If you care about people and risk talking to the doubting, the skeptical, the confused, and the angry, you will soon run into a person who says to your counsel: I’ve tried that. Whatever you say, they will minimize it and say it doesn’t work or is unbelievable. Do not be surprised at this response. This is what it means to be doubting, skeptical, confused, and angry. It means that whatever they hear sounds pointless. Here are six suggestions when dialoging with people like this:
1. Keep Calm.
Resist the temptation to be offended. Don’t pout or take your ball and go home. That’s what you may feel like. They wanted to talk; in many cases, they gave you a question airing their doubts or concerns. Don’t leave. Don’t give up. Not yet. “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Be humble and teachable too. God might have something to teach you through their questions and doubts.
Listen to their responses. This is the number one way to show you care about what they are saying. Part of your power is not only what you say, but how they feel about the way you listen. If your truth produces empathetic ears, it will feel more compelling. This listening will be a witness. In 2 Timothy 2:24–26, Paul describes the kind of engagement that may set people free from sin and error. One feature is “patiently enduring evil.”
3. Don’t Panic.
Sometimes we don’t have the answers, or easy answers. As Christians we think we should have all the answer because we have the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but there are a lot of things the Bible does not explain fully or the Holy Spirit does not reveal. Some answers will have to be left undone. If there is an answer, but your just don’t know or remember be humble enough to say, “I don’t know, but I will get back to you on that.” Just make sure you do get back to them on that.
4. Let the gospel lead your answer.
It is tempting to try to win an argument, but that’s not winning them to Christ. In fact, you might be driving them away. Being defensive and saying the doubters doubts are stupid repels people away from your message. Let the gospel Christ’s amazing grace shine through your words and actions more than your polished answer to their question. When you have spoken all the counsel you can think of, and they seem to have no effect, don’t let them have the last word of despair. You leave the last word of hope.
You might consider saying some like, “I know that you don’t feel very helped by what I have said. I think I understand some of what that’s like. I don’t mean to be offering a quick fix, as though your questions or doubts can be turned around that easily. But I have more hope than you do that God’s truth is powerful and will have its good effect in due time. May I share one more thing before you go?
I simply want to make sure you hear the best news in the world. Jesus said He spoke so that we would have peace (John 16:33). And Paul said that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). You don’t feel this right now. But God says peace and faith come from hearing. I will pray that the obstacles to peace-filled faith in your mind will be overcome by these truths. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Meditate on these verses. May the Lord give you light.”
Remember, it is not your savvy answers or smooth oratory that will convince the skeptic or contraction seeker of the truth. It is solely the Word of God by the Spirit of God that can change a heart and mind. It is difficult to understand truth if one does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Pray for the blinders to be lifted from their eyes and His light to come into their darkened understanding.