Third, we can seek for and serve with The Spirit.
To me my second and third suggestion are so tightly interwoven, it was difficult to separate them from each other. How do we know what to do? How do we know what to say? How do we know who to reach?
As we take time each day to invite The Spirit and we tell God in our prayers that because of our love for Him, we will be on His errand for that day, we can know what to do and say. If we ask for opportunities to be lead to those who are ready to receive, He will direct us to cross paths with others in miraculous ways. Sometimes "knowing what needs to be done" may come as someone coming to mind. Maybe God needs us to text, call, visit, or contact that person in any way. Sometimes it may come with specific instructions of what needs to be done or said. I have been on both ends of this process. Our willingness to act on what we perceive to be a prompting will always be a blessing. We need not fear that we will "do it wrong." Can you see that such thoughts are from Satan?! If only we could step back and see that we don't have to be perfect at this. We don't have to come up with who/what/how to serve. God needs people who are willing. That is all. He will take care of the rest of the details. If there are special circumstances needed or specific strengths, He will provide it. If we stand tall and take confidence in HIM rather than our own puny arm, it can help remove the fear. I promise if we take action both in starting our day seeking for opportunities, then doing our best to act upon them as they are brought to our attention, God will do all the rest. He will put us in the right place at the right time with all we need to have or say to love His children.
Here are some seemingly "small" things that were a life line during times of struggle:
One woman in our ward wrote down the date of our next appointment and tracked how many weeks I was during Leland's pregnancy on her calendar. She would call me by the end of the day if she hadn't heard from me, then would ask when the next appointment was to put it on her calendar. I can't exactly explain why, but it brought so much comfort to know that my struggles were not just mine to bear. That there was at least someone else who cared, especially on the difficult Dr. appointment days. There was so much up and down during Leland's pregnancy. The appointments until the last few months continued to bring more and more bad news. Nearly 7 years later I can see God's love in this. I know she was seeking for inspiration on how best to support us. She was on God's errand to lighten my burden and to help me feel God's love during this difficult and discouraging time.
This same dear woman did many other things like carve a heart into the mashed potatoes of the shepherd's pie she brought for dinner one night. A few weeks ago I "happened" to find a note she had written me of encouragement and love. I can't count how many notes like that arrived in the mail box or were attached to other things she lovingly assembled to offer when she would visit. She was one of the first visitors we had after miscarrying the twins. She didn't even need to say anything as she sat at the foot of my bed that day. I can't remember what we discussed, but I knew because of the front-row seat she had chosen to take over the years, she knew how much I was hurting that day and also of the reassurance that God was over all. Through the years of service, she did so as imperceptibly as possible. So did the others in our ward. They never took a shred of praise or gratitude. They always directed us to thank God for the blessings.
Many times we don't have to "fix it." God can send us on His errand, like my dear friend, to simply let us know we aren't alone and that we are loved. Even if our current circumstances can't be changed or quickly repaired, reaching as The Spirit directs will be just what is needed, even if it isn't recognize at the moment as such. As we listen to The Spirit, we can be directed on how to respond when we are privileged to the details of others struggles. Many times we may just need to validate, again, responding with empathy and touching that part of us that knows what hurt or anger or disappointment, etc. feels like. When I had repeat miscarriages, I didn't need it "fixed." Comments like "You're young---you will have more," "Aren't you glad that God let that deformed child pass," "You'll raise your baby in the millennium," etc., didn't do for me what "I am sorry for your loss" did in terms of "giving me permission" to feel hurt, frustrated, angry, or grieve. Sometimes that is what The Spirit may direct us to do.
Sometimes The Spirit will direct us to pray for those around us. I have felt such prayers---the prayers of the righteous on my behalf. Those who love me as God loves me, pleading according to their faith, that I would not only have what I needed to weather through, but also to find Christ in my struggles. When you have been prayed for like that, it can be difficult to explain. As I look back, I know that such prayers were all that held us together at certain times of our struggles.
As we seek to be lead by The Spirit, God knows the meaningful ways we can serve those around us that will best point them to Christ. For it is only in establishing a personal relationship with Christ that we can pass through these fiery trials and to be able to receive the intended refinement.
GOD KNOWS. We need not shrink in fear. We don't have to guess or fumble. We simply need to ASK HIM to show us how to do it and He WILL show us how to reach to those in our ward and stake families in ways that will be meaningful, precise, and to point them to Christ, and feel of God's love. As individuals seek to build Zion and collectively we practice this pattern in our ward and stake families, we can be as a lever to partner with God in lifting and rescuing those from places of darkness, discouragement, and overwhelm.
May God grant us the strength to DO IT.
Elder Rasband speaks of "first responders." I challenge you to pray today (even if you read this part-way through your day). Pray and express willingness to be on God's errand today. Tell Him you will do whatever, go wherever He needs you to. Pray for the Holy Ghost to help you. Do all you can to keep the Spirit with you and quickly make things right when you offend the Spirit. Do your best to follow the promptings you receive to reach out to others, even if it doesn't make sense or isn't the most convenient for you. You may never know if your efforts made a difference, but trust in the God who does!
Check out my post, "Ministering from the Inside Out," to catch the vision of where to start for this to be possible.