Around five years ago the Lord connected me with brothers and sisters in Christ who are passionate about following and obeying Jesus by making disciples who make disciples and seeing churches planting churches throughout all nations. This was the first time I experienced believers who met together in homes for church and were committed to helping each other be more like Jesus by obeying Him and teaching others to obey. I experienced people who regularly give space for others to speak into their lives and truly want to confess sin, see their blind spots, and to receive truth, even if uncomfortable to hear.
Living in Grace and Truth
A few years ago I was meeting with a couple of these women for a time of accountability in our faith. One of the women spoke into my life that it seemed like fear was keeping me from moving forward with what I had felt the Lord was leading me to do. It was humbling to hear and admit, but she was right. The Lord used her boldness to speak truth to me in that situation to show me my sin and encourage me forward. Time and again, I needed others to help me see the bigger picture and refocus on the truth about Jesus and who I am in Him. These experiences have brought to life the blessing of the Body of Christ. I have seen first hand how different giftings and perspectives have used rebuking, encouraging and exhorting to highlight grace and truth. I especially think of those who are more prophetically gifted. We need those gifted at seeing and speaking truth to help us grow in encouraging one another.
“He who gives an honest answer gives a kiss on the lips” – Proverbs 24:26
“A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings. A wise correction to a receptive ear is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.” – Proverbs 25:11-12
“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” – Proverbs 27:17
“One who rebukes a person will later find more favor than one who flatters with his tongue.” – Proverbs 28:23
Living in Grace And Truth
Then 2020 hit. This last year has been quite a year for all of us, I think. For me it was a humbling year filled with processing through intense anxiety and stress, emotional pain, and loss and grief. I am healing from burnout, a result of placing my identity in what I do rather than who I am in Christ. I also found myself grieving loss in ways I didn’t expect. For much of last year and this year, I haven’t been okay.
Saying “I’m not okay” is not an easy statement for me. My pride wants to say that “I can handle it”, “I’m fine”, or “I just don’t want to be a burden.” Basically, I didn’t want to admit my weakness, that I need help. The Lord was faithful to use this season to expose sin and unhealthy patterns in my life. And through it all, He showed me His compassionate and faithful love, perfect in both grace and truth. But I also needed compassion from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I needed empathy and understanding. I needed space to not be okay and for the Lord to meet me in the pain.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” – Romans 12:15
In the midst of this hard season, the Lord has brought healing through brothers and sisters in Christ who listened to me cry, listened while I outwardly processed my emotions, validated and attended to my pain, asked questions to understand, cried with me, gave me space to not okay, and prayed for me with hope and kindness. I thank the Lord each day for these brothers and sisters. I was in a really vulnerable place and they showed me the love of Christ. In this season I saw the importance of those gifted in shepherding.
However, I also experienced hurt from well-meaning people who, in efforts to help, quickly spoke into my experience without sensitivity, discernment, or understanding. When this happened, I felt treated like a problem to be fixed, rather than a person who needed encouragement. Although they might have spoken truth, it felt more like a hammer to my fragile state. Truth spoken without discernment or gentleness can really hurt.
“Singing songs to a troubled heart is like taking off clothing on a cold day or like pouring vinegar on soda” – Proverbs 25:20
“The one who gives an answer before he listens-this is foolishness and disgrace for him.” – Proverbs 18:13
“There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2
Living in Both Grace and Truth
These hurtful moments actually made me realize how often, I too, can be one of those people. Because it’s hard to see someone in pain, we can often be too quick to try and fix it. I want to be the one to speak some piece of advice into their life and “Voila!” It’s all better! There are many reasons why I might be quick to speak, but usually at the root is something self seeking. This is why speaking in both grace and truth is important.
Jesus speaks a lot about suffering and pain. He perfectly models endurance through pain for the joy set before Him 1. He learned obedience through suffering 2. The Lord disciplines those He loves 3. He is our model of being full of BOTH grace and truth 4. He is perfect in love, which rejoices in the truth, is patient, kind, not self-seeking, and endures all things5. His goodness doesn’t mean He immediately rescues us from pain and suffering. In fact, His example and exhortation to His followers is to endure in the calling to suffer while doing good 6. When He heard Lazarus was sick and knew he would die, He intentionally waited two days and told His disciples that he was glad (!!) that He wasn’t there, so that they may believe 7 If I were in that situation, my instinct would be to run to try everything to prevent Lazarus from dying, which also would save his loved ones from their grief. I think it’s important to note that Jesus acknowledged his intense emotions, while still fully submitting to the Father’s will and walking out in truth 8.
How can we follow Jesus’ example to love one another in the fullness of both grace and truth? How can we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, while also being willing to speak bold truth?
Things to Consider
Here are some things to help us think about Shepherding in our own lives:
The Holy Spirit is the Master Discipler. Ask Him for help in what to speak or not to speak. He is the one that ultimately teaches us all things and opens our hearts to understand.
When we feel we have truth to share from the Holy Spirit, first ask the Lord if and when we should share?
Don’t editorialize the Holy Spirit! Let us humbly and boldly share what we feel He gives us, no more or less.
Validating and honoring pain is loving.
Understanding and empathy is important. Listening without advice can often be the most helpful thing.
Asking open-ended questions to understand more communicates love.
Saying “I don’t understand how it feels to go through that” is an understanding statement.
- It’s not our job to rescue people from pain or to “fix it”. We can trust that the Lord is working in the pain for the good of the person (whether ourselves or someone else).