The COVID-19 pandemic has touched us all in one way or another, and if you’re trying to minister to those suffering, it can be an exhausting endeavor in your own strength. Even clinical experts believe in the coming months there will be a greater need for mental health attention as people cope with loss, isolation and trauma.
Sharing God’s Hope in Crisis
A 6-part video series
Some of that may require input from trained professionals. There is certainly a place for that, but would you believe that you can have an impact? Simply being willing to listen, talk and pray with others in the midst of suffering can play a role in helping people in their moment of crisis.
Sharing God’s Hope in COVID-19 Crisis, a collection of training videos offered by the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, is one way to become equipped. The following suggestions are drawn from the video “When Grief Follows Trauma.” We hope you find them helpful as you minister to the people God has placed in your life.
Grief is an intense emotional suffering initiated by any number of sources. It can be due to loss of people, materials, identity, functionality, individual role or system, such as a community. But no matter the contributor, Rapid Response Team International Director Jack Munday reminds us the experience of grief is deeply personal.
“Grief is like a fingerprint,” he says in the video. No two people respond the same way, even in the same incident.
With a nod to the Kübler-Ross model, the Sharing Hope training examines five places of grief through a Biblical lens.
Keep in mind, these places of grief do not necessarily follow a particular order as a person recovers. Also, Munday encourages people to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit no matter the stage.
“Whenever the Holy Spirit should lead you to share the Gospel with someone, you should do it,” Munday said. “What I’m teaching right now is just some guidelines, some suggestions of what you might consider when you’re with someone whose experiencing these symptoms.
“To really provide good ministry, effective ministry to someone, it involves asking good questions, being a good listener and trying to determine where they are in their place of grief—that then determines how you minister to them. But always be prepared to share the hope that you have as we saw in 1 Peter 3:15.”
Consider the following stages and ministry responses:
Shock and Denial
Symptoms: Munday said this typically happens in the early stages following an incident. The symptoms may include: hopelessness, denial, despair, numbness, withdrawal, disorientation.
Ministry Response: Ministry in this case may simply look like being there, being present with the person in crisis. Pray for whoever is suffering, whether they know or not, and whether you can be there or not. If you are present, consider getting them a bottle of water or help by making a telephone call.
Symptoms: Body language can be an indicator of this place of grief. The person suffering may appear frustrated, anxious or irritated. He or she may be casting blame, possibly on themselves and others, even God.
Ministry Response: As you respond, consider Proverbs 15:1 which tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Munday shares, “This isn’t the time to try to reason or rationalize with them. You don’t have to agree or disagree. Your purpose here is to simply love them, listen to them.
“Remember you want to ask open-ended questions,” Munday continued. “You want to let them know that you care for them, and of course we always want to demonstrate God’s love and His compassion.”
Symptoms: Feelings of guilt, personal responsibility, sometimes people want to make a deal with God.
Ministry Response: This could be a great opportunity to share about Christ. “They don’t have to bargain with the Lord, that He’s already paid the price, and He’s offered a free gift to have a personal relationship with Him,” Munday said.
Symptoms: “This quite possibly could be the most difficult place to be in the grief process,” Munday said. Symptoms may include a tremendous sense of loss; disappearance of normal routines, lack of interest or energy; despair, hopelessness and potentially thoughts of suicide.
Need to Talk?
Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
“Depression is almost like being in a deep well,” Munday said. “It’s dark. There doesn’t appear to be a way out. There’s no rope, there’s no ladder.
“So when people are depressed, to really care for them and help them, we have to go down in that well with them. We have to engage them right where they’re at and be sure that they’re getting all of the help, the professional help that’s needed to help them work through this very difficult time.”
Ministry Response: In addition to helping someone find professional help, stay in prayer for that individual. Express words of encouragement or hope. Read Scripture to them. Consider Psalm 119:25, 28: “My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your Word. My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your Word.”
Symptoms: This is a place where people begin to start moving on. Feelings of despair are no longer consuming and in some cases the person suffering begins to go forward with plans, employment and other responsibilities. They exhibit a renewed interest in themselves, other people and life in general.
Ministry Response: It’s important to note that a place of acceptance can bring with it something Munday calls “waves of grief.” It can be unexpected, confusing and troubling for the person who felt healed. Munday encourages this is “a common, normal reaction to a process of grief recovery.”
As someone ministering in this phase, continue praying for the individual and supporting them by listening. If appropriate, consider sharing the Gospel with them.
Have you heard the Good News of God’s love? Learn more.
Find more training resources on sharing God’s hope in the COVID-19 crisis.
Need prayer? Call the Billy Graham Prayer Line 24/7: 888-388-2683.