Session 5 – Small Group Study Guide
Lesson 4 – Know the Critical Influences
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PART I: One truth from Scripture that we see often is that although our hearts are the determining factor, we live in a world of significant and various influences. So if we are to love well, we must realize that our circumstances are influences which are all “engaged in negotiations with our hearts, either challenging our beliefs or confirming them.” But our desire is to see that God “is over and through them all, and it is his voice we want to hear most clearly” (34).
1. As you think about your own life during this season of COVID-19, what are the most prominent voices and influences that speak to you and:
A. How are they challenging your beliefs about God?
B. How are they confirming your beliefs about God?
If you’ve heard an encouraging sermon, or read an encouraging book or other resources, share that with the rest of the group so they can add more voices to encourage their faith!
2. One truth that we see from the story of Job is how speaking without empathy and understanding to a person’s context, no matter the intent, can result in deep hurt. Can you think of a time when someone spoke into your life, but did so without empathy and understanding to your context? What was the result and how did you feel?
3. Conversely, can you share a time when someone was able to help you in your hurt with empathy and understanding to your context? How did that encourage you? What did you learn from it in terms of loving others well?
4. In order to help you to practice to thoughtfully consider the critical influences in another’s life, consider the following mini-case studies:
A. This season of life that we’re in is one of undeniable stressors: COVID-19, political frustrations, economic downturns, etc. So imagine talking with someone who is feeling increasingly frustrated with our current climate and has found himself often losing patience with the people around him. What are the things you want to be thoughtful of in order to wisely and thoughtfully speak to his circumstances, while still encouraging him in his faith?
B. Imagine your loved ones feeling anxious and disheartened by the upcoming election. They speak disparagingly of those on the other side of the political aisle, spend hours getting watching news that fuel their anger, and take out their frustrations over social media. How might you minister to them and address their fears?
PART II: God is never blind to the circumstances, influences and stressors of our lives. Rather, every time He speaks, He speaks thoughtfully and in the midst of the various circumstances and influences of our lives. So consider the people you identified in “Lesson 2: Move toward Others.” Write their names below and then proceed with the rest of the questions:
|Person #1||Person #2|
5. Welch writes that rather than rush into the heart’s responses, a better way to care for people is to “linger on the relationships that have been painful” (cf. Job), so that we can “walk with care toward another person’s heart” (36):
A. What has been painful about this season of COVID-19 for those people you are trying to love well?
B. What are things you would do or questions you would ask during this season of COVID-19 that shows you’ve lingered on that pain?
6. Knowing what you know, what good things can you praise Jesus for? How can you help others to speak honestly about their hardships and speak it to Jesus? Write out an example of a prayer you would pray, a script you would say, or even passages that you think are relevant. The purpose is not to have something in the back of your pocket, but it’s to practice being thoughtful (see p. 14 of “Lesson 1: With All Humility” for a simple way to pray).
Sharing and Prayer
1. Looking back, in what ways were you able to apply what you learned in the previous lesson (Lesson 3 of Caring for One Another) this past week?
2. Think of the 1-2 people you want to focus on caring for and moving toward during the rest of this small group season. Looking ahead, what are some ways that you would like to continue to apply what you just learned in this session to your own life as you seek to grow in caring for one another during this season of COVID-19?
3. Share other prayer requests: