Living in a sinful, broken world means there will be suffering. And at some point, though we fight hard to control our lives as if we can keep tragedy, sickness, suffering and loss away, everyone will experience it to some degree. And if it’s not you directly right now, there is no doubt someone in your life who is suffering.
Therefore, if we say we love God then we should be seeking ways to love others. To step outside of our own worlds and invest in someone else. And what better way to embody the love of Christ then to help ease the burden of someone who is suffering, feeling very much out-of-control and likely at the end of their rope?
So what does it look like to enter in? To be a friend to someone in the midst of a trial, hurt and pain and to walk though the Valley of the Shadow of Death with them?
I had my ideas, but thought hearing first-hand from a few friends who have experienced that deepest darkness personally would be far better.
Here is what they had to say…
“Everyone is different, but I felt most loved when people did things to help without asking first. When someone says ‘What can I do?’ it puts the onus on you to figure something out so they feel good about helping. If you just see a need and meet it, it’s one less thing they have to think about, which frees them up to concentrate on pressing matters. Plant flowers, make kids’ lunches, have something fixed that is broken. I didn’t want to read or do anything that required extra energy so I really appreciated those who did things to lift it off, not added more to me!”
“Prayer was huge… and showing empathy by crying but also laughing with me. The night a few friends went running with me and then ate ice cream dessert in the park fed my soul. It just helps knowing you aren’t walking alone. Someone is there when you need it, someone who will speak truth to you and remind you God is near. When you are in the midst, it is not always easy to see God, but I saw Him through those friends walking alongside me.”
“Just another person’s presence is a blessing. Some days that gave me the breath to go to the next moment. Flexibility also, because everything is so moment to moment. God sent people at just the right times. If God puts someone on your heart or mind, act on it. Find out what they need in that moment, many times its just prayer for courage and strength.”
“When I went through cancer the very best thing was having my close friends sit with me through chemo. Just being around their normal energy and regular conversation was nice to listen to and uplifting to me. Also the little unexpected unasked for things; like magazines being anonymously dropped off on my front porch, cupcakes brought to my kids or activities planned for them. If my kids were taken care of I was more at ease. But if they were sad or bored or needy then it didn’t matter how bad I felt I wanted to take care of them. So, I really appreciated people who pro-actively thought of ways to help take care of my family without me having to ask.”
Of course, different people will have different needs and desires, but what rings loud and clear is – enter in!
Too often, I think because we don’t know what to do or say we find ourselves not doing anything at all. Or maybe just sending a quick text. Not wrong to do, but a grieving, hurting friend needs more. Whether a listening ear, a physical body to just sit silently or something more tangible. Because of the love Christ has bestowed on you, may it spur you on to show that love to those suffering in your midst.
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