By Ruth Clemence, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever been blessed by someone unexpectedly? I’ve had anonymous gifts arrive in the mail, spontaneous baking from neighbors, an email from someone encouraging me regarding my writing, and probably far more mercies on a daily basis than I’ll ever realize. The impact of someone deliberately taking time out of their lives to reach out and bless in words and actions stays with you.
As I have sat to write this article, I feel a tinge of embarrassment and regret at how little I feel I have emulated this. I hope that I have been a blessing to others. I just don’t think I often go out of my way intentionally to do it as much as I would like to. I admire those who have a gift in giving. They naturally desire to bless through monetary support, lovingly putting a care package together, or something else that is sure to brighten up someone’s day. I want to be more like that.
There are many ways to bless others. Maybe, like me, you long to be a blessing to someone, but you need ideas or prompting on what this could look like. Here are seven unexpected groups that you can start blessing this holiday season:
Photo credit: Pexels/Jill Wellington
1. Unpaid Caregivers
Unpaid caregivers who often look after friends and family members need care and support themselves. It can be incredibly challenging and demanding day in and day out with little to no rest, support or respite for some. It is important to let them know you are there for them. Offer to pray with them, visit them or ask what help they need. It might be some form of respite, running errands, or visiting them at home so they can talk and be part of a wider community.
Caring can be very isolating, especially if people are unaware of what it involves, what the needs are, and are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Being available and loving them is a massive way to bless them. Don’t overlook other family members too, like siblings for example, who could also do with a listening ear and practical support in some way.
2. Additional Needs and Disabilities Ministry
The U.S. Census Bureau reports 40.6 million (12.6%) of Americans have a disability. How could you make your church services or your home accessible for those with additional needs, learning and/or physical disabilities over the Christmas celebrations? Can you plan to welcome those with physical and learning disabilities as a part of the community after these celebrations end?
Suggestions could include: having an additional needs ministry team within the church, visiting those who may be unable to come to the building itself, sending a gift or card of encouragement, finding out how they can best be supported, and journeying alongside them. Joni Eareckson Tada’s ministry is a great ministry with different resources to start thinking this through practically. If your church or community is already active in this way, see how you can support them. Having a strong team of volunteers is incredibly important and is a blessing to all who are involved.
Related article: 5 Ways the Church Can Reach People with Disabilities
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Mikhail Reshetnikov / EyeEm
Do you know your neighbors? According to a Pew Research survey conducted in 2018, 57% of Americans say they only know some of their neighbors. Age also plays a factor, where those aged 65 and over are more likely to know most of their neighbors (34%), compared to those aged 18-29 (20%). Sadly, 23% of those under 30 don’t know any of their neighbors at all.
Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to change those statistics! Older and younger neighbors could come together for a neighborhood party. Knock on the doors of those in your street and bless them with homemade crafts, gifts, and delicious treats. Open up your home and invite a neighbor around to get to know them more.
You may be surprised that some of your neighbors may be struggling with loneliness, depression or something else which you can then pray for and practically support in some way. Maybe you could get to know them ahead of Christmas, so a relationship could build over time. Christmas is an excellent time to invite others to church and a natural way to share a book or resource centered around the hope of Jesus.
4. People You Haven’t Spoken to for a While
It’s time to dust off your address book if you have one! If not, look at your contacts list on your phone. Who do you want to bless with a little word of encouragement that you may not have spoken to for a while? I personally think it is so worthwhile to pick up the phone and call them. It’s not always easy to do that as we spend so much time messaging through screens, but it’s such a wonderful way to have a real conversation and catch up. It’s nice to be remembered, especially at this time of year which may be a harder season for some.
5. The Bereaved
Christmas time can be especially tough for those whose loved ones have died. Bless them by letting them know that they are not forgotten, acknowledging their loved one’s memory and show in a practical way that you are thinking of them. This might be a handwritten letter, a visit, or a phone call. For anyone who is grieving a loss, offering the comfort and hope that Jesus gives will be a beautiful blessing.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Thinkstock Images
6. The Pastor
Christmas and Easter are busy times for the church. However, the pastor of your church is busy throughout the year ministering to the needs of many, sharing the good news of Jesus, supporting their own family (who are also supporting the church in many sacrificial ways), and interceding in prayer for their congregation, the community and the nation.
Remember that those who are contending for the faith will be a target for the enemy and spiritual attack is inevitable. Express your gratitude to pastors by faithfully praying for them, affirming them, and supporting them practically in whatever way you can. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Let’s be an encouragement to those who are faithfully serving their congregation and community all year round, not just at Christmas.
7. People Who Have Wronged You
Blessing those who persecute you, turning the other cheek and loving your enemies doesn’t leave the same sweet taste in the mouth that Christmas sugar cookies do. Yet these are the words of Jesus. It’s a counter-cultural message and it goes against the natural impulse to seethe and shudder at those who have wronged us. It requires God’s grace and help, and He is faithful to help us.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is the second commandment, but loving God comes first. Ask God to soften your heart, forgive them as God has forgiven you (remembering that whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us), and ensure no root of bitterness springs up (Hebrews 12:15).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/romaset
Tips for Stepping Out in Faith to Be a Blessing to Others
When Jesus was asked by an expert in the law “who is my neighbor?,” Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan who stopped to help a man who was attacked by robbers (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan looked after the injured man, treated his wounds, put him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, paid for it and then offered to cover any expense accrued. This is radical love and hospitality. The parable is a challenge for those of us who want to be like the good Samaritan, but maybe relate more to the priest and Levite in the story who crossed to the other side to avoid the injured man.
Even if we think we would go and meet the needs we see, would we then go the extra mile, even to the point that it costs us our time, money, and resources? May we lean into the truths (even the difficult ones) that Jesus demonstrates by His words and actions.
Here are three tips as we think of who to reach out to this holiday season:
1. Ask the Lord in prayer to open your eyes to those around you and their needs. Let Him be the one to lead you by the Holy Spirit. There are people that we come across in our everyday lives who we can bless in some way. Using our words and actions could impact the stranger on the street, the worker stacking shelves in the supermarket, or a charity that you pass on the way to work.
2. Stay in God’s Word and prayer. Let His truth change the attitude of our hearts towards giving, hospitality, being quick to listen, and showing patience and kindness to someone in need. There is not a formula that says what to do when we come across any particular person or situation. But there is a living God who asks us to love Him above all, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. He will strengthen us to do it as we ask for His help by the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Ask others how you can best support them and then follow it up.
Far from wanting to guilt-trip readers this holiday season, it should make us look to Jesus who was the one who redeemed us by dying for us whilst we were dead in sin. It’s not enough to go out and do good deeds. It is more about sitting at the Lord’s feet, receiving once again the gospel for ourselves, and letting Him change our heart and motivate us into action.
Blessing others can be a joy and God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). But ultimately, we want others to know that they can have peace, joy, contentment, and love from the One from whom all blessings flow.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages