Updated: Sep 10, 2020
This post may make some people uncomfortable, but that’s okay. My heart is to genuinely reach out to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to explain how two particular statements affect a hurting person, especially if they have anxiety or depression. If it makes even one person rethink what they say and do, it will be worth writing.
I’ll Pray for You
“I’ll pray for you” is the most overused phrase by Christians. I’ve been guilty of it myself. We have good intentions, and maybe we DO pray…but it is the worst thing you can say to someone who’s hurting. People in pain need more than your prayers, they need your presence.
The past five plus years have been pretty tough. I’ve had a lot of people say “I’ll pray for you”. Some did on the spot, and that was awesome! There have been others who I knew would pray for me in their own quiet time. But I knew that many were saying “I’ll pray for you”, because they didn’t know another way to respond. I get that. I’ve been there too. Prayer is a good thing. But aren’t there tangible things we can do as well? “I’ll pray for you” has been one of the most hurtful things I’ve heard in the past 5 years. It has often felt like a dismissal. I have needed help with many tangible things. Basic things like finding work, health care/insurance, yard work, and home repairs. But most of all? I need community, and I need friends. Jesus never simply said “I’ll pray for you”. Yes, he prayed for people, but he also spent time with them. He listened, taught, and ate with people. He never sent someone away without addressing their needs. Jesus fed the multitudes and healed the crowds. He addressed emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. He even helped a wedding host save his party by turning water into wine. He cared about people.
In the Valley
Depression and anxiety are devastating. It is even more devastating to be told that God has you “in the valley” to grow, purify, or crush you. This is spiritual abuse, and it makes me very angry. This is contrary to the very nature of who God says that he is. God so loved the world…not God so wanted to crush the world. Do you think that a hurting person wants to run into the arms of a God who wants to “crush” them? I don’t. It makes me run further away.
Are there valleys? Absolutely. Does God put us there? No. He will use valley experiences to grow us, but they are not a punishment. They are a part of life. Sometimes we find ourselves in the valley due to circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes we are there due to bad choices.
I am dismayed that this type of theology exists. It is very hurtful to already hurting people. It’s human nature to try to explain suffering. But the truth is, sometimes bad things happen. There is not always a purpose or reason. They just happen, because…life. God is with us through the bad times, but I refuse to believe that he places us there.
Love One Another
It takes so little to encourage someone. Instead of “I’ll pray for you”, schedule a time to go to lunch with someone. Pick up the phone and talk to them. Ask, “How can I help?”. Knowing that someone cares means a lot.
If someone is looking for work, forward their resume. If they need help with yard work or house maintenance, find someone who can help them. If they are sick, ask if they need anything. These are not difficult things. Singles appreciate this, because we often feel like we don’t have a community. Everything in the church revolves around families. We need inclusion too, and frankly, the church is failing us.
Don’t try to spiritualize everything. If someone is going through a valley in life, you may not realize the depth of their pain. The last thing a hurting person needs is to hear that God has them in a situation to grow them. For me, it causes a lot of resentment. It makes me visualize a God like Q from Star Trek, manipulating people for his entertainment. Please consider the power of your words. Talk less and listen more. You might learn something.
Jesus said that the world would know we are his by the way we love one other. So simple, yet so profound. Let’s follow the example of Jesus and try to love each other the way he loved us.