Have you ever been in a situation where a friend of yours was going through something incredibly difficult (i.e. a tough break up, parents’ divorce, the death of a friend, relative, or parent, etc.)? What did you say in that situation? Were you at a loss for word? Did you find that you didn’t know what to say? If you have experienced this, or you are currently experiencing this, you are not alone. There have been numerous instances where I’ve sat with someone who was in a lot of deep emotional pain. In those instances I often find that I do not know what to say.
My hope for you in this blog post is this: that you would be more equipped, and therefore feel more confident, when you find yourself with a friend who is going through a tough season.
In the Old Testament book of Job we meet a man (Job) who has the best life you could imagine. He has wealth, health, a great family, a great relationship with God, and a great reputation of being a noble man of integrity and wisdom throughout his country. Long story short within a couple of days he lost it all. All his wealth was stolen, his children died when a house collapsed on them, and he was afflicted with sickness. Saying Job was going through a tough season is an understatement. He was in great pain emotionally and physically.
Later on in the story three of Job’s friends come to comfort him. When they arrive at Job’s house and found him (obviously he looked terrible). Here’s what the Bible says Job’s three friends did:
“Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
Could you imagine that? Sitting in silence with your friends for seven days and seven nights? That’d feel like an eternity. Why would they do that?
There is an Ancient Jewish tradition that teaches this: when you go to comfort a friend, you do not speak first. The silence must be broken by the individual going through the pain.
I think there’s a lot of wisdom here. The Jewish culture understood that when it comes to helping someone who is suffering, words are over rated. However, simply being with your suffering friend in silence is the best way you can ease the pain.
Therefore, here’s some practical tips on how to help a friend going through tough times:
1. Don’t talk too much. Some phases I prefer to use when someone is hurting include “there are no words,” “I am so sorry for you pain,” “this is just not fair,” “I am here.” Avoid clichés such as “God must have a plan,” “just trust God in this situation,” “you must pray more,” etc.
2. Be present with your friend. One night a friend of mine went through a very tough break up. Myself and two of my other friends simply sat on the floor of his living room with him as he cried. We kept our words few, avoided clichés, and simply allowed our presence to be enough.
3. Surprise your friend with the occasional thoughtful gift. This communicates that you’re thinking of him or her. If you will see you friend at school tomorrow bring that friend a coffee. Take that friend out for lunch, or dinner. Bring that friend lunch to school. Little acts of kindness go a long way and communicate that you care for your friend.
4. Go to your friend’s house. He or she may be feeling very alone. Being present at his or her house is a great way to meet your friend in the loneliness.
I hope this blog post is helpful for you, and that you feel more ready to be a good friend when someone is going through hell on earth. And may God’s love shine through you to your friend.
Grace and peace,