Next to You"We can live in the freedom of sharing God’s love without fear of what the end results might be."
When I was 18 years old, my dad died from cancer. My little brother, Elijah, was 12 years old.
Though we lost the same person, and were both heartbroken, we did not grieve the same way. Elijah shut down emotionally and would not speak to my mom, our older sister or me about what he was feeling. It seemed there was no way to connect with him.
I wanted to be a good big sister to Elijah; to comfort him and to support him in every way possible. But I did it so wrong. I would tell him to stop being sad because God didn’t want him to be sad—I gave him no time to grieve. I would tell him to have bigger faith and that God would use this for his testimony one day—I didn’t listen to what he was feeling at that moment. At 18 years old, I learned how not to speak to people who were hurting and grieving. I realized I had heard the best sermons growing up and was practically an expert at reciting message bullet points to people who were in need. But I realized I had not been good at listening to their needs, weeping with them while their hearts hurt and intentionally immersing myself in what they were going through.
Here’s something I have learned: when we take time to learn someone’s lens of the world, we can speak more effectively into their real life.
With my brother, he didn’t want to talk to me about any of the things I wanted to talk about. He only wanted to talk about … wait for it … comic books.
I didn’t know how to be there for my little brother perfectly. But I eventually realized that arguing with him and pressuring him wasn’t working. It didn’t make him feel seen and loved at all. It turns out, I couldn’t force him to step into my world.
So, I stepped into his.
I became obsessed with comic books.
I learned to love what he loved. I learned how he saw the world. For years, I formed a new kind of relationship with Elijah. We bonded through Marvel and DC Comics, diving into secondhand comic bookstores and we got lost in cosmic universes together. I started throwing him superhero birthday parties. I started taking him to every superhero movie premiere. And still, it was years before he ever opened to me about what he was feeling; even then, he was opening a little bit here and there. Things didn’t change overnight. But Elijah started to realize what it was like for someone to just be with him, and for him, right where he was.
About 11 years later, my brother told my husband and I that he wanted the joy we had, and the hope we had, and he was ready to give his life to Jesus. I was stunned. It took 11 years of learning who my brother was on a deeper level, caring about what he cared about and investing in the relationship before he was ready to open his heart up to Jesus.
Here’s the truth: there had been so many times throughout the years when I wanted to give up on fighting for my brother—I was putting so much into this relationship and wasn’t sure if I was doing it right or really making a difference. There were so many times I almost stopped praying for my brother. But now? I’m so glad I never gave up. I’m so glad I never stopped praying.
Often, we can get mad at those in our lives who are not where we want them to be, aren’t as whole and healed as we want them to be and we’re mad that they don’t see the world the way we see it. We can get impatient with the process. We prefer a quick fix instead of consistently sitting with people, listening to their questions and being with them.
One of the names of Jesus is Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” He came to be with us in our real hurts, and with us in our real lives. Why would the people in our lives believe that the God we’re talking about wants to be with them … if we don’t even want to be with them?
If we want to really show God’s love, many times, our greatest witness will be our with-ness.
How are you coming alongside people and being with them, right where they are?
How is your with-ness with your family members? How is your with-ness with your coworkers or classmates? How is your with-ness with people online? With people at your church? With people in your community?
Romans 5:8 (NIV) says that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If we want to effectively demonstrate God’s love to others, then before they love us, love them. Before they choose us, choose them. Before they come to us, go to them. Before they step into our world, step into theirs.
Fighting to be right? That’s the perfect plan of how not to save the world. It’s the perfect plan of how not to reveal God’s love. It’s the perfect plan of how to lose a relationship.
We need to stop fighting to be right and start fighting for our relationships.
It can be frustrating to pray for years and not see answers. It can be frustrating to invest in someone’s life for a long time, only to have them reject us, or reject the Jesus who we want them to know. But friend, don’t give up on those you love.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
I want to give you some hope today by giving you some truth today. If you know someone who is hurting, don’t believe the enemy’s lie that your prayers don’t matter. Keep praying. Don’t give up. Don’t believe the enemy’s lie that your consistent relationships don’t matter. Keep fighting for the people you love. Don’t give up. Don’t believe the enemy’s lie that you’re not enough and not doing enough. That’s the lie he wants you to believe so you don’t see the value of the faithful ways you’ve already been showing up. Don’t believe his lies. Don’t give up.
You and I may not do this perfectly. And friend, that’s OK. The pressure is not on us to save the world. Jesus is the only one who saves lives, who restores families, who makes the impossible possible. We want to rely on His power, not our own. It’s actually amazing that Jesus is the Savior, and we are not. We can live in the freedom of sharing God’s love without fear of what the end results might be.
For little brothers and sisters everywhere. For your classmates. For your parents. For the one who is bullied at your school. For your neighbor across the street. Let’s choose to love them first. Let’s go and be with them. Let’s never give up.
for further STUDY:
- How (Not) to Save the World: The Truth About Revealing God’s Love to the People Right Next to You by Hosanna Wong. This book teaches how to naturally share God’s love in your everyday life and overcome the lies that hold you back so you can empower people to encounter a God they’ve never known. Visit hownottosavetheworld.com for more information.
- Learn how to embrace your unique story to naturally talk about Jesus through your real life and authentic relationships, discover the three most effective steps to take when fighting for a loved one who is in a tough place and overcome the lies that hold you back so you can step into your calling and empower people to encounter God. Find out more at hosannawong.com.
Hosanna is an international speaker, best-selling author and spoken word artist sharing captivating stories of a powerful God with churches, conferences, prisons and other events around the world. She is passionate about empowering this generation to know who they are, live out their purpose and reveal God’s love to the people right next to them. Visit www.hosannawong.com for more.