Friendships

(Excerpt taken from The Friendships of Women by widow Dee Brestin)

Ruth used her feminine gift for intimacy amazingly to comfort Naomi.  She doesn’t try to fix the problem.  She doesn’t quote Romans 8:28, but simply comes alongside and hurts with Naomi, and, in so doing, helps carry some of Naomi’s pain.

Job’s friends were fixers, like many males are.  But they misapplied God’s truths, assuming that the misfortune in Job’s life was due to his sin.  So, instead of comforting him, they drove the knife in Job’s heart to excruciating depths.

Ruth was equipped to be a better friend, in part, because she was a woman.  But she was also equipped because she, too, had suffered.  She, too, had lost a husband and knew something of Naomi’s anguish.

Luci Shaw, my friend and favorite poet was widowed in midlife.  I remember sitting with Luci at her dining room table after Harold’s death.  I could see the pain in her eyes.  She described being widowed as “radical surgery–like being cut in half.”  When Luci shared this with me over twenty years ago, I had no idea that she was mentoring me to walk the same road one day.  I recorded her words:

“I’m learning to welcome pain, and not to dodge it.  It’s one of the most valuable of lessons.  Pain has a refining work to do in us, if we welcome it.  It teaches us what is temporal, what is superficial, and what is abiding and deep.  I’m trying to let pain do its work in me.”

Paul exhorts us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).  The word he uses for burdens refers to the temporary overburden that a sister may be carrying, as distinct from the everyday load he refers to in Galatians 6:5.  When we are temporarily overburdened due to the stress of death, divorce, illness, and so on, we definitely need the supportive help of our sisters.  We need someone to come alongside and help shoulder the overburden.

The best way to do that is by empathizing, weeping with those who weep.  Your quiet and listening presence will help absorb some of the pain and relieve some of the burden.  If we attempt to deny the burden by pointing out the blessings, we add to the pain.  Solomon clarifies this with similes: “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart” (Proverbs 25:20).  Too much cheerfulness or the offering of solutions intensifies grief.

I understood this in part before my husband’s illness, but oh, do I understand it now!  Even condolence cards can twist the knife by giving you a little sermonette.  When my husband was dying and suffering incredibly, I’d open up a card that said,

All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

And I’d want to scream “How insensitive!!”  I know the above verse is true, but there is a time to speak it, and a time to be silent.  High-tide grief calls for empathy, not solutions.

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8 responses

    • Yes, Apryl. True words from someone who “get it”. I wouldn’t want another woman to go through the death of her husband to “get it”, but wish that someone God would reveal to them the way to comfort others who have suffered that loss.

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  1. So, so true,Candy. I was overwhelmed at how insensitive many people were when Michael died. I was able to forgive most of them pretty quickly by realizing that I had probably said some of those things to others when I didn’t know better. However, the pain of being ignored by some close friends, of being dropped by some of our “couple” friends took much more time and I’ve still not fully forgiven. Can you post on that subject? That is, no longer having the same relationships not due to what I wanted but how they dropped out of my life so abruptly or how our relationship changed to a very superficial one?

    Carol

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  2. Candy, what you have shared is true, true and the only truth. I am hoping one day I will become a better helper. To see the pain in other peoples life and be there to share their pain. And also provide my shoulders so that they can lean on them unconditionally and timelessly. Otherwise this journey of widowhood has proved to be another furnace of fire in terms of friendship. From the day my husband learnt of his diagnosis and the day of his departure, friends have walked away from me intentionally or unintentionally. This rapid loss of friends have made most of the times to thank God for the friends that have disappeared but also I have tended to believe that during every season of our lives be it in sorrow or happiness God, raises up the best team of people including friends. Sadly sometimes , one person is raised to face the Goliath. I am painfully convinced God works in the ways we cannot see. Painfully, I am believing that this water will one day turn into wine. Don,t get me wrong I know what I am saying I have experienced it, To show you how needy and hurt I was , there was a day my husband went for chemotherapy. Both my husband’s parents, and relations and mine are in Africa. I remember going to one of the toilet in the hospital, crying out to God asking him to remind both friends and enemies to prepare our family food for that day .By this time I was emotionally, physically socially and spiritually exhausted. Believe you me this turned out to be an answered prayer. Why should I need divine intervention for a cup of soup; when it was just a matter of texting or calling a friend. I want to believe that the hurdles that I have faced and I still face today will one day earn me a gold. Otherwise I lack right words to explain these friendship experiences.

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    • Gertrude, I sense the pain in your words. This subject is invokes more grief for us. I, too, want to be someone who is not only able to see the pain that other’s are going through, but to come alongside them and help them bear that “overburden”. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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