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March 13, 2013

Questions Without Answers

Sitting with group members even when we don’t have easy fixes


Over steaming cups of tea and a discussion filled with laughter, a serious tone burst forth.

“I think we may be headed for divorce,” one woman in my small group expressed with concern and fear. Then she desperately asked, “So what do I do now?”

The hush in the room was noticeable yet not awkward as we considered her question. And the truth we realized is that there aren’t any easy answers to this question. Yes, we need to pray—and fervently. Yes, she needs to immerse herself in God’s Word. Yes, she needs to take steps to show love even when she doesn’t feel it (and it’s not reciprocated). But those aren’t easy fixes. And they’re definitely not easy to do day in and day out in the midst of a dying marriage.

More interesting than this woman’s issues lying in the open was the reaction from some of the other members. One felt disappointed that we didn’t have an answer for her. Another one, feeling the tension, tried to comfort her with pat answers. Others expressed empathetic statements.

Why do we fear we’ve failed when we don’t have any easy, straightforward advice to give? Instead of focusing on solving everyone’s problems and offering easy answers, it’s okay to sit with people in the mess and say, “This is terrible. I don’t have the answer. But you better believe I’m here with you, and I’m lifting you up in prayer every day.”

After all, isn’t that what Jesus offers us? He says he’ll stay with us through thick and thin regardless of whether there are easy answers. Our small groups can follow in his example.

How have you been comforted by your small group—even when there weren’t easy answers to give? How has your group comforted others in the midst of difficult situations?

posted by Amy Jackson on March 13, 2013 10:55 AM

Related Tags: Discussion, Presence, Questions, Support


I agree it is often best to just sit and "be" with your hurting friend at first. Yes, Jesus does that too and will not leave us when the going gets tough. However, having counseled many people over the years, I have come to realize that life events such as divorce don't just happen. It is the result of very specific sin.

If we are to truly help our small groups, at some point, you have to help people deal with what they are doing wrong. Yes, Jesus comforts us, but at the same time, he has some pretty strong words for us. If we are going to truly lead people in a intimate relationship with Christ, we too have to learn how to help them overcome their sin.

It is the difference between people saying,
"My small group really helped me through my divorce," and "My small group really helped me prevent my divorce."

Granted, helping people deal with and overcome their sin is far more difficult and 'sticky' than helping them through the ramifications of their sin. But, isn't that what Christ called us to?

It's OK to challenge people to be fully committed leaders. Right?

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