Ahhhh the dreaded question, “What can I do to help?" I have recently sat with a friend who said, "if I knew what I needed I wouldn't be in this funk!" She was able to express what she did need, and that was for someone to listen. She did not need someone to try to fix it or make it better. When it comes to depression, I have been guilty of being over saved. I had no idea what empathy looked like. Thus, my story begins of a journey to learn empathy, and what real support looks like.
My best friend went through a battle with depression and the darkest times spanned 3 years of her life. The first year I have to admit, she wandered in it alone as far as having understanding humans around. I very quickly learned my idea of support was very harmful. Does this sound familiar?
There was a moment when I walked into the dark room, where my best friend sat in bed, armed with my bible and prayer language, ready to wage war on her behalf. With what little energy she had at that moment she said, “Do not talk to me about God. I have tried that and I am tired of fighting... do not come in here praying and quoting scripture..."
Okay, so I know some of you may have just read that and sucked all the air out of room in disbelief. Stay with me because there is a connection that happens there in that moment that I think often we can tend to miss or simply overlook.
First, we have to learn it is not about us. Second, do not make it about you, by taking up an offense when someone lets his or her real hang out for the world to see. You may be the only person in their world that will truly take the time to see it from their perspective or at least try too. Third, get very good at being ok with the mess. Life is messy.
God understood and He was about to show me and teach me how to understand too. I left my bible outside the door, sat down beside her, and quietly prayed for understanding. By this point I missed my best friend, I so desperately wanted her back, and I was willing to do whatever it took. I was not praying for her to snap out of it. I started praying for me to get a clue.
I learned how to sit in the dark with her. Oh, I still prayed, I just did it so she could not hear me. I learned how to be a listener and not a fixer. I learned how to speak with empathy and gently stare pain in the eyes. I went to her counseling sessions with her so I could understand.
I got into the mud with her. Guess whom else I found there, Jesus, He had been there all along. When a friend, loved one, or perfect stranger is suffering the last thing they need is to be beat over the head with a bible. They do not need to hear how frustrated you are with their behavior.
When you do not know what to say, that is ok. When you do not know how to help, that is ok. Sometimes a quiet friend brings more healing than you know. I do not remember how long it took before my best started going to God again, but she did. We have been on that journey ever since. I have seen God heal her and restore her. I have my best friend back and you know something? She is more of her true self than she has ever known.
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Here are a few points I want to share with you:
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
John 15:13 (NIV)