My friend Cheri Keaggy released a powerful album three years ago. “So I Can Tell” is the light that has come out of a dark season of Cheri’s life. The songs are heartfelt expressions of a woman who has come to know God deeply.
She sent one my way three years ago when my marriage when through it’s darkest season of Mark’s infidelity and decision to leave for three months.
When I got to the 3rd song on the album, the tears started flowing. The song was titled, “When You Were Jesus To Me.” Until the night that Mark left, I had never experienced anything close to an emotional crisis. I was so crushed by grief that it was squeezing the life out of me. Even cancer wasn’t as hard as the emotional pain I experienced in that season of my marriage.
As I walked through that dark season, God greatly increased my empathy, compassion, and mercy. More than that, through the loving actions of my dearest friends, He also showed me how to respond in a crisis. My friends were truly Jesus to me.
You may not need this now…but at some point, it’s likely you’ll have the opportunity to “be Jesus with skin on” to someone else. Here are some tangible ways to make a difference when a friend faces a crisis:
1) Be there. Stay with her. Don’t feel like you need to say any words, just hold her and let her weep. My friend Becky did this for me. She was at my house within the hour and she didn’t leave until two days later. I’m grateful even three years later to Becky’s husband, Dave, who supported her staying with me for that long. Eventually my sister came for a couple of days and then my dad came and stayed for 4 more days. This support was so important for me and for my boys who were still at home.
2) Think for the person. When crisis hits, the last thing that person can do is think about taking care of themselves. In those first few days, I honestly don’t think I would have had anything to eat or drink if Becky or my sister Juli had not actually put the plate of food or the glass of water in front of me and said, “Eat” or “Drink.”
3) Provide food. My friends Crystal and Lisa, who also stayed with me until well after midnight the first night, brought meals throughout that first weekend. Eventually my Hearts at Home family and church family set up a meal plan for several weeks. This was so helpful because I suddenly had so many other things I had to tend to.
4) Help with daily routine stuff. Becky, Crystal, and Juli cleaned, did dishes, made guest beds, ran to the store, picked up prescriptions…you name it…they did it. I was so thankful. For the first month, my friend Crystal called me anytime she was running to the store to see if I needed anything. I was so thankful because this kept me out of public settings where I could lose it emotionally so easily.
5) Do any “unpleasant” tasks. When Mark requested more of his personal belongings, I could not handle packing those things up. Crystal and Becky did that job for me. If the crisis involves a death, this can particularly be helpful when that friend is ready to part with the personal belongings of the person who has died. Even answering phone calls can be an “unpleasant” task…don’t hesitate to do that for the person to protect them from having to share the story one more time.
6) Don’t be afraid to help. If you are a close friend or you seem to be the only person reaching out, you are not infringing on their privacy…you are helping them survive. I always worried about infringing on someone’s privacy in times of crisis until I was on the receiving side of crisis. I had trouble functioning, especially in the early days. I was so thankful for friends and family who didn’t leave my side.
7) Pray with and for the person. When in crisis, there are sometimes no words to utter to God…just tears. Sometimes you can just be there and sometimes you can be the one to utter the words to God on their behalf.
We all need each other. In good times and bad, we’re designed to live in community with other people. That’s why I’m writing the next Hearts at Home book Better Together. That’s why we’re focusing on mom relationships at our 2016 Hearts at Home conferences. And that’s why I wanted to share with you today some practical ways to live that out.
Because your friend will never forget when you were Jesus to her.
What about you? Have you ever been loved well through a crisis? What would you add to this list?