An Open Letter to Those who Feel Unqualified to Offer Counsel

The body of Christ needs you. It needs your words and deeds.

Of course, there is more you can do. Ask your pastor about good books on suffering, and ask others what is most helpful to them when the problems of the day seem overwhelming. You can always grow in your love and words. Expertise is not what makes you an adequate helper; faith, love, and your desire to grow are sufficient.


Dear believer,

The body of Christ needs you. It needs your words and deeds. That is simply part of the deal when you follow Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote, “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). You are already speaking encouraging words and building people up. Now keep doing it, more intentionally, more skillfully, more prayerfully—when a child scuffs her knee, when a friend is separated from a spouse, when depression strikes a person you know, or when someone has been diagnosed with cancer.

If you feel inadequate to help others in need, especially those with more complicated problems, that is a perfect qualification. The Lord specializes in using people who feel weak in themselves, and your sense of inadequacy will probably protect you from saying something unhelpful. We are usually unhelpful when we are confident that we know what another person needs to hear.

You already know the basics of help and encouragement. First, you have to move toward the other person, which is sometimes the hardest thing to do. You have to talk together and hear what is important to the person. Next, let the person know that you have them on your heart—you are with them and are moved by what they are going through. That might be enough for one day. You have built up the body of Christ.

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