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Are You Too Encouraging?

I recently saw the movie Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. The basic premise is how a child’s emotions—joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust—interact and change. Part of the storyline shows interaction between Joy and Sadness. Viewers quickly learn that Joy thinks Sadness should take a back seat in the child’s everyday life.

I grew up in a church environment where the pastor routinely said from the pulpit “I’ve never had a blue day.”

As a child when I heard this comment I often wondered how my pastor was immune to the pain and heartache I’d experienced. Did God love him more? Did God know I wasn’t going to be as good a Christian as my pastor, so He wasn’t that concerned about my hurts and wounds? I wondered if He (God) simply wanted me to get over it all. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go on” I recall hearing many times from a pastor.

Was that what God wanted me to do? Never hurt? Never be affected by the actions of others?

Maybe being Teflon-coated was what being a Christian was all about. Everything—heartache, pain, sorrow, grief, frustration, anger, discouragement—were all supposed to simply slide off me.

Was a victorious Christian life an unaffected life?

When I met the man I married, suddenly I found someone with whom I could share every pain, every emotion. And I was that for him.

As I grew older and studied Jesus, I realized “Jesus wept” isn’t merely the shortest verse in the Bible, it contains His humanity. Jesus hurt with people. He hurt for people. Jesus cried with others, even when He knew their pain would soon be over.

Jesus felt for people. He lived Romans 12:15 (ESV) “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and He lived Galatians 6:2 (ESV) “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Still, I’ve caught myself trying to be a cheerleader when my mate is down. I’m guilty of not sharing his grief and pain. I’m guilty of not weeping with him.

Yes, there’s a place for encouragement. And yes, wallowing in self-pity and refusing to process grief are both unhealthy.

But when we’re hurting, what we really need is someone to help us carry the burden. Someone who will try to identify with our pain, someone who doesn’t resent it. Someone who will go there with us, as Jesus did for Mary and Martha after their brother died.

Do you have more sympathy for a friend’s struggles than for your mate’s? Is it easy to tune out your mate’s needs and hurts?

What burden can you help your mate carry today? Won’t you demonstrate this part of Christ’s character and weep when your mate weeps?

Be a safe place for your mate to fall. Be a safe ear. A safe embrace.

Help your mate carry his or her heaviest burden.

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