It has taken me 22 years and many difficult circumstances to learn how to be a good friend. Our intentions are always good (well, hopefully), but it is easy to hurt the people we love when we are simply caring or trying to help them with their various situations.
This week, I have been reading the book of Job, which provides us with some really great examples of friendship.
For most of us reading Job, his friends (Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad) may not seem like the most supportive friends in the world. However, haven’t we all been on the listening end of a hurting friend who is going on and on and on? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say. And as much as we may not want to admit it, perhaps we love our friends and want to see them happy again so badly that we just want them to stop talking about it. Have you ever encountered a situation with a distraught friend who continues on, complaining and ranting forever? We lose patience, lose discernment, and lose the comforting words to provide that could make them feel better.
I truly do believe that is exactly how Job’s friends were feeling. Their harsh words were not for a lack of caring for Job. How would you talk to a friend who lost everything and felt completely hopeless?
Job’s friend’s really cared for him, and they were off to the right start:
“When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.”
Job’s friends traveled to come be with their hurting friend. Even when they didn’t have the words to say, they joined him in silence and compassion.
One of the pastors at my church, Robert Flores, says:
“When in doubt, do the most loving thing.”
Here are some tips on how to be supportive of a hurting friend:
1. Be a good listener.
Your presence will be more important than your words. If a friend is reaching out to you in their time of need, listen and fully hear their concerns before offering any advice or input.
2. Ask your friend what they need from you.
This is one of the best lessons I ever learned. Sometimes our friends don’t want or need you to fix their problem, they just want to be heard. My first instinct is to fix and offer my opinion, but that’s not always the most loving thing to do. Ask your friend if they are seeking advice/help or simply need an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.
Jesus wept. Jesus did life with the disciples, his friends. Feel for your hurting friend, strive to understand what they are going through, and always express your empathy prior to any advice or attempts at problem solving.
4. Pray for wisdom and discernment.
God wants us to speak truth and bring light to those around us. If your friend is making destructive decisions or doing anything dangerous, seek wisdom as to how to approach your friend with your concern in a loving way.
Friendships are something to be nurtured and cherished. Support your friends this week with truth, love, and joy.