Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know

TwoAreBetterThanOne

I’ve experienced both.
There was a season of fear, confusion, hurt, and danger. My friends were out of reach, and I felt parched.

Years later, in the midst of new trials, friends were there, pouring life into my thirsty spirit. They were the hands and feet of Christ, bringing healing and sanity.

The apostle Paul has been there too:
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn — fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you…” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7a).

Because our world is so horribly broken, we have all heard pain in a friend’s voice:

“He’s leaving me.”

“It’s cancer.”

“I lost the baby.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“It’s an addiction.”

What do we say when our friend’s world is crumbling?

When we can’t fathom their pain?

It’s hard to enter in. We feel inadequate. The awkwardness immobilizes us.

But, we are the Body of Christ. Our friends need us to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice,” but also “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

I’ve walked through a few shadowy valleys, but some of my friends have been in places I can only imagine.

As I dialogued with six women about their seasons of darkness,

I gleaned eight insights on “friendship in the valley” from their comments.

Here’s what they want you to know…

1) Your emotional involvement makes all the difference.
We need a good listener more than anything. We know you have many other important things to do, but when you put them on hold to hear us out, we notice and are deeply grateful.

We are touched by the tears you shed with us; the way you feel and live the pain along with us.

We appreciate your sensitivity to what we need at a particular moment — your prayer for wisdom before you open your mouth to speak.

We want to talk about our troubles with you, but we also want you to feel free to talk about other things.

While judgmental and self-righteous words kill our spirits, we do welcome loving biblical counsel.

ComfortOneAnother

2) We will never forget the ways you help us.
Years after our crisis, we will remember that you helped us pack our bags, that you cleaned our house, that you cared for our kids, that you put away the baby clothes, that you helped us get out of bed.

We may resist your efforts to help at first, but we need you to be persistent.

3) Comparisons usually aren’t helpful.
It can be good for us to remember that we are not the only ones in the world suffering, but please be careful of unequal comparisons. A spouse who is perpetually sloppy is not the same thing as a spouse who is morally unfaithful. A child with the stomach flu is not on the same level as a child suffering the effects of chemo. Think twice before saying, “I know how you feel.”

4) We appreciate confidentiality.
We understand that you need the freedom to talk openly with your spouse, but beyond that, we hope you understand that our stories are private. If you want to share details with others, please check with us first. We need to be able to trust you.

5) We desperately need your prayers.
We want to be told that you’re praying for us, and we need that to be true. In our darkest moments, we long to know that someone is lifting us up before Heaven’s throne.

6) We are not “normal” right now.
We are grateful for “no-strings-attached” friendship. We’re not in a position to reciprocate every thoughtful thing you do for us. You may wonder why we forget to return calls, send thank you notes, or ask questions about your life. Sometimes we just can’t think straight and are in dire need of patience and grace.

7) It can be hard to ask for help.
Most of the time, we feel awkward asking you to give even more of yourself. We realize you have your own life and can’t always be there, but we appreciate every offer of help — each time you reach out.

8) We are learning that our hope is in the Lord.
As much as we love and appreciate you, we have to learn that you cannot be God. You have limitations.  At times, we may lean heavily on you, but we both need to learn that you can’t meet our every need. We are in the process of learning that His grace is sufficient.

Comfort

For another fascinating perspective on the healing that community brings, check out Mary DeMuth’s recent blog:
CommunityHealsStress

***Is there anything you would add to this list of insights? What have your friends done that have held you up during your stormy season? Please leave a comment below.

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6 thoughts on “Friendship in the valley: 8 things our hurting friends want us to know

  1. Jen May 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm Reply

    Couldn’t even finish reading this without tearing up! We are in the valley right now, and this is all so true and so beautifully written. Without our “no-strings-attached” friendships and their fervent prayers we wouldn’t be able to make it through! Thank you and blessings on those who shared with you, may they be comforted even now!

    • Jennifer Ebenhack May 16, 2013 at 6:44 am Reply

      Thank you, Jen, for your comment. I am so sorry about your valley… I pray that God’s grace and goodness will meet you there! May He continue to bless you through the ministry of your wonderful friends. You may have already read this, but if not, you may also be encouraged by http://jenniferebenhack.com/2013/03/19/when-youre-hurting/
      Thank you for stopping by! I’m praying for you today.

  2. Karen Vote June 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm Reply

    I got on your site from Ann Voscamps blog – amazing insights and what I needed to read today. Thanks for writing and sharing your heart! Blessings!

  3. Jennifer Ebenhack June 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm Reply

    Hi Karen! Thank you so much for visiting and for that encouragement!

  4. Rene' June 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm Reply

    Jennifer,

    Thank you for pursuing and writing about this subject. I love the positive suggestions, especially to prayerfully consider what to do or say, along with what NOT to do or say . . . very insightful and practical.

    Our family has been greatly blessed by the Body of Christ reaching out to us in our time of need through prayers, meals, rides, phone calls, e-mails, flowers, etc. I have been saving my “praying for you”, etc., cards for 2 1/2 years in a basket and it is overflowing . . . time to get a larger basket :). Our faith in God HAS grown through the Body’s ministry to us as you mention above. We’ve been amazed at the generosity of people, especially recently, at a fund raiser for medical costs. At the same time, there were those who seemed to be oblivious to our struggle and, as mentioned above, had inappropriate comparisons, etc. But, again, the challenges that came our way caused us to be further refined in our faith and to pray for others who don’t know the love of Christ. I was especially thankful for my helpers-in-Christ who were very supportive throughout the event.

    The following portion of verses from Psalm 56 (written by David regarding his trust in God when he was being pursued by Saul) have been a great encouragement and reminder of whom I can have complete confidence :
    “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose Word I praise, in the Lord, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

    God’s Blessings,
    Rene’ Genau

  5. Jennifer Ebenhack June 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm Reply

    I am so glad you shared that, Rene’! Thank you for those beautiful verses and testimony of God’s provision. I’m also so blessed to hear how the Body of Christ has come around you. I know that each little gesture of love means so much. But you’re right — Christ is the only one who will never let us down!

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