Friends are hard to come by. We all have people who care deeply about us, but friendships are difficult to find.
Especially when you are hurting.
People say a lot of clichés to those who are hurting. And, as well-meaning as they might be, most comments end up feeling empty to the one(s) hurting. There tends to be a pressure to say something. Anything.
“I’ll be praying for you.”
“God is in control. Don’t worry.”
“God will heal you. Just believe.”
“God never gives you more than you can handle.”
These clichés can vary from insincere to flat-out lies. These phrases are easy to blurt out in times of crisis without much thought of the individual(s) hurting. Most of the time it just makes those hurting feel more pain and/or guilty about their suffering.
Hurting people don’t need clichés to get through their pain. They need your presence and consistency, which is exponentially harder than a comment here and there.
See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23 (Emphasis added)
Hurting people need friends to be around. They need friends who are going to be with them.
Being around a friend who is hurting doesn’t require immediate instruction. Most hurting friends don’t need you to understand their exact emotions, but they need friends who are willing to sympathize.
Being with a friend who is hurting means that you are in their life. This certainly doesn’t mean you give up everything to be with them 24/7, but it also doesn’t mean you periodically check in to fill your quota to feel good. Being with a friend who is hurting means you listen and open up to them as well.
First step: Listen. Don’t speak. Hear them out. Hear their thoughts. Hear their doubts. Hear their pain. Listen without thinking of what to say. Listen to understand their experience(s).
Second step: Open up. Do not only discuss their suffering, but you should not avoid discussing their suffering. By focusing too much on their pain you could make them feel like their suffering somehow shapes your view of their identity and worth. However, ignoring their pain makes it look like you don’t care. Those in the midst or aftermath of suffering do not want to feel like a project. Talk about your life, struggles, joys, and what you’re learning in your life. This allows for genuine friendship.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (Emphasis added)
Hurting people need friends to stay around. They need friends who are going to dwell with them.
To dwell with a hurting friend means staying and abiding with them. To dwell with someone means that you are with and stay with them. Friends are not simply with each other, but they stay with each other. They are consistent.
Friends are there at the beginning and stay around for long after the initial moment of suffering. As important as the initial help is crucial, the long-term friendship is maybe even more vital.
“Initially after a loss, injury, or sickness, it seems as though everyone wants to help. But as time goes on, the excitement to help wanes, and the one hurting will often feel neglected and forgotten. There’s an important ministry of loyalty, of sticking around with the hurting…” – Dave Furman in Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting
Short-term friends are there in times of ease, but times of suffering reveal lasting friends by their commitment to stay around. Those that are consistent are able to show their hurting friends that they are valuable and that they are loved.
This goes for their entire family as well. Families of those who are hurting need the same kind of love because they are often forgotten. Family members are often seen as in less need, but they need similar attention and healing. A true friend to the hurting stays around to love and comfort their hurting family members.
There are millions of hurting people out there, and each person who is hurting needs two things from their friends: be around and stay around.