Ask a Women’s Ministry Leader: How to Help Hurting Women

In 2020, the daily news has become more frightening than scary fiction. Many women in our churches are hurting, and it’s hard to know how to help. It’s easy to say or do the wrong thing. Sometimes we simply say nothing because we don’t know what to say. 

To complicate matters further, not all hurting sisters respond to hurt the same way. Some resemble a wounded mama bear: they are on the prowl, biting back when bitten, and suspicious of others’ motives. Some resemble the bruised reed or faintly burning wick spoken of in Isaiah 42. They once seemed courageous and full of faith, but now you might describe them as fainthearted; trials have worn them down and discouragement wraps around them like a blanket. 

The anatomy of each wound is complex and the path toward healing is not always straight, but we can help our sisters by speaking truth into their painful reality. God’s Word offers real hope for our hurt.

Each Person Is Unique

The apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to be intentional in how they helped struggling Christians. He wrote, “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:14). For the apostle, there was no one-size-fits-all template for struggling Christians. Some were “fainthearted,” others were “idle,” and still others were “weak” in their fight against sin; what’s more, each spiritual condition required a different antidote.

Those women who resemble the wounded mama bear—those whose wounds have made them biting and suspicious—need to be reminded that God will judge those who have wronged them. They don’t need to vindicate themselves. Instead, like Christ, they can entrust themselves “to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). 

If bitterness has crept in, they may also need gentle correction. If they are wounding others, they need to seek reconciliation and find forgiveness at the throne of grace. Owning their sin and seeking forgiveness are essential steps on the path to spiritual healing.

On the other hand, women who resemble the faintly burning wicks of Isaiah 42 need encouragement. They need to know that there is no trial too deep or place too dark for God’s presence to penetrate. He is fully present with them in every moment, in every place. (e.g. Ps. 139)

Broken and despondent women also benefit from reminders that Christ deals tenderly with them. He doesn’t grow impatient or exasperated with their slow progress. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isa. 42:3).

All women need the promises of God to sustain them, but perhaps especially the fainthearted. Despondent Christians feel like they have very little life within them. They don’t have the gumption, the strength or the resources within themselves to get their lives together. Promises like those found in Isaiah 41:10 focus on God’s ability and care for His children: I am with you. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. And it’s freeing for a fainthearted person to know that they don’t have to feel in control before they step forward in faith. Rather they step forward in faith because they trust that God will provide everything they need that day.

Everybody Needs the Church

Beyond words, there are also practical ways to help. Whether a wounded mama bear or a faintly burning wick, all hurting women will benefit from participation in church life. One of the most beneficial ways you can help your hurting sister may also be the most underappreciated: help her take part in the community of the church (whatever that looks like in your current pandemic context).

The author of Hebrews describes the church under God’s discipline like a body. And when the body is discouraged, it is exhorted to lift drooping hands, strengthen weak knees and make straight paths for their feet. Why? “So that what is lame will not be put out of joint, but rather healed” (Heb. 12:12).

This is one reason why we are not to neglect meeting with our church body (Heb. 10:25). There is a supernatural dynamic that happens when God’s people meet to worship Him together. As we gather, members who are sliding out of joint are brought back in line. In other words, persevering saints help battle-weary saints receive fresh courage to move forward in faith, rather than falling further behind.

Does this seem too simple to be true? If so, think of all the ways God works through the corporate assembly of saints:

  • The Word preached realigns our disordered thoughts with the Truth of God’s Word (Rom. 12:2). 
  • When we sing together with other believers, their act of praise teaches us and stirs us to thanksgiving (Col. 3:16).
  • When we see others who cling to Christ through their trials and hardships, it reminds us that Christ is worthy of that kind of trust (Phil. 3:8). 

Sometimes we think, I’m just one person, how can I help someone heal? But it’s the cumulative effect. When each member of the Body strives to be faithful, the lame members are enveloped in testimonies of God’s faithfulness. They are surrounded by love, encouragement, and godly counsel. 

When a woman is in emotional or physical pain, it takes a lot of determination and courage for her to get to church at all. Her natural inclination is to hide from people when she’s hurting. Wounded mama bears may have a trail of relational wreckage that they would rather not deal with, and faintly-burning wicks may have very little emotional resiliency to engage in conversation at all. 

But the church is God’s gift to hurting Christians. It protects us from going out of joint and helps us to line up again with what is spiritually healthy and good. 

One significant way you can support the hurting women in your church is by helping them stay in community. Make it as easy as possible for them to gather with other believers. Offer to drive them, find babysitters for their kids, or brainstorm other ways to help in their unique circumstances. 

Walking someone through hurt can be messy, but as we do, we can pray with them and for them. No one ever knows how to help perfectly, but complex situations do not stump our all-wise God. No matter how dire the circumstances seem, we can trust God to bring renewal, hope, and healing in His perfect time.

About the Author

Christel Humfrey

Christel Humfrey is a pastor’s wife and mom to three boys. She serves in music and women’s ministries at her church in Calgary, Canada. In 2013, Christel was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, but she is thankful that no trial can steal her spiritual inheritance and that God’s grace is better than even the greatest earthly joy.