Walking Through Hard Together

Real quick. I’m giving away one copy of the book I talk about in the podcast Sunday at 8 pm (CST). If you’re on the email list, you’re already entered. If you’re not, sign up below. I only send one really brief email every Wednesday morning. No spam.

I recently finished listening to Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together. Wow, it was such an encouraging and challenging book to listen through!

It follows the path of two friends, Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn, as Kara battled terminal cancer. The women provide such a rich perspective on what it means to be there for others who are enduring ‘hard’—whatever it may look like.

When I know someone is going through difficulty, it’s simple for me to say something like, “Let me know if you need anything.” I mean well and wouldn’t hesitate to help if asked, but the statement often does little to improve the situation.

Help within our gifting

Instead, the authors share how being direct with your offer to help can make a difference.

“Specific help allows us to help within our gifting.”

If you’ve been here for any time at all, you know that I love baking and cooking. So ‘helping with my gifting’ often involves providing meals for others. That’s what I’ve been gifted with and I can use that to be a blessing to others.

Beyond being willing to serve others, the book also discusses how we must sometimes eliminate the need to make decisions. Be specific about your abilities and find realistic ways to help.

For example, if I ask someone if I could provide a meal for someone, I’m giving them a very easy option to decline. However, if I ask, “What night this week works best to deliver a meal?” I remove the easy choice to decline help. I show them that I am sincere in my care for them.

Food isn’t your thing? It can be as simple as folding laundry, taking their kids to the park, dropping off their favorite ice cream, or running to the store. Be specific to eliminate the need to make more decisions. If you tell them ‘let me know if you can do anything’, they may not even think that you’d pick up milk at the grocery store for them.

The right words

Sometimes when our friends are hurting we want so badly to have the right words to say, the perfect Bible verse to quote, or the insightful social media post that will get a lot of likes. But they don’t want the answers from us.

“Our people aren’t expecting us to solve anything or have perfect words. That’s pressure we are putting on ourselves.”

You can ask if someone wants to talk about it. Communication can be an excellent tool in comforting one another. Just express that you care. “Ignoring someone’s suffering is hurtful.” Be willing to listen.

It’s not about us

It’s also important that we don’t pull the focus onto ourselves. Things like, ‘I’ve been there before,’ or ‘I know how you feel,’ can seem callused during their hard time. They don’t need or want to know that you’ve been through a difficult time before. They want to know that you are there for them and you sincerely desire to encourage them.

“Curiosity is different from caring… Curiosity wants to know what is going on; caring wants the person to know they’re not forgotten.”

Don’t share a verse or biblical insight in an attempt to fix suffering but to encourage. Send a note, card, email, or text. Don’t assume you have the miracle cure. “Our desire to fix things can often get in the way of the silent support we can give by listening.”

Don’t wait to nurture friendships

When we don’t know what to say, it can be easier to keep our distance. We’re afraid that if we start a conversation or make that phone call, we’ll be stuck without the words to help the situation. So we ignore the pain and the hardship.

If we truly want to help others get through the hard, we need to be willing to nurture friendships before things get better. We can’t wait for everything to get better before we show up to encourage. Realistically, things may not get better. What is important is that they know that we are there when things aren’t ‘better’. We’re willing to walk through the hard with them.

You might think that someone has all the friends that they need while walking through hard, but that might not be true. Your relationship might grow through suffering.

Understand your sacrifice

Showing up for someone who is suffering will cost you something. And that’s not a bad thing. Providing a meal for a family with a sick loved one may interrupt your weekly schedule. Calling a new mom you don’t know really well will stretch you outside your social comfort zone.

That’s all ok. In fact, that’s all good. So good! When we can see God use us when we’re outside our ideal, we can understand more fully how He works. By setting ourselves aside, we are often blessed and encouraged in return.

Practical Examples

  1. When you’re at the grocery store, text that new mom to see if she needs a gallon of milk. She may not take you up on your offer, but she knows you’re there and will more easily reach out at a later time.
  2. Establish some go-to recipes. I find myself falling back on creamy pasta with ham, grapes, french bread, cookies, and muffins. It’s easy, it’s quick for me to put together and most people love everything on that menu. I throw a simple breakfast in with all of my go-to meals because who wants to wake up and make breakfast? Also, don’t limit yourself to homemade meals! Picking up a rotisserie chicken, bagged salad, apples, cookies, and muffins from the store are just as good! (Well, you know what I mean?) Either way, they don’t need to make dinner or breakfast.
  3. Send a card to someone you know is struggling—a real card. Sometimes getting real mail with real handwriting can improve your whole day. It shows that you care enough to sit down and take several minutes to share your thoughts in a very personal way.
  4. Offer to have their kids over for a playdate. We all know how a few minutes of quiet can change our entire day. If you can, provide those few moments of peace.
  5. I specifically remember one time when Josh was on a business trip, and I was really struggling with the boys. Seemingly out of nowhere, the doorbell rang to deliver flowers from out-of-state friends. That wasn’t a big deal for those ladies, but it helped me through that difficult time knowing that they were there and they cared.

How will you show up?

You may not be able to show up in person right now. Can you send a text? A card? Just letting someone know that you are thinking about them and praying for them can lift up the one in a difficult situation. But it is also uplifting to the one doing the ministering.

If you wouldn’t mind, share your thoughts and examples in the comments below. How can we make a difference in someone else’s life today?

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