Angela is a single sister in her 30’s. * (See footnote.) The elders are coming to visit her, and she is a little nervous. She is thinking, ‘What are the elders going to say to me? I know I have missed a few meetings, but after working all day caring for elderly people, I am so tired when I get home.’ Not only this, but Angela is also worried about her mom’s bad health.
If you were one of the elders going to visit Angela, how would you encourage her? First, though, what can you do to prepare before visiting a “tired soul”?
THINK ABOUT YOUR BROTHER’S SITUATION
Sometimes we all get tired because of our work or our responsibilities in God’s service. For example, the prophet Daniel “felt exhausted” when he received a vision that he could not understand. (Daniel 8:27) So God sent the angel Gabriel to explain things to Daniel and to tell him that Jehovah had heard his prayers. The angel also told him that he was still “someone very desirable” to Jehovah. (Daniel 9:21-23) At a later time, another angel appeared to Daniel and encouraged him with similar words.
You can do something similar when you visit someone in the congregation who is tired or discouraged. Before you visit your brother, take time to think about his situation. What problems does he have? How may these problems discourage him? What good qualities does he show? Richard, an elder for more than 20 years, says that he tries to think of a brother’s good qualities before he visits him. He also thinks carefully about the brother’s situation. This makes it easier to give him the kind of encouragement he needs. If you and another elder plan to visit someone, it would be good for the two of you to talk about the brother’s situation before the visit.
MAKE YOUR BROTHER FEEL COMFORTABLE
It can be embarrassing for a brother to talk about his feelings to an elder. How, then, can you help your brother to feel comfortable? It may be helpful to have a friendly smile and to say a few kind words at the start of the visit. Michael, an elder for more than 40 years, often starts his visits by saying something like this: “You know, one of the nicest privileges of an elder is to visit the brothers in their homes and get to know them better. So I have really been looking forward to our visit today.”
At the beginning of the visit, you could say a prayer with the brother. In the prayer, you could mention the brother’s good qualities, such as his faith, love, or endurance. That is what the apostle Paul did when he prayed for his brothers. (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3) When you pray with your brother like this, you are helping both of you to have the right attitude about the visit. As a result, your conversation will be encouraging. Your prayer can also comfort the brother. An experienced elder named Ray says that we all sometimes forget the good things we are doing in God’s service and we feel much better when someone reminds us of them.
USE THE BIBLE TO ENCOURAGE
One way you can give a “spiritual gift” to your brother, or encourage him, is by using the Bible to help him, even if you use only one verse. (Romans 1:11) For example, a depressed brother may feel worthless. You might read with him about the psalmist who felt like a shriveled “skin bottle in the smoke.” Despite feeling this way, the psalmist said: “Your regulations I have not forgotten.” (Psalm 119:83, 176) After you briefly explain the scripture, you might tell the brother that you are certain that he too has “not forgotten” God’s commandments.
How could you use the Bible to encourage a sister who has become inactive or has lost her zeal for God’s service? Perhaps the illustration about the lost drachma coin would encourage her. (Luke 15:8-10) That coin may have been part of a precious necklace made up of many silver coins. As you discuss this illustration with the sister, you may help her to realize that she is a precious member of the Christian congregation. You might then help her to see that she is one of Jehovah’s little sheep and that he cares for her very much.
Our brothers usually enjoy talking about scriptures they have read. So do not talk the whole time! After reading a verse with the brother, you could choose a specific word or phrase from the verse and ask him to comment on it. For example, after reading 2 Corinthians 4:16, you could ask, “Can you think of ways Jehovah has ‘renewed’ you, or given you strength?” This kind of question can result in a conversation that will encourage both of you.
You might also encourage your brother by discussing a Bible character who was in a similar situation. Someone who is depressed may feel the way Hannah or Epaphroditus did. They both felt depressed at times but were still precious to God. (1 Samuel 1:9-11, 20; Philippians 2:25-30) There are many other good Bible examples you could use.
CONTINUE TO SHOW INTEREST
After the visit, continue to show interest in your brother. (Acts 15:36) For example, at the end of the visit, you could make plans with him to preach together. When Bernard, an experienced elder, meets a brother he has recently visited, he may discreetly ask about the advice he gave him by saying, “Tell me, did it work out well?” By showing interest in these ways, you will be able to find out if there is anything more you can do to help the brother.
More than ever, our brothers and sisters need to feel that you care for them, understand them, and love them. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) So before visiting your brother, think about his situation. Pray about the visit. Carefully choose the scriptures that you will use. Then you will find the right words to refresh “the tired soul”!
^ par. 2 Names have been changed.