"The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back." —Isaiah 50:4-5, NIV
Have you ever run into someone in your fellowship who tells you that you are not qualified to help people with deep problems?
"You can't really help her," a young woman told me emphatically one day. "Why not?" I asked surprised. "Because you're not the adult child of an alcoholic, you don't come from a dysfunctional family, and you haven't been sexually abused!" she declared triumphantly. "Are you saying I can only help people if I've had the same experiences they have?" I inquired. "Exactly," she replied with great certainty.
The lady talking to me had been a great help to many people with broken backgrounds and would certainly be able to empathize seeing she had suffered some of the same things in her past. "Was Jesus the adult child of an alcoholic?" I asked her. "That's different," she replied. "Jesus could help anyone because He was Jesus." "O.K.," I countered, "but when you're sick you don't look for a doctor that's had all the diseases in the book, or a dentist whose got false teeth do you?" "Of course not," she said defensively.
"The doctor knew his field well enough to diagnose and refer to an expert, or prescribe some medicine himself," I said. "The Christian cannot possibly match all of life's experiences, but we can become skilled in diagnosing and referring and also become spiritually mature enough to have a wise word for the wounded. Above all, we can show folks how to have a relationship with Jesus who can help us all get a new start or break an old cycle."
I thought about this conversation a great deal. I even caught myself wondering if I would have made a better ministry wife if I had suffered a little bit more (I didn't wonder too long in case the Lord heard my thoughts and took me up on it!).
The lady certainly had a point in that some problems are so deep and complex they definitely need a specialist, but all of us can ask the Holy Spirit's guidance to be an encouragement to the discouraged, a help to the helpless, a positive influence in a negative situation—a friend indeed!
Isaiah 50:4, 5 speaks of God's perfect servant. It says that he has the tongue of a teacher—or an instructed tongue (NIV)—and that he might know how to give a word to the weary.
This know how comes as the Lord sharpens the servant's hearing morning by morning. As I keep faith with God, meeting regularly with Him, He will give me words to help a hurting world every day of my life! Our words must come out of our worship.
Didn't Jesus himself say, "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me" (John 8:28, NIV). So God will give to me, a servant of The Servant, the tongue of a disciple and the skill of a counselor, even if I am not trained professionally. I love the King James Version here which says the servant will have the "know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary." If I do my part as a disciple, I am promised words for the seasons of life. For teens who have been reckless in the spring of their days, or ones who are weathering the summer heat of heartbreak, or those enduring the autumn aftermath of tragedy, or cold blast of winter woes. This is what ministry is all about!
The know how to know what to say and when to say it is mine for the asking, for the Holy Spirit is my Counselor, Teacher, and Friend.
This is not to denigrate professional help. Our daughter is a psychologist; we work with a psychological resource center and run many support groups and programs for people with deep, deep needs. But I've never met a deeply damaged soul yet that I couldn't leave a little richer, a little lighter, and a little more encouraged because I asked the Lord to use me in his or her life.
Be encouraged—be an encourager! We are greatly needed!