Responding to Pain

Responding to Pain

We had all settled in with our coffee, ready to begin our Bible study. But it soon became obvious that one group member was fighting back tears. So we stopped and said, "We'd like to listen if you want to talk?" The floodgates opened, and we spent the next half hour ministering to this woman.

Small-group ministry includes bearing one another's burdens. Here are some considerations for the next time someone comes to your group in pain.

• If possible, acknowledge the person's pain privately before your meeting and ask him/her if they want to let the group know what's going on. If not, keep it confidential.

• Remember that this situation is not a surprise to God. He is in control of the situation and the group.

• Ideally, your group will have discussed in advance how to respond to people in pain. Members will know not to jump in immediately with well-meant advice. Instead, they will gently ask questions and draw out the hurting person. They'll be discerning in what they share about their own experiences-no horror stories, but only those personal accounts that communicate empathy.

• If certain verses come to mind, jot them on a piece of paper and give them to the person later. It is usually best not to quote Scripture while a person is pouring out his pain.

• Spend a few minutes in prayer. Incorporate the power of touch by holding hands or laying hands on the person in pain.

• When you sense the person is finished sharing, take a coffee break to decompress and then return to the lesson.

• Before you leave, ask how the group can help. Make a plan for ongoing, practical support. If the response is, "Just pray for me," do it, then check back in a day or two.

• Make sure the whole group knows and understands these principles.

By Marsha Crockett, Discipleship Journal copyright 1998