First of all, I’m doing good. Not that there aren’t still challenges, but life is manageable now. However, I do have some very dear friends who are facing life and death situations, and I find myself wondering “When a friend is going through a difficult time, what is the best way to offer support?”
Most people say, “Let me know how I can help.” This bugs me. I know that when I’m going through a tough time, the only thing I’m thinking about is getting through the day. I don’t even know what I need most of the time. It seems like an unfair burden, when I’m already crushed under the weight of what I’m going through, to have to think of something to make someone else feel better because they helped me. It would be so much better if someone would just step up to the plate and say, “I’m coming over on such and such a day and taking your kids so you can go do something…” or, “I’d like to bring a meal over this week. What night would be best?” or, “Let’s get together for coffee…”
It goes without saying that we don’t know how to respond to people’s pain. We don’t know what to say. Sometimes we avoid them. I remember that soon after my mother-in-law died after a lengthy illness, our doorbell rang. We opened the door to find that someone left dinner for us on our porch. They put down the food bundles, rang the doorbell, and ran away before they had to face us in our grief. A kind gesture, yes, but couldn’t this person have stayed for a few minutes to give us a hug and say, “I love you”? To be honest, I am guilty of this.
Years ago, friends of mine lost their 8 month old baby girl in a crib accident. The pain was overwhelming. Yes, I made and delivered the obligatory meal, but when my friend tried to tell me what happened–she NEEDED to tell me what happened when her precious baby girl died–I cut her off and changed the subject. I couldn’t bear to hear about the accident. It was too painful for me. How ridiculously selfish. It was painful for ME? What about the pain she was facing remembering over and over again how she put the baby down for a nap, and then found her face down in the crib with her windpipe blocked between the crib slats and old mattress? Why couldn’t I have shut my mouth and let her talk and allow myself to cry with her? That’s what she needed.
The Book of Job is a perfect example. When Job’s friends arrived:
When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.
The smartest thing they did was to keep quiet and listen to Job, then one of the friends decided they needed to offer their opinion, and the other two followed suit, and the rest is history. Healing, restoration, and comfort came when Job prayed for his friends. Interestingly, while his friends had a lot to say to him and about him, not once did any of his friends actually pray for him.
So, what is helpful for you when you’re going through a tough time? How can I be a friend to you in times of need?