Three Ways to Care for Friends Who Hurt

Jackson is accident prone. Every bump and bruise on our four-year-old grandson has a story. “You should have seen it, Nana,” he said. “I fell off my bike and my face hit the ground before my hands.” One look at his noggin and I knew he spoke truth.

He then pulled three bandages out of his pocket and said, “I brought these just in case. I even have an extra for you.”

Love that kid. And in his simple act of kindness I was painfully aware that I often overcomplicate what it looks like to care for friends who hurt.

When grief and disaster strike, I’ve been one of those well-meaning people who has done more damage than good. I’ve avoided people because I didn’t know what to say or do. And I’ve poured vinegar into a wound by immediately talking about God’s good plan when there was no good in sight.

I wonder if you have too? If so here are three ways we can care for friends who hurt.

1. Show up. Don’t avoid the person or the tender subject because it’s too hard and painful, and you’re afraid you’ll make things worse. Simply show up. Draw near. Your presence speaks volumes about your love and care.

That’s what Sandra does. She cares deeply about people. And when she shared how a woman in their small group had a heartache so heavy she couldn’t get out of bed, she knew what they had to do. The friends piled into a car, drove to her home, and stood on the front porch asking her husband if they could come in. They didn’t stand there long.

“What did you bring?” I asked. What’s the cure for heartache? Casseroles, cards, calla lilies?

“Nothing,” she said. “We just showed up.” That’s what friends do for friends who hurt.

2. Listen. Most of us think we’re better listeners than we really are. After my last phone conversation with Alecia, I was convicted by my end of the conversation. I texted, “Interesting how I tell you I need to learn to listen as I interrupt you. Sorry!”

She responded, “Huh? Did you interrupt me? Didn’t notice!” I may not be the only one with a listening problem!

When you sit with friends who hurt pose thoughtful questions, then stop talking. Be comfortable in the silence, and resist the urge to fix the situation or to fix her. Remind her how much she matters to you.

3. Pray. When my friend Theresa was dying from a debilitating illness, she taught me this about prayer. She said some people would tell her they were praying for her and others would take her hand and pray with her. She always felt most loved and encouraged by those who did the later.

Pray for and with each other. Even if it’s a single-sentence prayer of blessing. Here are a few examples:

  • May you experience the nearness of the one who promises to stay close to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)
  • May you remember that he sees you and counts your tears. (Psalm 56:8)
  • May he wrap you in his comfort and compassion and surprise you with glimpses of his tender care. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

When we can’t see God’s love through the tears, we need sisters who will prop us up and demonstrate his love. Show up. Listen. Pray. Repeat.

As Bob Goff writes, “God doesn’t pass us notes, he gives us friends.” And sometimes those friends may even have an extra bandage in their pocket just for you.

Three Steps to Help the Breathless Breathe

You don’t have to be a runner to be breathless. The woman in the express lane ahead of me was just that. She swiped her credit card, looked at me and asked, “Do you have the day off?”

“I do,” I said. “How about you?”

She was flushed. “No, I’m trying to run as many errands as I can during my lunch hour so I can rush home after work.”

She was clearly rattled. I responded, “Take deep breaths as you drive back to work. You’ll feel better.”

She didn’t wait until she got into her vehicle. As she put her credit card in her handbag and her bags in the cart, she took two cleansing breaths. “Thank you,” she said. “That feels better already.”

As women some of the beautiful things we may pass down from generation to generation include a love of reading, gardening, decorating, organization, and most important, faith.

But faith is more often caught than taught. Children hear better with their eyes than with their ears. Had I asked this woman if she wanted her children to grow up frazzled, always feeling rushed and drained, I believe she’d have given me an emphatic no. Since it was evident she didn’t want this for herself, she certainly wouldn’t desire it for those who follow behind her!

But here’s the thing. Some weeks leave us breathless. Things happen that we didn’t plan. People get sick, move, or celebrate monumental milestones that require extra planning. Some seasons of life are packed full with little to no margin for anything extra.

So how do the breathless, catch their breath? What should be done when we “feel like butter scraped over too much bread”? (Bilbo Baggins) These are the questions I wrestle with in an intense season of writing and speaking deadlines. Here are three ways to help the breathless, breathe.

  1. Begin the day with God. When your feet swing from the bed to the floor, stretch and say “Good morning, God! I bless you! I need you! I can’t do this day without you!” From the moment you wake until your head hits the pillow again, whether you’re in the Word or in the world, seek to live in his presence and rely on his power and provision. “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3)
  2. Breathe. It’s more than taking air into your lungs (though cleansing breaths do cleanse!). It’s a breath prayer that invites the divine into the daily. If you’re feeling breathless or panicked, pause. Look up and remind your heart that he is God and you are not. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28)
  3. Be. You are not the sum of what you do, but who you really are. Listen to what God says about you! You are accepted, valued, cherished, deeply loved, and enough. Not because you checked everything off the list, but because of who you are in Jesus. Not because of your behavior, but because of your birth into him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

May God, who gives breath to all things, help the breathless breathe for your good and his glory.

Three Lessons Learned from Mr. Rogers

After the attacks on Paris a Fred Rogers’ quote began trending on social media. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

While we can sit slack-jawed at horrific headlines, Mr. Rogers shifted the focus from the horror mongers to the helpers. He encouraged us to look for those who were propping each other up instead of tearing each other to pieces. To be part of the binding instead of the breaking.

And as I considered the wisdom of Fred’s mother, I thought of other things Mr. Rogers had taught me. Maybe you can, too.

Just show up. Without fail Mr. Rogers showed up at the same time everyday on our tiny Continue reading “Three Lessons Learned from Mr. Rogers”

Someone Needs You to Believe in Them Today

I can still feel the sting of his sarcasm. I was absorbed in my schoolwork when a popular boy in our 7th grade class leaned in and whispered, “You will make a great poet someday!”

Stunned that he acknowledged my existence and spoke into my secret dream of writing, I asked why.

“Because you remind me of Longfellow,” he sneered. “Look at your feet!”

No need to look. I was painfully aware my feet were longer than his. Maybe the biggest in the class. I tucked them under my chair and took another step deeper into my insecurities. I believed the lie that good plans didn’t belong to ordinary girls like me.

What I didn’t recognize at the time was the work of a bigger bully seeking to steal, kill and destroy a young woman God called His own. (John 10:10)

Can you identify where war has been waged against God’s plans and purpose for you?

One of my battlefields was middle school. In one classroom was a bully, but in the next was Mrs. B. My favorite teacher had this red pen that was always, always with her. That pen was in constant motion, and it did its share of correcting.

But much more than that, it encouraged. Mrs. B. used her red words and her real love for Continue reading “Someone Needs You to Believe in Them Today”