How to Help a Friend Who's Hurting

We are human. We hurt. For goodness sake, I hurt. I've been thinking a lot lately about what it looks like to be a good friend especially in seasons of hurting. 

Everybody knows someone who is hurting. & for that matter, I think I can venture out to say that we have all gone through seasons of hurting.

Some "hurts" definitely hurt more than others, but hurting is hurting in my book. Hurting from losing a loved one, from getting bad news, health issues, bad grades, a busy schedule, lack of community, loss of a friendship, a break-up, family problems, the state of the world we live in. All of these things plus more can leave us hurting.

I've been hurting lately. For about a year to be completely honest here. A hurt that comes in ebbs and flows. A hurt that I'm embarrassed of and don't really want people to know about. Hurt over the confusion, chaos, drama, and ultimate loss of the prospect of the one thing I've been longing for as long as I can remember.

I feel like we are all pretty hesitant to admit when we are hurting. Maybe we will seem weak. Maybe we will be found wanting. And maybe we're right. But I think deep down we all just want to be understood and comforted when we are hurting, don't we?

Through my season of hurting, I have reached out. I have shared my hurt. I have tried to release it, spiritualize it, suppress it, rebuke it, deny it, embrace it. You name it. I've tried it. But I'm still hurting.

I have tried to talk about my hurt, and I've been met with a wide variety of responses. And not all of which have been beneficial or helpful. I think there are good and not so good ways to respond to a friend who is hurting. I don't intend to guilt anyone or pretend I've got this all figured out, because that is not my intention at all. My intention is to make you think like I've been thinking about how we can respond to those hurting in our lives. This has really come about more from having people close to me who are hurting and wanting to really be a good friend to them during this time.

These are in no particular order and are likely to jump around. Stay with me.

Let's not give spiritual band-aids. When I tell you that I'm hurting. When I tell you that my heart is broken. When I tell you I'm confused. When I tell you that I don't understand what God is doing. Giving me a church answer of // trust God // {no matter how true and right it is} does not cut it. Like what? Really? I hadn't thought of that yet. {strong sarcasm} If we're dealing with a friend who is hurting, telling them things they already know but are struggling through is likely going to just make them feel guilty for how they are feeling and add to the hurt.

Instead of giving that spiritual band-aid, why not just ask how you can pray for them? why not just listen? why not just ask them how you can be there for them during this time? why not just ask genuine questions to get to the root of the issue instead of trying to brush past it with that spiritual band-aid?

Let's not preach/lecture or really express any strong feelings of disapproval. As a friend, it is possible and likely that out of concern and love and desire to protect that we will take a strong stance of disapproval about said area of hurting. We can take that stance all we want on the inside and have every right to that stance, but I think consulting God through prayer for discernment on how to express our concern appropriately is a better option than alienating our friend from ever wanting to share their hurt with us again. The reality is we don't really know our friend's personal relationship/conversation with God or what exactly they are going through/feeling. We are all unique in how we deal with and process hurt.

Instead of coming at them with your guns blazing, you-know-what's-best attitude, think about a time that you have been hurting and just wanted someone to understand and support. Think about how you can phrase your concern in a way that makes them feel like they aren't crazy or stupid for hurting. Think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes.

This isn't rocket science. And when I started writing this, I really thought I had more points than the two main ones I ended up with. It doesn't matter how many points I make though, I just think we {myself included} could all use a refresher on how to be a good friend when a friend is hurting. I know I need this. I hope that I am a friend who people know they can be honest and open with. Goodness knows my personal area of weakness is that  I am so guilty of trying to fix things when I have a friend who is hurting. And nobody is asking me to fix their hurt. I need pretty consistent reminders to stop trying to fix it. Instead of thinking I know how to help, I think the best route is to let God first and foremost lead me on how to help them but also the hurting friend who personally knows what will help and what won't.

Just the other night, I called my mom just to basically tell her I was hurting. I prefaced the whole conversation with // hey, I don't need a lecture // and for your inner circle people, that may be all you need to say. I just wanted to be able to say I'm hurting and here's why without getting the top 10 reasons I shouldn't feel the way that I do. I'm thankful to have so many people in my life already who do support/have supported me through this season of hurting.

In all honesty, I don't know what I need to do to move past my broken heart. If I did, I would've done it already. You're not gonna find any spiritual band-aids here. But I just continue to take one step after the other, stay grounded in God's Word, and be open to sharing my hurt.

I challenge you that if you are hurting, reach out. Find somebody you can trust, tell them what they can do to help. Whether that's a hug, a daily check-in, silence, prayer, etc. Whatever it is. If you don't know what will help your hurting, talk to God. Ask him. He will show you.

Because I must say that even though I say to reach out, what I know to be true is that God is the only place we will find true healing for our hurting. Can He use people in our life to help bring healing? Absolutely. But let's not neglect taking our hurt to the Healer. He wants to walk us through this. Let him walk you through your hurting. I just have to stop here and be thankful that He walks me through this.

So ... how can I pray for you?