Imagine you are walking down the road one day, and you see a friend at the bottom of a large, dark, unescapable pit. How would you respond? What would you say or do?
You could shout down something encouraging, like “God has a good plan for your life!” and go along your merry way. (And your friend would probably wish they could get out of the pit just so they could punch you in the face.)
You could throw yourself into the pit and curse God for putting both of you there. You could commiserate about how terrible the pit is and wonder what in the world God was thinking when He put this pit in your friend’s way. (Your friend wouldn’t be alone, but she wouldn’t feel encouraged.)
Or you could jump down into the pit with her and hold her hand and pray with her. While acknowledging how difficult and sad and scary the pit is, you could gently remind her that the truth about God is just as true at the bottom of the pit as it is at the top. As you weep with her in the pit, together you could call to mind God’s past faithfulness and promise to redeem your life from the pit and crown you with steadfast love and mercy (Psalm 103:4).
This is how I think about encouraging a friend who is going through cancer or any other crisis. Your friend is in a large, dark, unescapable pit. How can you love your friend when she’s in there?
There is the “God is good” approach. There is the “this sucks” approach. And there is my favorite: the “this sucks – God is good – I love you” approach. This is what I try to communicate to my friends.
1. This sucks.
My parents taught me not to use that word. Sorry, Mom, but “cancer stinks” just doesn’t cut it. Your friend needs you to acknowledge the reality of her situation: her life has just been turned upside-down and forever changed by the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease. If you fail to recognize this reality, you will lose credibility as a safe friend who understands what she is going through.
2. God is good.
After you’ve cried together at the bottom of the pit for awhile, gently remind your friend that God’s promises are still true. God’s Word is the anchor your friend must cling to while the storm rages around her. Speak the truth to her. Pray the truth with her. Write the truth on notecards for her, write it on her bathroom mirror, text her Scriptures – whatever you can do to constantly keep God’s promises in her mind. She is battling cancer, but she is also battling fear and despair. She is walking through a time of grief. Those difficult emotions will be pushing the truth out of her mind, and you can help push it back in. Remind her of God’s goodness, faithfulness, power, love, provision and peace!
Some of my favorite verses to share with friends include: 2 Chronicles 20:12, 15; Psalm 27:1-2; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 42:1-2, 5; Psalm 46:1-2, 10-11; Psalm 56:8-11; Psalm 62:1-2; Psalm 73:25-26, Psalm 103:1-5, Psalm 112:7-8; Psalm 121:1-2; Isaiah 26:3-4; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:1-2; Jeremiah 31:3; Lamentations 3:22-23; Nahum 1:7; Habakkuk 3:17-19; Zephaniah 3:17; Luke 12:7; John 14:27; John 16:33; Romans 8:37-39; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:6-7, 13, 19; I John 4:4; Revelation 21:1-5.
3. I love you.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, one thing I found strange was that everyone started telling me they loved me. Not just family and close friends – people I never would have expected to say those words were suddenly saying “I love you.” At first, it felt a little weird. Was I supposed to say “I love you, too”? Just say thanks? Were they saying it because they thought I was about to die?
But once I got used to it, I found that it was very comforting and encouraging to hear how many people loved me. I felt loved. And when you are facing something difficult, it is great to feel loved!
You may or may not feel comfortable saying the words “I love you” to your friend. But you can communicate your love by letting her know you’re thinking of her often and praying for her. You can tell her you care about her and are in this fight with her. You can show your love by visiting her and serving her. All of these demonstrations of love will communicate to your friend that you care about her and what she’s going through. She will feel loved!
Note: I’d like to credit an episode of The West Wing for inspiring my analogy about a friend in a pit (Season Two, “Noel”). I love that show!Share