A Friend in Need…
I am grateful to God for equipping and calling me to a life of serving the broken, beaten, and discouraged. God has provided me with the particular gifts, experiences, and training that allow me to offer hope, guidance, and healing to my clients through my practice of Christian counseling / marriage and family therapy. But there are far more hurting souls in my community than I could possibly begin to help in any personal way. Nor could the combined forces of all my colleagues in the helping professions ever manage to provide services to all those in need. And this situation doesn’t discourage me today – in fact, I have great hope for the masses who are struggling in pain. And I hold a genuine hope for them for two key reasons:
My God is far bigger and greater than I am!
You don’t have to be a professional to be a friend who offers comfort, hope, and healing. This means every one of you can be a helping advocate to the downtrodden!
Thanks to my good friend, Blaine, for inviting me to share this message on Saturday with a group of teenagers who will be gathered together at our church’s annual youth rally, Renewal. (For my printable, one-page simple outline, click here: “When Your Friend is Hurting.” This may be a helpful resource to keep on hand, or even to pass along via email to someone you know who has a heart of compassion for the hurting.) As a passionate youth minister, Blaine understands how widespread is the damage and discouragement among our teens today, and I am grateful for his vision to equip our teens with the tools to come along side their hurting friends to lift up their heads and do what they can to help them overcome their pain and struggles. I would like to refer you to three different passages of Scripture, which I encourage you to read in their entirety.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “…so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God…”
Job 2:11-13 “…Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
Luke 10:25-37 “…He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him…”
If you take the time to read through these Biblical words of guidance, you will find God inviting us to join him in the process of healing the hearts and lives of our neighbors. And while there are those life issues that call for the help of various professionals, you can offer so much through the following three simple steps. Please take note of the order of these steps, as I believe they flow in a developmental sequence:
1. SIT. A friend offers comfort through his/her gift of presence. So often the most important thing you can do for your hurting friend is JUST BE THERE. Not fixing. Not distracting. Certainly not avoiding. Simply drawing near to the one you love to let them know they are not alone. Being present, available, still, and calm. Rich gifts of healing love. Gifts that everyone of us can offer!
2. SPEAK. A friend offers hope through his/her words of faith. Once you have offered your hurting friend the lavish gift of your quiet, loving presence, you may need to take the next step into verbal encouragement. We’re not talking about dangerous promises, religious platitudes, trite pep talks. This is about sharing sincerely from the heart both your empathy for their pain, and your deep desire and trust in the best outcome for them. And this is where the follower of Christ has an incomparable advantage over the one who doesn’t live in the Kingdom of heaven. For the Christian does not just offer shallow words of hope, no more than positive wishing for a temporary reprieve. The disciple of Christ has a powerful, life-giving Spirit and Message of deep, lasting hope that is truly a heavenly gift.
3. SERVE. A friend offers healing through his/her actions of intercession. The gifts of presence and encouragement are Kingly treasures, and can go very far to life the heart of your hurting friend from the ashes of despair. But sometimes more is required. There is a time for quiet sitting. There is a time for sharing words of hope. And there is a time for action. Sometimes this may be as simple as honoring a regular commitment to pray on behalf of your friend. Perhaps the action most needed is a series of sincere phone calls, visits, cards, or emails – reminding your friend that one burden they need not bear is the burden of loneliness. Other times it may fall on you to help your friend find their way to the right professional (counselor, therapist, pastor, teacher, coach, etc). And someday you may find your friend in desperate need of your courage to do the really hard things. The courage to stand against their oppressors, or to share with their parents or others what they lack the strength to say, or to face some other daunting fear that is blocking the only path to true healing and freedom for your friend.
Remember, as is true in so many aspects of life, being should come before talking or doing.
Live in the rhythm of this order, and you will bless your self, your friends, and your Lord.