I have always had a soft spot for Job. If ever there was a man well acquainted with suffering and loss, it was him. Even his wife told him to curse God and die; that's how bad things were. Instead, he managed to hold fast to what he believed about God. Job went from having it all...in abundance...to losing it all.
His well-meaning friends started off on the right foot. They sat with him in silence for seven days, at a complete loss for words. Their presence was their comfort. And just when I am thinking, way to go, guys...they do the unthinkable. They blame Job for all his misfortune. Can you feel it? The shocking sting of your closest friends slappng you across the face with a guilt trip. Like salt on wounds, but not the kind that brings healing, their words usher in one more devastating loss. Now Job is utterly and completely alone in his nightmare.
First of all, I have to back the train up and give his friends some credit. Afterall, they did show up. They entered into his mourning with him. They sat in silence with Job for seven long days. They may have been at a loss for words, but their hearts seemed to be overflowing with compassion for their friend.
It is difficult to see a loved one in pain. It's hard to know what to do, and what to say. We want to help ease their suffering, but how? Not having the answers can cause us to pull away. Why risk saying or doing the wrong thing, we reason. Especially when we see how badly Job's friends blew it.
As someone who has lived with chronic pain, I can only share what has helped me. My list may not be the right fit for someone else. But I hope it gets you thinking. If you want to lighten the load of someone you know who is hurting, perhaps one or more of my suggestions will speak to you.
1. Reach out, and keep reaching out to them. It's easy to become reclusive when battling ongoing pain. I know because this is my biggest unhealthy coping mechanism.
2. Give them the opportunity to share what they are going through, or have been through. Listen if they want to talk. Don't trivialize what they share, and don't try to fix it. Just listen.
3. Be understanding and flexible. If they have to cancel at the last minute, don't hold it against them. They are probably doing the best they can. Honestly, this has been the most appreciated gift my friends have given to me.
4. Offer your help. They may not want or need it. But your offer may come on a day when they do. Keep offering.
5. Pray for them. Let them know you are praying. I believe this is the most powerful, life-changing gift you can give a friend. When someone tells me they are praying for me, it is like a healing balm on my spirit. It's more precious to me than gold.
6. Try to see the bigger picture. People are not their pain. Don't define or label them based on their journey with pain.
7. Give them opportunities to bless you. It's easy to feel useless when you are wrestling with ongoing pain. It helps when we can get outside of ourselves and do things for other people.
8. Love them! People who are hurting can feel so unlovable. Look for creative ways to love them ~ a note, a hug, a flower, a Starbucks treat...you get the picture.
9. Let them know when you are thinking about them. Make the call, send an email or text. Let them know they aren't forgotten.
10. How do you think you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes? Take your time with this one. Really think about it. Then try acting on it, and see what happens.
A direct approach is always a good one. "How can I be a good friend to you in the midst of this?" Then give them a chance to respond. Keep asking every once in a while. Things may change.
Need a little more motivation? I love the following quotes ~
"Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day."
"It's good to be blessed. It's better to be a blessing."
"Plant flowers in others' gardens and your life will become a bouquet!"
"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier."
"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
"When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own."
"I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives."