Four years ago, around this exact time, my then husband went under church discipline for reasons that don’t need to be brought to light, but they were crazy. Crazy, I tell you. In the month that followed the initial accusation, he told me different versions of the truth; the church told me different versions of the truth; and I stood confused, anxious, and scared. The whole ordeal, at least that part of it, ended with my ex-husband’s decision to abandon his family and move across the country.
I do not tell you that to make my life seem dramatic, or to make light of divorce, deceit, and church discipline gone awry. I tell you that because when I recall that time, I remember the way my family and my friends rallied around me. It was a dark time. It was a painful, scary, and chaotic time, and in that time I had people help and people hurt.
It’s awkward to watch someone hurt. It reminds us of our vulnerability, and of the fact that we live in a dark, fallen world. It’s easy to pretend that the world is ok until the person standing in front of you is in serious pain. That’s when it gets awkward. We try to find the words to say to make everyone feel better, because we don’t want to feel pain anymore than our friend does, so because we are all uncomfortable with “bad” feelings, we try to say things to make it go away.
Don’t do this.
Don’t make it go away.
That’s not how you can be a friend to someone who is struggling.
You can say the most “Churchy” thing you want, and that pain will still be there. In fact, it will be there and now it may be joined by a little bit of annoyance and anger at you.
There are ways to love a friend who is hurting. These are some of the ways people helped me, loved me, and encouraged me in those days. (And there were a lot of those excruciating days, 62 weeks of them, to be exact.)
- So, if you want to love a friend, here’s what I suggest:
Take them to a movie, play, museum, concert, zumba class, whatever, just get their mind off of it for a couple hours.
- Give them a gift card to Target, Starbucks, wherever (my funds were low and a friend gave me a giftcard so I could buy something fun).
- Invite them over to watch a movie, hang with you and your family, eat dinner, and do normal things (if they don’t have family nearby, invite them over on Christmas or Thanksgiving).
- Watch their children and give them a break (overnight if you can).
- Don’t force them to talk about, listen if they want to talk, or chat about nail polish or Kim Kardashian if they don’t.
- Buy them a Diet Coke, send them flowers, mow their grass, paint their house, help them move, help them live life, whatever that means.
- Don’t say things like “God has a plan”, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”, “God is working”, yada yada yada unless they want to talk about those ideas, then go for it. Follow their lead.
- Do say things like “man, this sucks”, “I hate that you’re hurting and I don’t know what to do”, “Let’s go punch something and scream”, “Do you want a hug?”, “I don’t know what to say, so I’m just going to be with you”.
- Don’t wait for them to ask for something they need, they may ask, or they may not. Instead, tell them you want to take them to dinner, and let them pick the time and place, or tell them you want to clean their house and let them pick the time and day. Volunteer and be there. And then, after months have passed and everyone has moved on, volunteer again, and again, and again.
- Don’t forget them. Even after the “crisis” has passed, they still have pain. Be there, call them, celebrate their birthday, and let them help you celebrate yours.
- Most importantly, pray for them. Tell them what you are praying, how you are praying, and actually do it. Don’t just say it, do it.
Friends make the dark times sweeter. We aren’t meant to walk alone, so be a friend to those around you, and let them be a friend to you. In good times, and in bad.
Kacy Davis lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband, Collin. She is a special education teacher and advocate of those with special needs and loves her job. She spends her time riding bikes with her husband, running, reading, and enjoying those she loves. Kacy believes in reinventing what it means to be a woman and wife who loves the Lord and longs to help others learn to love the Lord with abandon, freedom, and a greater understanding of grace. She writes here.