When I think of relating to friends, I immediately remember times like last New Year’s Eve when good friends were over and we laughed at an inside joke until we could hardly breathe. Fun times are certainly wonderful parts of friendship, but recently I’ve been reminded that we and our friends will also go through seasons of hurt. Sometimes laughter is replaced with tears and we can’t escape the pain. Sometimes life this side of heaven just hurts. It’s usually easy to rejoice and have fun with others when we’re both doing well, but knowing how to relate to a hurting friend is much harder.
Not Knowing What to Do
For most of my life I’ve been uncomfortable being around my friends when they were hurting. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control and not knowing what to do. However, through various circumstances and situations over the past year, God has been showing me that any sense of control on my part is an illusion. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m learning that as my grasp for a false sense of control loosens, the hurtful times of life begin to lose their awkwardness and self-incrimination. Instead of feeling like a shameful thing that shouldn’t be happening, the brokenness becomes honest. Yes, I may be hurting, and no, I don’t understand why. But I don’t need to. God says that we will have tribulation on this earth, but He also promises grace to endure whatever trial He brings.
One thing that’s helped me personally relate to friends who are hurting is to ask myself what I would want from them if I was in their situation. When I pour out my problems to a friend, I know they can’t fix anything, but I don’t really even want them to. Most often, what blesses me the most is a listening ear, a hug, and a prayer. And as I realize that, I’m learning to do for my friends what I would want them to do for me.
Weeping With Friends
Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” It struck me recently that this verse doesn’t say anything about helping someone to stop weeping. We are not told to offer answers or advice, but to join our friends in their sorrow. While writing this article, I kept thinking of a scene in Pixar’s newest movie, Inside Out. At one point in the story, a character embodying Joy is trying to cheer up someone who is sad by reminding him of happy things. When she eventually has no success and gives up, the character embodying Sadness comes and just sits next to the hurting person. She lets him talk about his loss and gives him a hug. Moments later, he declares that he’s alright and can continue the journey. When the surprised Joy asks how Sadness could make anyone feel better, Sadness replies, “he was sad, so I listened.”
Sometimes we’re not supposed to make the sadness go away. That’s God’s job. He is the only One who can stop the tears and sadness. Most of the time, I think the best way to help a hurting friend is to listen. Maybe also to offer a hug and a prayer; to validate that they matter and we care about them even while they are hurting. We might not be able to fix anything, but we’re not supposed to. As friends, it is our privilege to hold the wounded while God does the healing.
How do you help your friends when they are hurting? Talk to us in the comments below.