they need to do to fix themselves.
We probably offer to pray for them, sometimes pray with them in that moment. We give them a book to read or information for a meeting or group they should join.
Have you ever done that, or have you had that happen to you?
When Axiom opened in 2007 we had a student who we will call Shane (not his real name). Shane came to Axiom each day, he was quiet, reserved, plainly put he was guarded.
He came to play video games, he wasn’t interested in getting to know adults, wasn’t open to building relationships, and really wasn’t interested in hearing “the good news” to be honest he was completely opposed to it.
One day he came in, sat down near the video games, and broke down sobbing. Here was our moment to get through his guarding walls. After some discussion, he shared that his girlfriend was HIV+, and he needed to be tested.
He was terrified. We sat with him through that, there was no need to lecture, nothing that would comfort him. Eventually things went back to normal, Shane didn’t all the sudden start going to youth group and he didn’t become and amazing success story. He just graduated and moved on.
Five years later the Chairman of The Axiom Board Kurt was preaching at another church in a neighboring city, when he saw Shane.
Shane recently he found out his new girlfriend was pregnant. When faced with another life changing moment he remembered that Christians started Axiom, Christians care about people, Christians were there for him in his worry and panic as a teen. He wanted to be a good dad, which meant finding a church.
Looking back Shane said in reflecting on his breakdown at Axiom 5 years before “I felt like I was sitting on a death sentence”. Enter Axiom, and the grace and love of God through simply being with him in his pain and fear.
5 years ago, we had no idea how much of an impact sitting with him in his pain would make later in his life, at the time it seemed to have made no difference at all.
Our perspective must broader than the narrow now.
As Christians, we are called to serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:13), we are trusted with the task to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone (Mark 16:15).
What does that mean for us today at work, at our kids’ soccer game, at the grocery store, when meeting an old friend for coffee? Some people believe that means sharing about Jesus or God or end times at every opportunity (welcomed opportunity or unwelcomed opportunity).
At Axiom, we believe we are (and you are) called to be good news to people who live bad news.
Through caring for the individual in every aspect of their life. When faced with a student, friend, colleague, stranger that so clearly is living a story of hurt, pain, struggle we serve them in their pain.
Rather prescribing a book, program, or feel good saying, we sit with them in that pain, in the moment, we listen wholly, openly, with open hands asking for permission to carry their burden with them.
Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive. Titus 3:14,
Jacks older brother came to Axiom right when it opened, so of course when Jack was old enough he jumped right in too. He had a hard home life, his mom was a felon, and consistently on and off meth, home was anything but stable. Axiom was his stability.
When mom broke probation and had to be booked for anywhere to 1-4 months again, or if she disappeared, Axiom stepped in.
Our volunteers would kick in to take him grocery shopping, to buy him new shoes (the good vans not fake ones from payless), collectively we did everything would could. But it still wasn’t enough to make up for the chaos he lived in.
Eventually he ended up moving in with one of our Axiom staff. He learned discipline, basic skills, he passed his drug tests, and got honor roll for the first time since elementary school. He did so well that he decided he could do it on his own, and could provide for himself and move out.
I’d like to say that he kept it up, graduated high school, got a job and is a model citizen. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. However, he now knows he can succeed, he knows that good people bring out the good in people, and he knows that when you change your surroundings you can change your circumstance. He knows what it is like to have a support system and a healthy home life.
When you carry the burden of others you are meeting their needs, breathing value into their story, growing in trust and fueling hope in their heart.
People are lonely, we need each other, you need people and there are people that need you. No one needs you to cast judgment, they don’t need more to do, more to read, more to attend.
We are all already overwhelmed, beat, burdened. In someone’s darkest or must painful moment, when it feels like the world is caving in on them, you can add to pain and confusion with a to-do list and nice little sayings like God has a plan, or you can bear the load with them.
Yes, He does have a plan, and a part of that plan is you!
Rachel, our current Oroville manager stepped in and did something she claims she would never ever ever have normally done. While browsing facebook late at night one of our students had posted about wanting junk food, because at midnight no one is craving carrots and ranch…
So Rachel snuck out of her own house for a midnight caper.
They went and bought doughnuts, wrote a note and sent her a “check outside” text. They heard the door open, heard her squeal with excitement then start to cry.
Turned out she was having a rough night, and the reminder that people loved her was just what she needed. Sure, she was joking and being silly when she posted about wanting junk food but Rachel being willing to go out at midnight to get her doughnuts and leave them for her was a reminder of how much she is cared for.
You stepping into the situation with people, being alongside them for the struggles and, when the time comes, for the victory.
Meeting their tangible needs, validating their emotions, being compassionate, and loving will do much more than having them read about someone else who has got it figured out, or adding another thing to their already busy schedule.
By being truly good news to those who live bad news you will SHOW, not tell, not teach, others the overflowing love of Jesus, the abundant grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
To do that you must be beside them, with them, you must show up time and time again.
This is how God uses us to change lives.
He brings us people to care for, to love, to speak hope into. But if we squander that by promoting our programs, our events, a great book we read, we lose the opportunity to truly and uniquely be good news that individual.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples John 13:35.
Have you ever actually felt loved when someone pats you on the back and says “God has a plan”, or when you’re sharing a struggle to have the other person say “oh you gotta read…”. Probably not, those people were trying to be loving, they just weren’t sure how to do it, they did what someone else had done for them in their moment of pain.
Think of the last time you really felt loved, cared for, or valued by someone.
In that moment, they probably were with you, they felt your pain too, they didn’t try to fix you because you don’t need fixing, you need love.
Do that for the people in your life? They don’t need a Facebook post or beautiful Instagram pic with a feel-good message, a book recommendation, a chain email, or a super spiritual Christmas card. They need love. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.
It seems counter to what this message says for us to now recommend books and programs for learning how to be with people, to be good news in people lives. However, we are working to equip you to serve others better, and aren’t working to counsel you through the pain. And one of the best ways to learn something is to know how others have done it.
The following are books or resources that have led us to adopt this principle and have equipped us to meet the real needs of countless individuals. We hope that this little glimpse into this topic will inspire you to pursue it further and practice it if so below are our recommendations for a place to start.
Love Does by Bob Goff
Curriculums & Training
Rescue Lab – People of the Second Chance (online or in person)