So…what can we do to restore those who have stumbled?
There are a few things any of us can do.
We can listen. By listening, you’re letting someone know that they’re worth understanding, worth spending time with, worth the friendship. And by listening, you can help a person process what’s going on inside, helping them move from where they are, to where they could be.
Nonjudgmental listening can offer your friend a glimpse into the unconditional love of God. We all mess up. God knows this. Restoring us is just part of who God is and what God does.
We can validate. A few years ago a dear friend reluctantly admitted to me that he was having an adulterous affair. After he finished telling me about it, he said, “What do you think of me now?” I said, “I think you’re a guy looking for a solution just like all the rest of us.” On a deep level, we all are really the same. We’re all looking for love, respect, and understanding. Sometimes we all just get mixed up about where we’re gonna find that. We all do crazy things sometimes.
If the person you’re helping is struggling with a specific behavior, you can ask, “If you give up this behavior [or whatever], what do you lose? What does it feel like to think of this no longer being in your life?”
It may take a while for that person to find the answer to that question. But we don’t engage in sinful, unhealthy behavior unless we believe—at some level—that it helps us. If sin is a solution—and I think it is, then we gotta figure out what problem we’re trying to solve.
What you’re doing with that question is helping them identify the fear, abandonment, shame, confusion, hopelessness, invalidation, powerlessness or whatever that’s robbing them of the rich inner wealth that Jesus offers.
Once that’s out in the open, don’t argue with them. Don’t put them down for feeling what they feel. Don’t try to convince them not to be afraid, or ashamed, or lonely, or whatever. Don’t quote Bible verses at them. Just ask if they’d be willing to receive what Jesus has for them. If the answer is yes, then here’s a very simple prayer, “Jesus, what do You have for him/her?”
Is this a one-time fix, good forever? Usually not. You may need to do this not once, but many times. But, in the process, you give Jesus room to repair the damage in someone’s soul.
Sometimes you need to bring someone else into the process—someone with more training and expertise in this area. And that’s okay. Some people have the gifts, training, and experience to do what you don’t have the expertise to do. We all need each other.
But meanwhile, you can be a friend.
And never underestimate the value of that.
For further study: Galatians 5:1-5, John 8:1-11, 2 Timothy 2:23-26, John 21:15-19