I think one of the things God uses for encouragement to someone going through any type of trial is surrounding them with friends who lift them up when they are weak and loving them right where they are. We see community played out in the Bible, most importantly through the trinity – God, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit. That should be the foundation of any relationship we have. Communion with God should be first above all else which allows the Holy Spirit to guide us throughout our days. Loving Christ well helps us love others well, and gives wisdom in how to best love the suffering.
The best type of friend to someone suffering is one who just shows up. It doesn’t take fancy offerings or a formal visit. Those are appreciated and kind, but most of the time the person needs their friend to just be with them in whatever way that looks like at the moment. Whether it’s a phone call, a visit, or someone who brings a meal so the caregivers don’t have to cook — these are practical ways to help in the day to day.
No matter how I feel company always lifts my spirits as well as my parents who are my care givers. As my mom tells people you don’t have to call or plan ahead, just come by when you have a free moment. My parents are suffering as much as me and need just as much encouragement and prayers as I do. Outside of work they spend most of their time with me which proves the point that no man is an island.
Our trials have a tremendous effect on those around us whether we like it or not. So many times we let pride take root and think that we don’t need other people, and that is not true. There are some weeks I don’t see outside of my bedroom so conversations and any connection to the outside world is needed. I treasure my phone calls, FaceTime chats, and visits from my friends. They keep me sane. Even though most of my close friends don’t live nearby I’m thankful to talk with them daily which provides me with my own sense of community. It may not be how others experience community but this works the best during this season. I’m continually grateful to have friends who encourage and constantly pray for me. I have a small group of friends that have been with me through thick and thin and no matter the circumstances they are always there for me. We have prayed together, cried together, and laughed together. The last few weeks I have been too sick to talk on the phone most days and some days texts and audio messages are all I’m able to do but my friends are always gracious and understanding. Friendship is a gift from God and I’m grateful for the friends He has surrounded me with.
Also, just because someone is suffering doesn’t mean their friendship with others should be halted, or only focused on the one experiencing the trial. Often times friends think they can’t share what is going on in their life because they think what they are going through is not as crucial and they do not want to be a bother. I’ve seen this played out so many times. I can understand why they might feel that way, but for me personally that is not true. Yes, I am sick right now and yes I need my friends. However, life goes on and I’m not the only one who is struggling. It is not all about me, and friendship goes both ways. I want my friends to share their life with me as they always have and want that aspect of our friendship to stay the same. Instead of growing friends apart, if handled correctly, trials can grow friends even closer. Some of the sweetest times of my week are hearing what is going on in my friends lives –hearing funny stories/seeing pictures about their kids, or about the vacation they took, or the new job they just started, and how I can pray for them, just to name a few. I’m not able to go out and experience life with my friends but I love it when they send pictures or videos from the day to day in their life because in a small way it makes me feel like I’m there. Last October when my best friend Sara got married I was too sick to come to the wedding so they FaceTimed me in. Of course I would have rather been there in person but that was the next best thing, and I’m so thankful to Sara and George for being intentional to make that happen.
For all who are reading this I don’t know what you are experiencing or what your loved ones may be going through but you are not alone. If you are going through a trial do not be afraid to share. By sharing you open up the door to not only be encouraged but also an encourager to someone going through the same thing. If you know someone who is experiencing suffering right now ask God how you might can encourage them. Whether it’s a person struggling with a disability/chronic illness, an elderly neighbor, a young mom, or care givers of the sick, ask the Lord how you can practically encourage them in their time of need. One of the best ways to get through a hard week is to spend time praying for and encouraging others because it takes your mind off of yourself. I have found that serving others for Jesus is the best balm for a weary soul and a broken heart. I pray that whatever season God has you in that you are able to not only find comfort in His love but that you comfort others.