For the vast majority of us who love God and His Word, the great gulf between what God declares good and the reality of our lives and the lives of our loved ones can be overwhelmingly discouraging. And we want to fix it. To change it. Christian society as well often projects onto us the need to CHANGE things. What we do less often and not as well is pressure each other to endure in grace long term with someone who is struggling. I wrote about this at Desiring God last year.
I want control of my circumstances and gravitate to suggestions of things to try to fix situations. But at some point, as things continue without change, I tire of suggestions to try. In one such situation, I sat with a wise older friend and listened as she spoke words that poured over my parched soul. Her advice? Rest. Endure. Love. After time in her presence, I felt free—free from the guilt that I wasn’t doing enough to change my loved one, free from pressure to come up with the thing that will most help them, free to love them unconditionally the way God has loved me, free to bare my soul to God in confidence that He would hear me, and free to leave my fears at His feet when I was done.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing. Love never ends (1 Cor. 13:7-8).
. . . walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, (Eph. 4:1-2)
Bearing long with hurting friends is a means through which God powerfully ministers His grace. But what does bearing long look like? Maybe it looks like Job’s friends, who sat with him for days on end without saying a word. But over the long haul with someone who is in the midst of long-term adversity, it can be as simple as just checking in. It has ministered to me at dark times to have someone call, text, or email with the simple question, “How are you?!” A friend might say something along the lines, “I remember you were concerned about [some issue]. How has it gone since we last talked?” It means much to me that they remembered my burdens. Sometimes, a friend will ask, “How can I be praying for you right now?” When they follow up the next week on the same topic with me, I feel remembered and loved.
This has been my MO with friends of late. But I don’t say that to pat myself on the back. I do this now because I dropped the ball with a friend a few years ago. She shared with me a big issue in her life and then fell off my radar. And I didn’t followed up for months and months. Finally, when I checked in with her, it was clear she had been struggling deeply and had felt abandoned by her friends through it all. I learned my lesson. When a friend falls off the radar, check in with them. Don’t assume they’ll call me if they need to talk. Some people who are hurting already feel abandoned by friends or family and likely struggle with feeling abandoned by God. Don’t wait on those friends to pick up the phone and call you. When you check in, it doesn’t need to be wordy or stressful. I have a friend who every few weeks just drops me an email – “I was thinking of you today and prayed for [that thing we last talked about]. How is that going?” You don’t have to take a long time. You don’t have to give advice. You don’t have to do something big. Just check in and listen. There is something about simply being remembered that ministers to our souls.
Proverbs 27:10 NAS Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, And do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity ; Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.