I can still remember a text I got one day while at the pediatric cancer clinic.
I was holding my four-year-old daughter during her weekly chemo treatment when my phone dinged.
I was so exhausted and overwhelmed I didn’t even want to look at the message.
But when I finally pulled out my phone, I saw this:
“You do not need to respond to this message – I just want you to know that I love you and that dinner will be on your porch at 5 pm tonight!”
The woman who sent that text knew how to love her suffering friend well.
Have you ever wondered how to love your suffering friend? What to say? What to do? What NOT to say or do?
Job 2:11-13 gives an excellent example of how to navigate these situations.
Job’s friends go to him, they pray for him, and they serve him. If we follow this model, our suffering friends will be well-loved too.
3 Ways to Love Your Suffering Friend Well
#1 – Go to Your Suffering Friend
“Now when Job’s three friends… heard about all this adversity that had happened to him, each of them came from his home. They met together to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” Job 2:11
It says that when Job’s friends heard about his suffering, they talked amongst themselves and made a plan to go to him.
After our daughter finished her cancer treatments, I heard from many people things like “I’m so sorry I never reached out to you – I assumed you were too busy.” Or, “I didn’t want to bother you, so I didn’t reach out!”
If only they knew that a suffering person craves nearness.
A suffering woman, who only has her own swirling thoughts as companions, is destined for dark places.
Drawing near during a crisis doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
But it does require a willingness to initiate the action.
If Job’s friends had called and said, “Let me know how I can help you!” they would have probably never heard back. And they may never have gone to him.
It wasn’t that Job didn’t have needs. It was that Job was overwhelmed.Drawing near during a crisis doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
As well-meaning as that phrase is, saying “let me know if…when…” makes your friend’s suffering about you.
It portrays you as the floundering one who needs help navigating the situation.
But really, your heart is to help your friend! Your intention is to help her navigate her challenging situation.
So instead of asking her to instruct you–simply go to her.
Serve her however you think you’d want to be served if you were in her situation.
I was best-loved when friends took the initiative to meet one of my needs.
One example is when several friends talked together and made a plan (on their own!) to help watch my youngest daughter during church so that 1) she wasn’t going into the nursery and bringing germs home to our immunocompromised daughter, and 2) my husband and I could sit in the service and be refreshed and renewed by our church family without chasing a toddler around.
They didn’t ask how they could help. They simply made a plan and then presented it to me to ensure it met a real need.
#2 – Pray for Your Suffering Friend
“When they looked from a distance, they could barely recognize him. They wept aloud, and each man tore his robe and threw dust into the air and on his head.” Job 2:12
How often have you said to someone, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I’ll be praying for you,” and then never actually prayed?
I know I have!
Those words come out so quickly, especially in Christian circles, and we don’t always stop and think about what we are promising to do.
When we say we will pray for someone, we commit to taking their cause to the Throne Room of Heaven.
We are promising to go before the King of Kings on behalf of our suffering friend.
That is a big deal!
It’s a big deal that God would want us to pray for our friends, and it’s a big deal that He delights in listening to and answering those prayers.
I love that Job’s friends pray for him before they even reach him.
When they saw him from a distance, it says they “wept aloud,” and other translations say they “cried out.”
They were crying out to God on behalf of their friend.
They didn’t tell Job they would pray for him in the future–they showed up having already prayed!When we say we will pray for someone, we commit to taking their cause to the Throne Room of Heaven.
The text messages that most encouraged me during our daughter’s treatments were from friends who said they had already prayed for me that day.
Sometimes they would even include a brief written prayer or a Bible verse in the text itself.
It was comforting to know that my friends took their role as intercessors seriously.
They were supporting and sustaining me by taking my requests to God when I was too overwhelmed to do it myself.
#3 – Serve Your Suffering Friend
“Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense.” Job 2:13
When Job’s friends came, they simply sat down next to him. And no one spoke for seven days!
In our genuine attempt to serve, we can often find ourselves talking at rather than listening to our suffering friend.
Of course, there is a time and a place to speak encouragement to our friends. But more than our words, our friends need our actions.
They need us to sit in the ash heap and cry with them.
In our culture, you probably won’t need to tear your clothes or get doused with ash like Job’s friends, but you may need to serve in other non-glamorous ways.
Here are some ways my friends served me, and that you can serve your suffering friend:
- Invite her to go for a walk.
- Pick up groceries.
- Set up a meal calendar.
- Sit with her at an appointment.
- Drop off a box of tissues and some flowers.
- Put a handwritten note in the mail.
- Watch her kids while she runs an errand.
- Mow her yard.
- Do her family’s laundry.
- Load her up with paper goods, so she doesn’t have to do dishes.
It is a holy calling to love a suffering friend.
But it’s important to remember that our role is not to fix our friend’s problem. We can’t heal their child, save their marriage, or win back their wayward teen.
Your job as a friend is to go to her, pray for her, and serve her.
God will be the One who sustains her and carries her through her suffering.
You simply get the privilege of loving your friend while God does His merciful and good work.
Our suffering friends need us. Let’s love them well!It is a holy calling to love a suffering friend.
Marissa Bondurant lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and their four daughters. Having walked through childhood cancer with her second daughter, her desire is to encourage the hearts of other weary moms with the hope of the gospel. Her writing is full of biblical encouragement as well as practical tips for women walking through seasons of suffering. When she is not writing, she is picking up toys, getting halfway through novels, and failing at gardening. Connect with Marissa on Facebook and Instagram.