Most of us tend to withdraw in the midst of suffering. We pull back to only the most trusted of friends and family—and sometimes we even pull away from them. We do not want to go out to places that once brought us joy. We only do what is absolutely required, if that. Suffering is hard wearisome work.
The Danger of Suffering Alone
Some of this is healthy. In the process of Christian suffering, you only have so much energy to expend. If you are in a battle, you must be strategic in how you use your resources, namely: energy and time. But some of this is dangerous for our souls and wellbeing. Why? Because, if we are honest, we sometimes leave God out of our suffering as well.
Can I be real with you for a moment? One of my biggest fears is losing my husband. Having to live in this sin-cursed world without him by my side holds little appeal. I ask myself, “would I ever come out of my bedroom again?” I am not sure. I pray that the Lord would take us both at the same time (me first, of course!).
Knowing this about myself—and seeing how dangerous this would be—has led me to reach out to trusted friends about this very fear. I have given these friends permission to come after me. In other words, I told them: “Give me a week or two, and if I am still locked in my room, break the door down if you have to.”
The Value of a Friend During Times of Suffering
We are not meant to suffer alone. During the moments when we want to, we must fight to reach out to those we can trust. We must let them into our pain because Christian suffering—the suffering of anyone, for that matter—is too much to bear alone. It is in those times that we desperately need to: (1) draw near to the Word of God, and (2) draw near to friends who can help bring it to us in loving, gentle, and lifegiving way. We need friends who will lament with us in our suffering. As Romans 12:15 says, we need friends who commit to “weeping with those who weep.” And yes, if necessary (and gently), giving us bits of truth in love.
God’s Word is how he speaks to us, loves us, and restores us. It is without error, and he uses it to bring us closer to him. But God also uses broken people. And while friends can indeed say the wrong things or cause further hurt, they can also help bear our burdens when they walk out biblical friendship.
Because God calls us into community, he can teach those around you how to love well when you are in times of suffering. And in those moments of them helping you, you will be helping them as well. You will be helping them live out what God has called us to as Christians. Remember: God is doing a work in all of us at the same time.
In the midst of his greatest suffering, Jesus asked his friends to be there. He knew that they were going to do a terrible job. Yet, he kept drawing them back, letting them in, teaching them how to love, and forgiving their failures.
Let us love the same way. As I write this, my prayer is: “In my suffering, God help me to trust you and draw near to you through your Word and allow your people to minister to me.”