We recently began a journey through the book of James at Perryville Second Baptist. As I studied through James 1:2-12, I thought about some of the unhelpful people I’ve encountered during a personal trial, or a trial that someone else was going through.
In today’s post, I’d like to caution us to not be one of these people. I’m sure you’ve run into each one of these at one point or another. And sadly, I know I’ve probably been one or more of these at some point in my life. Let’s consider them one by one.
You know this guy, don’t you? “Oh, you broke your foot? I broke both feet!”
“And my arms. And my ribs. And my whole body actually. And I was in a body cast for 3 years. And I couldn’t talk because I sprained my tongue.”
Don’t be that guy.
Mr. One-upmanship is so concerned about you recognizing what he’s been through that he doesn’t even really concern himself with listening to your story. He’s just ready for you to shut up so he can tell you what he’s been through. Maybe he’s trying to help you by lessening your situation, but often it’s prideful and selfish. Don’t be Mr. One-upmanship
Mrs. It Could Be Worse
Mrs. “It Could Be Worse” lays a guilt trip on you for facing a trial that’s not as bad as what someone else has endured. She says “I know you’re dealing with losing your job, but at least you have clean water. Some people don’t even have clean water.” Oh, you got thrown into jail for preaching the gospel? Well, Polycarp got burned at the stake. It could be worse.
This may sound like helpful advice, but honestly it’s not. If someone is going through a financial crisis, it can be helpful to remind them of God’s blessings in other areas. But what’s not helpful is minimizing the trial itself by using a more extreme example. In reality, we can always find a way for it to be worse. This sort of reasoning just isn’t helpful when others are suffering.
Mr. It’s not that Big of a Deal
Mrs. It Could Be Worse’s husband is Mr. It’s not that Big of a Deal. This person fails to have compassion. He looks at your trial and thinks “That’s easy.” But we need to understand that what may appear easy to us, isn’t easy for everyone.
Perhaps you’ve already been through a trial that someone else is now facing and you want to help them by lessening how big their trial really is. I think there is a helpful way to do that, but be cautious. Coming out and saying “It’s not that big of a deal” sounds callous and unconcerned.
Mrs. Get over it
Mrs. Worse and Mrs. Deal had a daughter. Her name is Mrs. Get Over it. These are all connected in a way. This person has decided that it’s time for you to get over whatever it is you’re dealing with. Certainly, there is a time for godly counsel on this, but don’t be the person who fails to have compassion for someone’s trial telling them it’s time to get over it.
This is particularly true when someone is grieving the loss of a loved one. Mourning affects all of us differently. Some might get over a loss in a short while, while others might deal with it for the rest of their lives. We aren’t helping our brothers and sisters out with a cold “Get over it.”
Mr. Count it all Joy RIGHT NOW
You know this guy? He has good intentions but horrible application. There is a time and place to encourage one another to count it all joy. But often, it’s better to wait for that.
Try listening first. And again, show compassion.
In fact, when James instructs his readers to “count it all joy”, he’s actually speaking in the plural. I think there is application here to understand how to walk through trials together. And when we walk through a trial with someone else they aren’t always ready to hear “count it all joy” or “God works all things for good” right now.
These, of course, are biblical phrases and thus the very voice of God. So, they do have their place. But, James (and Paul) aren’t instructing us to go around saying “Count it all joy” with no tinge of compassion. First, it’s appropriate to listen, to pray, and to weep with those who weep.
Trials are a reality of life. But in the local church, we’ve been given one another to walk through trials together. It’s not always possible to actually feel one another’s exact pain, but it is possible to be there for one another. To show compassion. To love and care for one another. To pray for one another. And to remind each other that God is for us in Christ, no matter what.