23 Wake up! Why are you sleeping, Lord?
Get up! Don’t reject us forever!
24 Why are you hiding your face,
forgetting our suffering and oppression?
25 Look: we’re going down to the dust;
our stomachs are flat on the ground!
26 Stand up! Help us!
Save us for the sake of your faithful love.
Psalm 44:23-26, CEB
Yesterday I talked about the fact that the Bible shows us a variety of responses to hard times. This is important, because people tend to react to hard times in unique ways. We all need something a little bit different. Today, I want to say a word or two about how to be a friend to someone who is struggling.
Before you tell someone how they’re supposed to handle what’s going on in their lives, stop to consider that people are different and respond to problems in different ways. Just as there isn’t one answer in the Bible, there isn’t just one answer to how we handle the things life throws at us. This isn’t the time to fight over interpretation or to show people how many quotes we have memorized. This is the time to show people that they’re cared for and loved, just as God comforts his people. This is not the time to teach, it is the time to listen.
Consider not talking at all, while listening for the fears or anxieties that hover beneath the surface. Be supportive and encouraging. When people are facing hard times, they don’t need to be told what to do, they need to be comforted. Patiently sitting with someone with an attentive ear draws them close. Telling them “what God says” pushes them away. There’s a time and place for learning “what God says,” but the time when we’re in deep suffering is not usually it. We have to consider how a person might receive what we’re going to say, rather than saying what we want to say, consequences be damned. We don’t have to walk through life like bulls in china shops.