Sometimes you can tell somebody what they need to know. That feels good. Sometimes you can fix things for them. That often feels even better. Sometimes you can even help them grow strong enough to fix it themselves. That feels best of all.

But sometimes there’s no fixing it. Nothing you do, or they do, will make things any better. In those times the best you can offer is you. It’s being there – the ministry of presence.

As a physician I’ve developed a style of relating to patients that helps them feel comfortable and reassured. But I didn’t fully appreciate how powerful that kind of relationship can be until I experienced it from the other side. Some time ago my husband was in the hospital, and we were both understandably anxious. Several new doctors quickly became involved in his care. But everything changed the moment his regular doctor walked into the room. My husband was getting the same treatment, but the presence of Dr. Pohl made us feel comparatively confident and safe about everything that was going on.

Jesus desired someone to “be there” when He was faced with carrying the weight of the world to the cross. He asked Peter, James, and John to stay close. Sadly they feel asleep, and Jesus exclaimed, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) There was nothing the disciples could have done to prevent Jesus’ suffering, but He still wanted them there.

How many times have you thought or said of someone, “They’re really not here.” Their body may be present, but their attention, their thoughts, their heart, is somewhere else. They’re not really with you, and you may feel alone even though others may be physically nearby.

3 Levels of Being There

When you can’t fix things for someone you care about who is struggling you may feel as though you have nothing to offer. But that’s just not true. It’s been sadly documented many times that doctors, nurses, and other professionals often spend increasingly less time interacting with terminally ill patients as they progress toward death – just the opposite of what they need. Some spouses pull back from each other if there are problems in the marriage they don’t know how to fix.

If there are people in your life who are experiencing problems that you can’t fix, they still need you. Your presence is likely to be more powerful than you imagine. The Ministry of Being There may be one of the highest callings of all.

To truly Be There, you need to BE THERE. Here are 3 levels of Being There:

  • Physical presence. There’s a certain benefit to just being in the same room with someone. Sitting with someone who’s sick or old. Going to your child’s recital or sports event. Showing up at an event to prevent domestic violence or honor the memory of one who’s died.
  • Focused attention. This goes beyond physical presence. It means turning off the TV and listening to your spouse talk about their fears. It means leaving your cellphone at home and spending an evening doing nothing but what your family wants to do. Your attention is valuable, and they’ve got it.
  • Shared suffering. There may be no greater Being There than sharing in the suffering someone is experiencing. At that moment not only is your body and your mind present, but your soul is present also. That means not only listening but crying along with, feeling their pain, understanding their burden enough to feel its weight on your own shoulders.

Each level involves more risk. And each level provides a deeper level of ministry.

Jesus as Being There

Jesus knew that we would face troubles, and would often feel alone. That’s why He promised He would always be there: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 20:20)

He’s not only with you physically (in a spiritual sense). You also have His undivided attention. He sees you, hears you, and knows you. He’s not distracted by anything else in the universe.

And He shares in your suffering. He feels what you feel. He cries with you, rejoices with you, and fully senses the weight of all you carry. It’s even heavier on His shoulders.

So what can you do now?

BE THERE for someone else. Give them the gift of your presence.

Look first to those closest to you. Does your husband or wife sense that you are really there for them? Or your children? Or the client, parishioner, patient, student, or mentee that God has place in your care?

In the comment section, write the name of one person you plan to give the gift of your presence to this week, and how you plan to do so.

Your Turn: Who is the one person you plan to give the gift of your presence to this week? How do you plan to do so? Leave a comment below. 

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  • One of the most valuable of all gifts you can give is the ministry of Being There.      Tweet that.

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