Counseling the Doubtful is a spiritual work of mercy one we can practice daily. Not only daily, this is one we are assured to have opportunities to practice often. Moments appear daily, and in numerous ways. The spiritual works of mercy are those sacrificial and pastoral acts we do to follow Christ more closely. These acts make a difference for others. First and foremost, they help lighten heavy burdens of those who need to know the love of God. Everyone has times of doubt in their faith-life. Here are a few ways to be able to exercise this valuable work of mercy.
In reality, listening is not always the easiest thing to do as it requires allowing the other person to tell their story. It takes time to listen well. One of the best ways to counsel someone who is doubtful is to give them the time to be heard. Set aside proper time for that person, and give them your full attention. For busy people, it is not always undemanding to make the time to practice active listening. During the period of listening, do your best not to interrupt. Let them speak without any disturbances. Throughout it all, try not to tell them “what they should do.”
Give them the gift of your listening ear to explain what has happened and how they are feeling. Slowly but surely, let them have their feelings. It is a charitable act to allow them to experience the emotion that has brought them to this point. People do not want to be fixed. As people of faith, it is an offering of love to listen to a friend or family member in need.
After your friend has spoken, you can then show them you heard what they were saying by repeating back some of the dialogue. Repeating back helps with clarification, and it is a loving thing to do. This demonstrates to them that you indeed did hear what they were saying. It is a gift to your friend or family member to allow them the time to be heard.
Point them to Christ
Pointing your friend to Christ is a way to counsel the doubtful. People are at varying levels of faith. Some are well-versed and are church-goers. There are lukewarm Catholics/Christians, and some who have fallen away. There are also those who practice other faiths, and some who do not practice at all. Wherever your friend is on the journey, your job is to care and to love. Pointing to Christ is a way to show them the hope which is found in him.
Do your best to be guided by the spirit in terms of ways to share the the Lord. Whether through prayer, scripture, the sacramental life, or some other facet, the spirit is active. After the listening phase, there may be an opening to share Jesus. Sharing your Catholic faith is a priceless gift which can make a real difference to someone who hasn’t had this experience. Keep your eyes and ears open to the ways that you can communicate your faith and love of Jesus. Don’t worry, God will guide you through this process.
Part of counseling the doubtful as a work of mercy is to encourage using your words and actions. After listening to their story, and pointing them to Christ, take the time to speak in positive language. When you do this, demonstrate that although your friend or family member may be going through a painful time, God will get them through. Your friend can count on you to help. Communicate that you won’t call it quits on them during the painful time they are experiencing. Follow through on your promises as this is important. Call, spend time together, and offer wise advice. Help them navigate toward better times, and your friend will feel your blessing.
Let your words and actions match in terms of dealing with your friend. Be the one person they know they can count on. Try to include your friend or relative to make other connections, friendships, and support systems. When people care and reach out, healing can and will take place with God’s help. This will make them feel part of your family of faith.
The most important aspect is prayer in all of this, and it is crucial. After you have listened and showed continual support, pray each day and be guided by the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid to share your faith in a deep way with him/her and pray together for healing. Moments of prayer can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those who suffer, so don’t be afraid. Share a devotion with your friend or relative such as the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Novena, or other prayer.
Invite your friend to Mass, to confession, or to a church-related event. This could be the beginning of something great, and it could become a reality. Your prayers, deep concern, and actions will be the healing that may break through to their heart. Keep praying, and don’t give up. Doing these acts of love are ways to counsel the doubtful, and they are ways to love God more. Remember, spiritual acts of mercy are a prime way to love God and others.
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