Your Job Is To Care, Not Fix
When I was in high school, my Mom was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. In a matter of hours after the diagnosis, our family life plunged into a whirlwind of hospital visits and church prayer sessions. I still remember one specific night while my brother and I were praying with my mom in her bedroom that I became overwhelmed with feelings of confusion, frustration, anger, and helplessness. Those feelings seemed to come from every corner of my mind and consumed my thoughts.
After that night, several people in my life took notice of the change in my spirit. In an effort to “fix” me, well-intentioned friends and family lined up with an arsenal of encouraging Bible verses. They would swoop into my life for a moment, drop a verse that they believed would fix me, stay just long enough for it to be awkward and then move on. But none of it worked. My spirit was never fixed and it actually did more harm than good.
Looking back, I realize that what I desperately needed was someone who would truly care for me. I mean care in the way that James 1:27 describes true religion as “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.” True care for someone in the midst of an affliction requires you to sit with them in the middle of their pain, even when you can’t do or say anything to fix it.
In Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen describes caring for someone as “the participation in the pain, the solidarity in suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness.”
People wanted to fix me by dropping their Bible verses into my life, lighting the fuse and running, hoping that the Spirit would allow the ignition at the proper time. But they never stayed long enough to care for me.
Nouwen goes on to say that “[to fix] without care is as dehumanizing as a gift given with a cold heart.”
I didn’t need Bible verses dive-bombed into my life from people passing by. I needed someone who would be with me in the awkwardness of my mom’s hospital visits, in the anxious searching for hope, and in the angry moments of questioning God.
That’s where you can come in. No matter where you are on the spectrum from youth pastor to youth worker, you have a responsibility to sit with students in the awkward and painful parts of life, especially when you can’t fix it. Wade into the suffering with them. Fight the urge to fix their pain and choose instead to truly care for them. After all, only the Creator of all good things can make all things new, even our suffering.
Jacob Eckeberger is the content and community manager at YouthSpecialties.com, an itinerant worship leader, the husband of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. Follow him @jacobeck.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.