What am I supposed to do for someone I care about when they’re suffering?
How do I help a friend after a tragedy?
I know they’re hurting but I don’t know what to do for them.
How do I make them better?
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when someone we love reaches out to us in a vulnerable moment. There’s pain or loss in their lives and they need someone to be there for them and you desperately want to fill that role but you have no idea how.
We feel like we need to be the hero. We need to snap them out of it. There’s a perfect piece of advice around here somewhere, and I need to be the one to deliver it before it’s too late.
I just finished Wade Bearden’s new book Failing Faith. It’s incredible and I think it should become essential reading for Christians, especially because of the insight into this very topic.
Throughout the book Wade walks us through what it was like watching his father’s battle with cancer. It’s beautifully written and so incredibly honest about such a heartbreaking time in his life.
There are tears. There’s anger. There’s loss. There’s doubt.
He offers a window into what’s it like in those moments for those of us on the outside who feel at a loss for how to help. In one chapter he describes how his wife, Priscilla, was there to support him.
Once, after I heard some especially bad news about my father, Priscilla leaned her head against my shoulder and quietly whispered that she loved me. Her statement felt like warm honey to my soul. This wasn’t the first or last time she did it either. Sure, sometimes she’d offer advice, but most of the time she just walked alongside me. She became a symbol to the new life that I longed for. The fresh experience of all-surrounding joy.
This is a pattern you start to notice throughout the book. There were moments that were the most meaningful during this time, and very few of them revolved around advic. There’s nothing in here about a friend or family member saying just the right thing at the right time and changing everything.
Wade states the lesson plainly at one point:
When someone is in pain—when they’ve experienced a miscarriage, lost a loved one, or saw their future fall apart— presence is always better than philosophy. Write that down and make sure to look at it often. When someone is in pain, don’t explain to them how God is in control. Just be the anchor they need to make it through the hurricane.
This should be a relief to us, the friends and family. We don't have to shy away from hospital visits. We don't have to fear what might happen if we ask how things are going. Our list of responsibilities is a lot more manageable. We don’t have to find the perfect words. They probably don’t exist. We’re not there to fix anyone. We just have to be there. They might go through some dark and devastating times, and our job is the anchor.
I’m right here.
I’m still here.
We can do that. We can handle that.
Read Failing Faith for yourself. I'm telling you, it's an amazing book. I’m not just saying that because Wade is a close personal friend and I’m even thanked in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. It’s no big deal. Why even bring it up?