What do you do when a friend shares their heartache?
Have you ever had a friend share their life with you? Particularly the hard, messy, hurting bits? It is so painful to watch someone you love walk through hardship. Sometimes the pain is so deep or the subject matter is so far removed from your personal experiences that words seem scarce. To be honest, I get lost a lot. I don’t know what to say and I’m so afraid of saying something hurtful.
Navigating hard conversations takes practice. And grace. And lots of Jesus. (I mean what doesn’t take lots of Jesus?) Sometimes we mess them up and end up hurting those we love. While every conversation is different, there are a few main truths I think we all can be reminded of.
First we need to listen. Above all else, don’t we all just really want for someone to listen? When our hearts hurt, more often than not, we just need to express it. So before a friend needs advice or our opinions, they need our ears. They first need our time and patience to sit and let them speak.
It’s so easy to start with, “I think…” or, “you should…” Our opinions come out so readily (or at least mine do!) but in those moments it’s not about us. When a friend is hurting, they don’t need to hear our voices first.
I’ve seen this in action both ways. I’ve watched conversations that were healthy and productive because a hurting friend was heard. But I’ve also seen the opposite. When the conversation is taken over and someone stands on his or her soapbox. We all love to give our opinion and “help” our loved ones. But really, making it about us is wrong. It’s selfish. It’s not love and in the most painful moments love is really what they need.
Secondly, when the time comes to speak, encourage first. Remind them of the immense value Christ puts on their life. Remind them that they are loved and cherished. Remind them that God’s plans work out for His glory and their good. Remind them of who God says they are.
God’s truths are always better than whatever words we put together. Let scripture and the Holy Sprit guide your conversation. I promise you, there will be more wisdom and comfort for your friend using the Lord’s words instead of your own.
Thirdly, one piece of advice is better than five. This is actually my sweet momma’s approach to counseling my brothers and me. She always says that it’s more important to say one really important thing over a billion little things.
As I thought back over conversations we’ve had I realized this is incredibly wise. One piece of advice has allowed me to focus on that and absorb that information. At the end of our conversations, my mind has never been clouded with, “what did she say again?” Instead, I’m clear on what she advised me. It also is a great strategy to remind yourself to listen more than speaking.
Lastly, it’s ok to not have the answers. I remember one friend specifically. She came to me crying about a horrible situation. Some just awful things had happened and she asked me why that person was so cruel. Why did this happen? What was the point? I didn’t have those answers. And making something up is not an option.
Her heart was a little broken and what she needed more than anything was a hug and a hand to hold. She needed scripture. To know that God loves her and values her. She needed Him not me.
We can’t answer why there is pain in someone’s life. We aren’t God and can’t see the big picture. And those little quips like, “God’s got a plan,” rarely help in the moment.
So I’d encourage you, let your friend express their heartache. Hug them through the pain and let them feel it. They aren’t going to feel better in that very moment most likely. But knowing that you love them? That you’ll be there for them? That’s important. That’s all they really need.
Y’all, please recognize these are my words. I give advice that has worked in my life and with my friends. The Bible has the ultimate words and examples. Jesus loved with compassion and grace. His words are much better than our own.
If you’re struggling with this, or had a hard time in the past, I really encourage you to dig into the word. Speaking scripture over someone is always more powerful than our own words. I would encourage you to specifically study the promises of God. He promises to love us, to never leave us, and so many more beautiful things. Knowing those promises and how to explain them often helps more than we ever could.
I hope this helps you in some way! If you have any other pieces of advice or something that has worked for you, please comment down below. I’d love to discuss this with y’all!