Sometimes life is just hard. My heart has been full of sadness for some of my friends and family lately. I cannot tell you how many of them have been going through crisis mode. The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a child, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the pain of broken confidences, a diagnosis of cancer, and the list goes on. Each one of them are precious individuals who are reeling from their hurt and pain. I wish I could fix it for them. But I can’t.
It doesn’t do any good to say I have been there. I have, but my experience with the loss of my husband, the loss of a job, disappointed dreams and crushed hopes is different than the ones my friends are experiencing. Each person is unique and their emotions are filtered through their own lens. They have been shaped by different experiences and backgrounds than I have and I can’t define their feelings. I can only walk beside them.
There really is something to be said for Christian community when it is working in the right way. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to know what to say or do. Here are six things that can be helpful.
1. Pray. So many times it is just a cliche to say, “Praying for you.” DO IT. God hears our prayers and we need to recognize the power in it.
2. Listen. Sometimes we don’t need to give advice. We don’t need to talk about how good God is and how He can ease the pain (and we know He can). We just need to listen as our friends work through their emotions and express their pain, doubts, and frustrations.
3. Cry with them. Tears are a part of the healing process. It is okay to weep with your friend. And allow them the luxury to cry. Even when we have the assurance that our loved ones are rejoicing in heaven, we still grieve here.
4 . Meet a need. By that I mean, bring a meal, clean a bathroom, babysit for a child or whatever the need is. Frequently people state, “Anything you need, just call me.” For a variety of reasons, most people won’t call. Be concrete in your offers. Saying, “I would like to bring a meal on Saturday, will that be okay?” is much better than saying, “Well, if you need a meal, just let me know.”
5. Stay in touch. During an initial crisis many people are there. But once the crisis is over, or things “get back to normal” people tend to pull back. Take the time to follow-up. Make a phone call and see how your friend is faring. Take them to dinner or a movie. Invite them to your home for a meal. Their pain isn’t on a time line and usually doesn’t automatically disappear within a few week, especially if it is a major crisis such as death or divorce. It helps to know they are not forgotten.
6. Give Godly counsel. Sometimes friends caught up in a crisis have lost perspective and make poor judgments and rash decisions. In a loving, kind manner, give them support and wise advice when needed. Make sure you don’t have your own agenda, but truly have your friend’s welfare in mind.
The biggest gift we can give our hurting loved ones is to be there for them, love them and support them. Being sensitive to their personality types and how they grieve will help us in ministering to them through their struggles.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 (NIV)