This month at FACETS we’ve got a great question. Tracy’s post last week was a gem. Take a peek if you haven’t! And remember to come back next week to read Kim’s post.
How do I love a friend when it’s hard? When life is hard?
As I (Jen) think about this question, I recognize that I’ve been that friend. In one really hard season I sat smack-dab in the middle of terribly difficult circumstances. Not one but several areas of my reasonably calm, settled life were hit hard. My apple cart wasn’t just upset, it was blown to smithereens. That was an emotional time. As I looked at the “apple sauce mess” that was my life, I wondered if somebody had been given permission to put a bullseye on me, my family and friends, and my apple cart. I was a mess. Over a fairly long period of time I navigated others’ pain and my own. Circumstances seemed out of control.
Those who know me best know that injustice upsets me deeply. Family and friends are precious to me, and I can’t bear to see unfair accusations or unkind treatment doled out. That was happening to several people close to me at the time. Then my husband went through a work transition that proceeded more slowly than I’d hoped. I began to crumble under the pressure. Then the emotions took over. (Have you or someone close to you experienced this?)
There I sat, for months, in a rancid puddle of emotions. I wanted my friends to be treated better. I wanted my circumstances to be better. I wanted my family to return to a better normal. I tried to manage everything on my own—tried to put on a pleasant face each day—but I was failing miserably. The sadness and anger was piling up.
Thankfully, friends were willing to come to my little puddle and sit with me in it.
That’s how you love a friend when it’s hard! Be with them.
Life is hard, and all of us will sit through a course or two at the School of Hard Knocks. The best way to love someone through that is to be with them when you can, but that’s not always possible. I felt loved when someone gently pressed in. One intentionally walked across a room to talk. My phone rang regularly. Encouraging voicemails were left if I didn’t pick up. E-mails made me smile. Text messages reminded me that friends and family were thinking of me. Many days my friends took a minute out of their busy schedule to check in—and I was so grateful!
There are lots of ways to love a friend when it’s hard.
If you have a friend struggling like me in my season, you know the angry, resentful, or super-sad emotional place anyone can land in during tough times. You might also know how hard it is to keep your own equilibrium when someone close to you is having a hard time. Can I tell you something? Your listening ear or the ear of a skilled professional can make all the difference. It takes time to listen well. It can be difficult to maintain quiet attentiveness and stifle the urge to find solutions, so I recommend praying silently for wisdom while your friend shares. Ask about their personal thoughts and feelings. You’ll know the conversation is on the right track when “I” and “me” statements are steady.
Remember—when someone is emotional the words may not be filtered and may not line up with truth. I can look back on my difficult season and more accurately assess the vulnerable moments (everything from ugly cry sessions to angry rants). The weakness I felt led to my meltdown, and the response was natural. From the other side of it I can see how most things were either a necessary part of a larger plan or something that was eventually used for good. Still, it wasn’t “good” at the time—and it was ridiculously hard! Now I can honestly say I wish I’d made some different decisions. There are specific moments I wish I’d chosen trust over fear, love over anger, and repentance over defensiveness. In the best moments, with a gentle reminder and beautiful encouragement, I chose well. I’m thankful that happened.
Friend, if you’re in the position to sit with someone in their hard season, do this: pray for their strength and resolve to choose well. In the right time and tone, the gentle reminder that every story has a beginning, middle, and end can be precious. We don’t know exactly where we are in our own storyline, but we can be sure that none of it is unknown or unimportant to the Lover of our souls. Jesus is there in every moment, whether we are aware or not, and He will always be with us every step. He will help the one going through hard times and grant wisdom and grace to the one wanting to help.
I thought I’d place some thoughts here for you. I hope they are helpful.
He hemmed me in, ganged up on me, poured on the trouble and hard times. Lamentations 3:5 MSG
The book of Lamentations is an example of an emotional outcry.
Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense. Job 2:13 CSB
The book of Job is an example of extreme hardship but maybe not the best example of counsel in the end.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35 CSB
I love that our Father has been careful to speak to the hard stuff in life. There are hundreds of verses the Bible, too many to include, because it’s the story of life in a broken world. And life in a broken world can be excruciating. I’m thankful Jesus came. I’m thankful I have friends who know how to be like Jesus when they sit with me in hard times. Then I’m thankful to have the opportunity to sit with someone else in their hard season the way someone sat with me.
Thanks for reading along! I hope these thoughts inspire you. Maybe you need to let someone in to help you in your difficult season. Maybe you need to be with someone in theirs. Love well!