Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When a Friend Needs Comfort

When we receive news that a friend or loved one is facing a life-altering trial, our mind often goes blank. We feel numb. There’s nothing we can do. 

We have no idea what to say and so we say nothing at all.  

It’s said that silence is golden, but in times like this, our silence can speak volumes. It can leave those in pain wondering, 

Why hasn’t she called?” or 

I really thought she cared. Why has she turned her back on me?

It’s not our intent to make others feel isolated.  We DO care. We simply have no idea how to offer comfort, which feels paralyzing. 

I’m in that very situation right now and I’ve had to push myself… hard… to reach out. I want to stay in my comfort zone, withdraw and pray in solitude, but instead I feel God’s prompting to act. 

A precious friend faces a life-threatening illness.  We’ve spent many years together in this friendship. I taught her to scrapbook. She taught me to crochet. In another era of our lives, we spent many wonderful weekends together sharing stories of our families, laughing, crying, and sorting out the mysteries of life. Our lives changed and our shared times melted away, but our friendship remains. I cherish her warm smile and gentle wisdom. I admire her tender strength and love the sound of her laugh.  

Right now, my friend faces a trial larger than she ever imagined. While I wallowed in my own heartbreak over the news, her sister whispered to me, “She needs you, Cathy.”  I believe she does. Not because I have anything to offer, but because we were created and designed for community. We need our friends in good times and bad. We need to know that others care and offer prayer on our behalf. We need to understand that we’re not alone.

And so, for the sake of my friend, I needed to stretch beyond myself and act. Sadly, I didn’t know what to do or where to start.

So I asked the Lord. After I prayed, I didn’t receive a telegram or audibly hear His voice of instruction, but a few ideas came to mind. I share them with you now to glorify God. I freely admit that I was as immobilized as most of us feel when seeing a friend in such pain. 

  • Take a Tangible Step.  I began the process in my kitchen and made my world-famous pasta and a plate of cookies. (Who am I kidding? The pasta isn’t even famous in my own neighborhood, but it is a family favorite). I found that taking a tangible step readied me for deeper service. It’s said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My first step was toward the stove. 

  • Listen for God prompts.  With my mind fixed on my friend and her needs, the Lord gently prompted me. For instance, in the car one afternoon, I listened to a sermon on the radio. A pastor shared his testimony about when his wife faced cancer.  He explained that friends who listened much and spoke little often provided the deepest comfort. This was a message I needed to hear at the exact moment it aired. God often provides in such ways, doesn’t He?  I’m reminded that as I minister to my friend, He is with me.

  • Ask for Direction. I prayed and specifically asked the Lord to give me words to speak. I also asked for help to hold my tongue when it was time to listen. I soon found that worship music brought words of love and encouragement. The songs reminded me why I hold such deep adoration for the Lord and what an honor it is to share His love with a friend.  Several Scriptures came to mind - many which have provided me with personal comfort and hope in times past.

  • Consider a Gift.  Admittedly, gifts aren’t always the best option, but they can express love that is difficult to communicate. In this instance, I prepared to give my friend the gift of God’s Word, which contains more comfort than I could muster in a lifetime.  Now, giving a Bible to someone with the hope that they’ll read it is a bit unrealistic, so this is how I prepared: 

    1. I’d recently received a beautiful Bible at a women’s conference. It’s one I cherish and refer to often, but I knew in an instant it was time to give it away. 
    2. I highlighted several verses of comfort then flagged each one for easy reference. 
    3. As I considered each verse, I found myself praying those words to the Lord on behalf of my friend.
    4. When I presented her with the Bible, I explained what I had marked and the hope that she could find one verse each day to hold in her heart.  
    5. I also explained that she could read other passages and the commentary for further inspiration and answers to some difficult questions.  

My friend and I enjoyed precious time talking and praying together. I believe she appreciated the food and feel that the gift touched her heart. I hope that I helped share her burden and offered comfort that would last beyond our visit.

I continue to pray and reach out to her by text message as often as the Lord prompts. I look forward to sharing her company again soon in the coming months and trust that it’s not me who provides comfort, but the Lord. 

Remember Your word to Your servant;
You have given me hope through it.
This is my comfort in my affliction:
Your promise has given me life.

Psalm 119:49-50 HCSB

Your Turn:

When have you felt frozen and immobile when a friend needed comfort?  

How did you step into action?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or joining me on Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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