5 Ways to Stop Being a “Job Friend”

I’m sorry that I have not been blogging, to those of you who have asked me to keep it up. It has been a hard year to write about, to reflect on, to share. My mind has seemed at most times, a dark place I don’t want to carry people into. The mind and the heart are very vulnerable places I so desperately want to share with people, but more often than not they are my secret places where my musings wander with no productive conclusions. The “pointless destinations” that just leave me disheartened aren’t places I want to walk you to. I’m sure a lot of you (more than I know probably) can relate.

So, here’s a courageous moment I am taking to share a portion of what is on my mind and my heart. I want to talk about pain and suffering. More specifically, I want to talk about how to be a friend to someone who is going through pain and suffering.

A few weeks ago, I started to read through the book of Job again. I have read through the book numerous times. This time when I read it, I really tried to place myself in Job’s shoes. I can’t put into words the feelings that started to overwhelm my conscious. Depressed, lonely, betrayed, confused, hurt, completely hopeless, longing for healing, longing for answers. This is what pain and suffering feels like. I can say so because I have felt each one of those in a deep way multiple times this past year.

As I began to read the responses Job’s friends had for him, I grew angry. “They don’t have any idea why Job is going through this! They don’t understand. They don’t know the dialogue that God and Satan had.” As I read how they accused him for not being in right relationship with God, begging Job to repent, I started saying “Why are you accusing him in his pain and his suffering? You have no idea! You don’t understand! God sees Job completely different than what his friends are crediting him for!” 

Then, I realized…..I have been that friend. I have been the one to share a Bible verse, instead of just listen. I have been the one to need words to speak into a painful situation because silence was too uncomfortable. I was too prideful because in my mind, if someone shared with me in an honest moment that he/she is struggling, then God would give me the exact words to share — profound, wise, godly advice that shows I am holy. I have been the one that has told someone all he/she has to do is pray and things will get better. I have been the one who has judged where someone’s relationship with God is based on how optimistic he/she is in his/her pain.

Have you been a “Job friend” too? 

After the year I have had of transitions — a difficult break up, a graduation from college, being jobless for months and knowing what depression is, a new job to learn, a confusing search process to find the right church community, my friend group dispersing, trying to restore and develop healthy relationships with my family (as we are all under one roof again), and a very aggressive hunger that has developed in me to know what is sound doctrine and theology — I can say that it has been a year where transitions have been painful instead of exciting.

I am in no way comparing my life to others. So many of you have had more difficult experiences this year, with a close family member passing away, not being able to find work, going through a divorce, broken relationships with your family, never having a good doctor’s report, moving and losing your community. The list can go on and on, unfortunately.

What I am saying, is that through experiencing a year that was harder than most for me, I can see how being a “Job friend” is not helpful. 

So, what can we do? Here’s five things we can do to stray away from being a “Job friend.” 

#1 – Listen. If your friend opens up his/her most vulnerable places (the mind and the heart), remember that it took courage to do that. The best thing you can do, is to listen. Be a safe place for them to talk about what is really going on in their head and their heart. By safe, I mean…they are sharing that with YOU, not with you and your three best friends.

#2 – Don’t give advice, unless they ask for it. If your friend is going through a lot of pain (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), don’t think a Bible verse is going to help them. They are most likely very familiar with the verse, and although it is living and active, it is not always the perfect time to shove Scripture down someone’s throat. Be sensitive, and check your motives in why you want to share a verse with them.

#3 – Pray for them. You can pray for your friend, and not tell them. I always used to think I had to tell someone when I was praying for them. Sometimes that is appropriate, but if it is ever a flaunting act, just stop! Stop telling your friend you are praying for them, and just do it. Pray for their mind. Pray for their heart. Pray for their day, that they encounter God in a fresh way somehow. Pray that they are filled with a hope and a peace that will surpass their understanding. And thank God for them. Thank God that they are alive, and that they are loved unconditionally by Him.

#4 – Find out their love language. I love asking people what their love languages are. It tells me so much about who they are as people, and how they feel most loved. Once you ask them, or figure out their love language — love on them! If their love language is words of affirmation, write them a letter sharing all the reasons you appreciate them. If their love language is quality time, set up a fun outing where you get to spend time together. If their love language is gifts, next time you make your trip to Target, walk around the store and look for something small that reminds you of an inside joke you and your friend have together. If their love language is acts of service, offer to help them organize and clean their apartment with them so they don’t have to do it alone. If their love language is physical touch, offer to give them a back rub while they tell you about their day.

#5 – Be their friend, not their savior. Remember your place. You are a friend, not the person who is going to save them from the pain and suffering. The moment you take on the responsibility for how someone else is feeling, or the responsibility of helping them get out of a place of pain, you underestimate Jesus and His power. Only God is the one who fully understands what any of us are really struggling with (in mind, body, soul, and heart). There is only one savior, and it is not me….and it is not you. Just be the friend who can encourage, pour into, love on, and listen.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” {Galatians 6:2}

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