This month we welcome guest contributor Juli Chaffee to FACETS of Faith. Juli is a wife, mom, and friend who understands the importance of strong and healthy relationships. She owns Crossroads Counseling Center, where she seeks God’s wisdom as she guides her clients on their healing journey. Sit back and enjoy Juli’s insights on how to love a friend when it’s hard.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him. He began to be sad and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sad. I feel close to death. Stay here. Keep watch with me.” He went a little farther. Then he fell with his face to the ground. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray. Then you won’t fall into sin when you are tempted. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Jesus went away a second time. He prayed, “My Father, is it possible for this cup to be taken away? But if I must drink it, may what you want be done.” Then he came back. Again he found them sleeping. They couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he left them and went away once more. For the third time he prayed the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples. He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come. The Son of Man is about to be handed over to sinners.” Matt 26:36-45 NIRV
The story above is a powerful example of the crossroads of hardship, friendship and the choices made at that intersection. Jesus Himself wanted his friends close in hardship. He chose his tribe of twelve to be with him at his darkest hour for support and comfort. How is it possible that our sister-tribe would be any different? Who do you want by your side in pain, fear, exhaustion and sorrow? Who do you wish to be when confronted with loving of a friend when her life falls apart? Here is what I struggle with….
How do I love my friend when she has hardship in her life?
How do I love my friend when I’m in a place of hardship?
How do I love my friend when she is hard to love?
Our existence on this earth is riddled with loss, suffering and trauma. Jesus even told us “Hey- you know this life will be hard, right? Don’t worry though, I am here. You won’t be alone.” John 16:33 (my very loose interpretation).
Scripture tells story after story, real women’s lives, depicting evidence of this pain. Curl up with Ruth, Bathsheba or Sarah- and read their stories of hardship. Take Bathsheba for instance. She was married and, by all accounts, living her life happily and according to plan. One night the powerful King David sees her bathing on the roof. He desires to have her and commands her to spend the night with him. This sets off a chain of events that turns her life into a nightmare. She becomes pregnant with his child. King David murders her husband so no one will find out about the affair. He then brings Bathsheba into his home as his wife. Tragically her infant son dies – all due to King David’s sin. Can you imagine? Her life turned horribly upside down in less than a year! She lost her husband, her home, her baby, her family and friends. She must have felt shame, grief, anger and loneliness. Her hardships would be overwhelming for anyone to share, but I assure you she needed a friend to be there with her and for her.
The Bible offers several commentaries on friendship. Most seem to have a similar vibe. A good friend is important. She will love you and be there for you when you need her.
Proverbs 17:17 says it well: “A friend loves at all times. They are there to help when trouble comes.” It seems easy, clean cut and “do-able” when you read it, right? But what happens when that friend is too exhausted by her own journey to help you? Or your friend is too incapacitated by anxiety, depression or addiction for her to love you well… or love you at all? What if you are feeling overwhelmed by your friend’s pain and have no idea how to love her, let alone know what to say or do to help her? What if YOU are the friend who is overwhelmed?
One of the refrains I hear most from women who are struggling with difficult circumstances is they feel alone. When they most need a friend at their side, that space is empty and achingly quiet. As the friend, I wonder if you feel insecure and incapable to meet your loved one in her pain. Maybe it’s too hard to sit with her when her situation stirs up fear for your own sense of security and peace.
Let’s re-visit that story about Jesus in the garden. He was depressed, struggling, longing for comfort. Do you see what he wanted from his friends? He wanted them to be with him and to be awake.
“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” I hear his sadness and hurt, probably something you have felt yourself at one point.
Back to our question: How do you love your friend when it’s hard? It’s simple, but not always easy. Show up.
Guess what? It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers – your friend isn’t looking to you for magic words to eliminate her situation. It’s ok if you don’t know exactly what to do – your friend doesn’t expect you to remove her mountain. It’s ok if you are scared, sad and worried yourself.
Together you and your friend can share the pain. You can remind her she isn’t alone, forgotten or rejected. You can share her journey and be a witness to her story. When it’s scary and messy; when your friend is hurting; when you don’t know what to say; just show up. It’s enough.