She was in the middle of a crisis, and suddenly she found herself in the middle of my embrace. Behind the closed door, with no one watching, she finally let herself fall apart.
I can’t share the details of her crisis, because it’s her story to tell, not mine. Trust me when I tell you that she got whacked pretty hard by life. She’s a fighter, strong to the core, so she can put up a good front, mustering the daily strength to set one foot in front of the other.
But suppressed pain can’t stay suppressed forever, and that day, it came spilling out.
I am certain that as you read those words, you can identify with one of the two women in those short paragraphs above — the woman who feels like she has to be strong in crisis or the woman who opens her arms up wide enough to let a friend crumble. In the span of a life, we’ve probably all been in both of those places from time to time.
As my friend and I stood there together, behind that closed door, we talked about how a crisis shakes everything that once felt unshakeable. Even our ride-or-die relationships change. Well-meaning gestures suddenly irritate. Actions meant to soothe make things worse. And we don’t really know if people can handle the depth of our anguish, our lashing anger at God, our expressed feelings of unfairness, and this gnawing grief for what we might never regain.
If you are in that place today, friend, I want to wrap my arms around you today. But instead of arms, I’ll use words. Know that you weren’t made to carry this alone.
Scripture clearly states that we are to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV). Sometimes you will need to fall apart, dissolving into a puddle of tears. Sometimes, you will need to ask someone to carry the load with you. And other times, you will simply need someone to make you smile, laugh, and believe that better days are ahead.
But you must ask for help. You must take charge and tell people what you need them to be for you.
In crisis, there are four categories of friends we all need. Let’s find (and be!) these kinds of people. It may require us to specifically ask certain friends to serve in these categories, so that we can stand up under the crippling weight of crisis.
Category Real: This is the person you can be completely honest with, who will listen and rarely offer advice, unless you’ve asked for it. Category Real Friends can handle your unfiltered pain, your raw emotion, your anger at God, and your irritation with people who say stupid stuff or try to sell you cures through Facebook Messenger. These friends are strong enough spiritually and emotionally to handle everything you have to say. They won’t be tempted to try to fix things for you. They don’t try to erase your pain with potentially unhelpful phrases like, “Everything happens for a reason.” Category Real Friends will simply hold you when you need to have a good cry.
Category “Help Me Find My Smile”: These friends are the ones to whom you say, “Look, I need you to just be my regular, ridiculous friend who lets me be the person I was before all of this happened. I need you not to look at me with pity or sadness. I need you to help me find my smile from time to time. I need you to be the friend who will text me GIFs and emojis, and who will remind me that my life is not defined solely by my crisis.”
Category “Been There”: A crisis hits. You have become a member of a club that you never wanted to be a part of. Perhaps very few people in your life will truly understand what you are facing, so you may need to search outside of your inner circle to find a friend in Category Been There. These are people who actually walked through your kind of trial and came out on the other side with their faith and sanity intact. Find those people – the ones who got the same diagnosis as you, the ones who recovered from your same addiction, the ones who were suddenly widowed. Not everyone gets what you are going through but some do. Make it a priority to seek them out.
Category Mentor: While you will need people who will simply listen, you will also need someone wise and spiritually mature who will speak to you frankly. This might be a spiritual director, a pastor, a counselor, or an older friend who can advise you when you need rational, thoughtful direction.
Friend, you weren’t meant to walk alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need when you need it from people whom God has placed in your life to help you bear your burden.
What category of friend would you add to the list?
In crisis, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need when you need it. -@dukeslee: Click To Tweet