Have you tried to be a friend to someone who refuses to talk about their sin, pain, or the loss that it has caused? Each inquiry about how things are going is met with a simple answer of ‘fine.’ Their countenance doesn’t change; they won’t talk, and will not look at you to gain eye contact. The conversation moves on to another subject.
All of us at some point in life will face having a friend who goes through some disturbing and challenging situations and they will not be at their best to deal with it. We often watch friends walk in failure because we don’t know how to proceed or what is best to do in order to facilitate recovery and moving on.
Friends or perhaps professionals such as clergy or counselors available are a plus to help in restoration, redirection, and refocus to move forward with life. But it is almost impossible at time to seek available help because of shame for the conduct as well as the shame of such failure. Thus, the bond of friendship becomes strained, especially if the failure is commonly known throughout the community!
This kind of reality doesn’t help anyone, especially the one in pain. And because the pain is too deep to deal with, intervention must come from another source that can initiate the process with compassion and love. It isn’t a small matter to overcome either. The Psalmist spoke of unforgiven sin and its affect upon his personal life in Psalm 32:3-5: “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.’”
It also helps to understand that while the sin is against God (and perhaps others at times), moving on isn’t quite as simple as confessing to God. Some things are deep rooted and must be talked through with the help of a forgiving friend or counselor. Denial is often a culprit and depression steps in to make the situation much harder to face and deal with. Finding recovery is often an effort in finding truth about the whole matter, facing and accepting that truth, and finding a place from which to move on.
What does one do when a friend is in trouble with obvious pain but cannot deal with it?
- Just be there! Sometimes the companionship of a nonjudgmental friend is all that is needed for people to deal with their hurt or disappointment. Too often our quality time with friends is spent trying to fill the quiet with conversation that doesn’t facilitate healing. Simple presence in peace and quiet is sometimes all that is needed. Learning to listen is often the first task in steps toward recovery.
- Allow your friend time to bring up the subject. People have to work through their failures to find a time and place to speak of it with others. Respect them when they say that I’m not ready to talk about it yet.
- Pray for your friend! Often prayer is not viewed as an adequately viable and effective tool for helping in what appears to be awkward or unusual situations. Even with little information and knowledge of specific needs within the person’s life, the mention of their name before the Lord is valuable because God hears our cries on their behalf. Remember the song, ‘Somebody prayed for me, had me on their mind, took the time to pray for me . . .’ It is always a good option when concerned about others’ lives.
- Pray about yourself as a friend by asking God to prepare you to be the friend that can patiently and compassionately deal with a friend’s failure. Allow God to prepare you for the time when you may be able to speak to your friend about their failure.
- Once time has passed, a close friend will lovingly and firmly confront a friend to deal with their loss, disappointment or failure. That was Jesus’ mission with Peter during a breakfast meeting when He asked, “Peter, son of Bar-Jonah, do you love Me?” That entire confrontation was about Peter dealing with his utter failure and restoration of trust between himself and Jesus. But remember Galatians 6:1 as a guide in your encounter: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (NKJV)
- Leave judgmental thoughts and attitudes out of your approach. Most people already know how wrong their sin is before you inform them of it. Job’s friends came with self-righteous attitudes that could not aide or assist him with his plight. Non-judgmental attitudes are always in order when approaching someone whose failure is fresh and deep. And really, all that matters is that one cares about you with a real love that covers a multitude of errors!
- No real friend should allow someone they love to live in misery and pain for a lifetime. Honest and earnest caring for others calls one to take the steps to review and release the common missteps of life and especially those which may cause the greatest failures through life. We cannot call ourselves friends if we are afraid to at times be brutally but compassionately honest with the love of God toward friends and others.
- Remember how you felt when you messed up! It helps to remind ourselves of our existence in glass houses. We’re all vulnerable to mistakes, missteps, mishaps, and blatant sin. Don’t forget your own need for someone caring enough about your well-being to come to you with love . . . the unconditional kind!
Temptations are rampant in the land and we’re all faced with them. There are times when we handle them well and other times when we are vulnerable to failure. Condemnation, contempt, or criticism is of little good to those that are walking in pain due to sin.
Let’s do our best to be loving and forgiving friends to all who sin and seek for them restoration, rehabilitation, and redirection. That’s what God does for us! Let us do it for our friends and others!
“But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.” II Corinthians 2:5-8 NKJV