Augustine once wrote that “Hope has two daughters, anger and courage.” What he meant was that practicing hope involves an anger at the present state of affairs and the courage to step towards, or lead towards, another possibility—redemption.
This is difficult to practice. People that wander from God’s grace are often resistant to encouragement. Other times we feel awkward talking about “the issue” so we nervously avoid it. Many find themselves bouncing back and forth between avoiding the issue or being too harsh for months at a time.
Below are three ways to actually help:
1. Different Starting Points - Different people start journeying with God at different times, this affects how much time they’ve had to grow. We would never expect a toddler to read War and Peace, it’s amazing if they can read. Be thankful for any growth, encouraging them when you see it!
Others may have been following Christ for a long time but their story is filled with pain and confusion. We have to understand a person’s story because it informs their growth, or lack thereof. For some who grew up in families that didn’t believe in God or were adamantly against the concept of God success is, at first, the mere willingness to stay committed to a Bible study.
Let’s be amazed with what God’s grace has already done, while encouraging glimpses of growth!
2. Tons of Potential - We have to see people through the Gospel and entrust them to the Holy Spirit, we can’t be harsh on them but see what God is doing in them. We can’t see them as the sum of their mistakes because if they are in Christ they are a new creation and are in the process of being renewed (2 Cor. 5:17). When you interact with them interact according to what could be. Still we have to be zealous for their growth in a way that inspires growth, not cripples it.
3. What Could Still Happen to You (Genesis 20, Galatians 6:2) - In Genesis 12 Abraham tells his wife to pretend she’s not his wife to save him. Talk about cowardice. He goes on. He progresses in his faith. But then he does the exact same thing, he got nervous about what would happen to him as he was approaching a city so he told Sarah to pretend she was his sister. You would have thought he’d out-grow his cowardice. That he’d learn to trust more fully in God. Nope.
Paul says “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
We have an enormous capacity for sin so we should never be prideful with people that get off course. We should always be aware of our own limitations, blind-spots, functional-saviors, and shadows. The wrong context or life situation and a past issue we thought we had put to death might flare up again. Summing up, our attitude should be one of bold-compassion. We should not avoid “the issue” and we should not attack the person.
We should be bold.
We should be compassionate.