How to respond when your friend is hurting

For from him and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36, ESV).

Quite possibly, you’ve been in a conversation with someone in the last week or two in which they were sharing some things that are of grave concern to them—something health-related perhaps, or about one of their kids, or something rather devastating and challenging in their financial situation . . .

Or maybe in the midst of ordinary lunch chatter with friends, the conversation drifted toward a headline-news story—something laden with strife and violence, or tragic in terms of natural disaster, or alarming about the rogue misuse of modern technology . . .

And maybe what you said in response, when it came up, wasn’t the response you wish you’d given. Maybe without really meaning to do so, the things you said to that group or to that person had the effect of shrinking God in their eyes. Maybe it didn’t convey well His ability to meet their needs completely through His power at work in our faith and trust. Maybe it didn’t communicate the reality that God is in control, that God has a purpose, and that God is faithful and good even when events seem to testify otherwise. Maybe it didn’t speak to the fact that all things are “from him”—the source of our lives—“and through him”—the agency of how our lives are sustained—“and to him”—the goal of where our lives are going (Romans 11:36)—that “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17)—that He brought us here, keeps us here, and is taking us toward a good and purposeful result.

I challenge you, next time you have opportunity, be careful not to shrink God through the things you say or don’t say. I realize people may shrug off your confidence in Him as being naïve or even uncaring. They may politely (or impolitely) decline to agree with you. “I understand that,” you can say, “I hear you. I know what you mean. But it doesn’t change the fact that God is able.”

They may not be at a place where they can see any hope for themselves, or any light at all at the end of their dark tunnel. “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through,” you can say, “I don’t understand it. But God has a purpose. Believe it. Believe it and wait for it, and you’ll see it.”

I’ve faced things myself that were utterly overwhelming. I’ve gone through trials that I thought would never end. I’ve been in valleys so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. And I’ll admit, it hurt sometimes when people would say to me, “You just have to trust God in this.” But it was true nevertheless—it is true nevertheless. He is not disconnected from what troubles our world and what troubles our lives.

Never back down or be ashamed of what God’s Word declares. It is true for you. It is true for them. What God has said is what you should always be saying.

This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission. 

Now read this: You were made for this darkness

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