When someone you love is hurting, it can sometimes feel hard to know what to do or say without sounding trite. How can we love others through suffering without platitudes?
“My daughter is pregnant.”
The text about a friend’s unwed teenage daughter felt like a punch in the stomach. I was undone.
I was also hopeful though, because I know how God loves to take the most broken situations and turn them into the most beautiful. So I crafted a text back, one that I thought would be encouraging.
But after I hit the send button, I knew it was wrong. It was too formulaic, too lite, not enough of me entering into her pain.
DON’T TRY TO FIX IT
Have you ever been in a period of your life when it seems like every text, every email, every phone call is bad news? There is real hurt and brokenness everywhere you look. The effects of sin seem to be devastating, and life and its discouragements seem endless and hopeless. Every “Christian” or “religious” phrase you know sounds empty and almost embarrassing.
Where do we go during these times? How do we encourage others who are in the middle of these times?
First, we need to stop trying to fix each other. We need to just enter into the hurt, sit there with our friends, and stop trying to make it better.
Sometimes, every “Christian” or “religious” phrase you know sounds empty and almost embarrassing.
Henri Nouwen writes,
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
WHERE DOES OUR HELP COME FROM?
When our friends are hurting or we are hurting, we don’t have to rush through it. When we do look for words to encourage, may we look to God alone.
Psalm 121 has been burning in my heart recently. Where does our help come from? The Psalmist says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1–2). This was a song of ascent as travelers would enter Jerusalem.
We need to just enter into the hurt, sit there with our friends, and stop trying to make it better.
Where does our true and only help come from? From an event that happened thousands of years ago on a hill near Jerusalem. On that hill our Savior endured a suffering that we should shudder to think of. The maker of heaven and earth came and took on our body of flesh so that we might know he understands our suffering.
THE LORD WILL KEEP YOU
We can be assured that “He will not let your foot be moved: he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:3–4). There is not a time when God’s watchful eye is averted from his loved ones.
“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night” (Ps. 121:5–6). There is not an instance where our Heavenly Father is unconcerned about our well-being.
When our friends are hurting or we are hurting, we don’t have to rush through it.
“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 121:7–8). This is the promise that was withheld from Christ on our behalf. As he suffered on that hill, the Lord did not keep him from all evil. He actually experienced all the effects of our sin all so that we could hear a resounding, “The Lord will keep you forevermore.” Christ heard silence as he cried out to God so that we could hear “the Lord will keep your life.”
Where does our help come from? It comes from the triune God’s sacrifice for us and his eternal communion with us. In every doubt, in every fear, in every moment of anger, he promises to be at your right hand. He has already paid for all of your mistrust. God looks at you and sees the perfect record of his Son trusting the Father’s plan without fear or doubt. There is real pain in this life, but praise God we have a Savior, a Rescuer, a Keeper that is ours forever.
JUST BE THERE
In light of all of this, what should you do when your friend is suffering?
Pray for the Holy Spirit to work through you with your hurting friend. Learn how to sit in the pain with them and not try to rush through it. Love your friend the way you have been loved: patiently, gently, and tenderly.
Remember that all your failures as a friend are forgiven in Christ. He will use your imperfections to drive his children into his arms where they can find true rest and relief.