Loving people is messy. It is inconvenient; it can be emotionally and physically draining. Love requires intentionality, restraint, patience, and sacrifice. It is not merely a feeling we experience but something we choose daily.
Love is a verb. It is something we do.
Anytime someone is brave enough to share their struggle with anxiety, we need to look not only with our eyes but also with our hearts. There is much more to any situation than what’s on the surface. Learning to see with our hearts opens up the opportunity for connection and the potential for healing. Learning to see with our hearts is a tangible way of loving those living with anxiety.
What Does This Look Like?
Practically this means we observe with our eyes but allow our heart to guide our actions. We pursue a connection over a solution. We do this by being present, seeing people, listening intently, and encouraging with our words. These are the ingredients for human connection.
Ingredients For Connection
- Be present
- See people
- Listen intently
See their feelings with both love and empathy.
As we practice being present, we must also learn to see people. This means we may observe with our eyes but also look beneath the surface. We look for clues as to what the other person may be experiencing. As we recognize emotions, we must use our eyes, ears, heart, words, and actions to communicate we see them.
See with your:
In the story of Lazarus, it is interesting how Jesus makes time to see each person, Martha, Mary, the crowd, and finally, Lazarus. Let’s look closely at these interactions to see what we can glean.
Jesus Meets With Martha
“When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.’”
John 11:20-22 NLT
One of the best lessons comes from observing what Jesus did not do. In verses 20-22, we watch Jesus as Martha pours out her heart to him, frustrations and all. “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died….” In this scene, we see no judgment or condemnation from Jesus towards Martha. Jesus listens with his eyes, ears, and heart.
Selflessly Serving Our Friend
As we minister to those living with anxiety, we must never forget that we are here to serve their best interest. We are not here to be right or point out where they went wrong. They are keenly aware of their behavior that negatively contributes to the situation. It is essential to understand that healing requires proper timing and context.
Addressing Negative Behavior
As friends or relatives, we can best help address negative behavior by gently encouraging them to meet with a professional. As they invest in counseling, these negative behaviors will present themselves. A good counselor knows how to address behaviors without any sense of judgment or confrontation. Over time and with intentionality, the counselor can constructively address problematic behaviors.
Jesus Reaffirms Martha’s Faith
“Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” ”
John 11:23-24 NLT
In verses 23-24, we see Jesus reassuring Martha that her brother Lazarus is not gone. Not fully grasping what Jesus is saying, Martha reiterates what she has learned about the last days. Again we witness no dismissive or critical behavior from Jesus. Instead, he reaffirms Martha’s faith.
Jesus Lifts Martha Up
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?’”
John 11:25-26 NLT
In this passage, Jesus lifts Martha by reminding her of what she already believes about him. Instead of talking down to Martha, Jesus presents it as a question. “Do you believe this, Martha?” As we experience the trials of life, we experience a type of amnesia. We quickly forget essential truths about God’s character, goodness, and what God says about us. We must gently remind others of who God is and what Jesus did for us.
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. ‘I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.’”
John 11:27 NLT
There is no need to condemn those living with anxiety. We all lose sight of these essential truths. They need others to acknowledge their emotions and appropriately respond with love and empathy. Gently reminding them of God’s character and speaking God’s words about his children is essential to building others up when experiencing moments of despair.
Jesus Meets With Mary
“Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, ‘The Teacher is here and wants to see you.’ So Mary immediately went to him.”
John 11:28-29 NLT
“Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
John 11:30-32 NLT
What Do We Know
There is a lot we do not know from this situation. We cannot see the expressions on their faces, nor do we hear their tone of voice as they speak. We see that Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, which illustrates her physical and emotional exhaustion. The words, “Lord, if only you had been here…” speaks volumes about the level of grief Mary was feeling.
“When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. ‘Where have you put him?’ he asked them. They told him, ‘Lord, come and see.’”
John 11:33-34 NLT
Jesus Saw Their Grief
We can observe what Jesus saw and his response to their grief. Verse 33 states, “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her…” Jesus took time to acknowledge their emotions. The author also describes Jesus’ response, “…a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”
Jesus Acknowledges Their Grief
Seeing their grief, Jesus was angry and deeply troubled. It is easy to skip over this description of Jesus, but let us stop and take this in. Here we see Jesus as angry and in great distress over their situation. All of this came from seeing their grief.
In this scene, the book of John provides a great example of Jesus seeing Mary and the crowd. Jesus saw these people by allowing himself to be emotionally impacted by their grief. He further acknowledges their feelings when he asks, “Where have you put him?” Jesus is in great distress from witnessing their suffering, and one can almost hear the emotion he was feeling.
“Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But some said, ‘This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?’”
John 11:35-37 NLT
We Connect In The Valley
One of the ways we connect on a deep level with others is by going through the valley together. Through this passage, we witness Jesus observe and experience grief with Martha, Mary, and the crowd. In verse 35, Jesus visibly proves the love he felt for his friends. Those looking on could not ignore how Jesus felt, saying, “See how much he loved him!”
“Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. ‘Roll the stone aside,’ Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, ‘Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.’”
John 11:38-39 NLT
Jesus Hurts When We Hurt
One thing which is easily overlooked in this story is the anger of Jesus. This is not Jesus flipping over tables in the temple. Here we see Jesus angry because of the grief his friends are experiencing. We see Jesus utilize his anger to help those who are hurting.
Likewise, we must use emotions such as anger to move life forward. Seeing friends or family fight anxiety should motivate us to fight alongside them. We can use it to advocate for access to better medical care, counseling, resources, healing, and opportunities. Utilize the anger and love for your friend to make change happen!
Jesus Met With All Who Were Mourning
“Jesus responded, ‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?’ So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.’ Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go!’”
John 11:40-44 NLT
Jesus could have easily skipped past acknowledging the crowd. Instead, we witness Jesus purposefully pray aloud to build the faith of those standing around the tomb. Jesus left no person mourning out in the cold. Jesus met with the crowd as they were mourning as only he could.
As we care for those living with anxiety, we must purposefully acknowledge their feelings with love and empathy. They need to feel how much we care by the words that we choose. “This situation sounds like a lot to take in. Is there anything I can do to help you process what’s going on?” Notice there are no dismissive words, shame, or attempt to fix anything, just a willingness to walk through this with them.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."
Romans 12:15 NIV
3 Things To Avoid:
- Being dismissive
- Shaming them.
- “Fixing” them.
Create Moments Of Connection
Remember, our role should focus on connection and advocating for access to better medical care, counseling, resources, healing, and opportunities. We create moments of connection by being present and seeing them. In the weeks ahead, we will look further into connecting by listening intently and encouraging others.
Ingredients For Connection
- Be present
- See people
- Listen intently
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
Romans 12:12-13 NLT