Sorrow with a healthy dose of stress stalked our house this past week. My closest friends made a necessary, but agonizing decision involving their 12 year-old daughter who suffers from a serious illness. It’s a move that impacts the entire family, but especially their daughter who is temporarily separated from all she’s known in her lifetime.
I’d describe the year-plus I’ve lived with them as a chronic, low-level crisis with acute flare-ups. They’re part of the millions of other families with children broken in a myriad of ways. Yet unlike many they are fortunate enough to have a community of people behind them. And this was more evident than ever this past weekend.
What I noticed:
1. Friends provided a physical, sustained presence. They came over and milled about at just the right times. I advocated God ordained stretches of watching Hawaii Five-O and the Mentalist. There were many moments of random conversation and laughter.
In hospice ministry some people have a network of support, others have no one to be by their side as they transition from this life to the next. The greatest gift you can give another person in crisis is time—plenty of time—all of the time they need and you can spare.
2. Food. Carbs (the bad kind). There were healthy snacks, too, but seriously, who wants broccoli florets or gluten-free bread in a time of need. Homemade brownies and mounds of Mac and Cheese hit the spot. And our houseguest introduced us to Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun ice cream, which has no match in the frozen dairy world, IMO.
3. A judgment free zone. We listened. Sometimes we encouraged. Crisis has a way of bringing out dark, vulnerable thoughts. My friends had the freedom to express anything on their minds without fear of a preaching moment lurking around the corner.
4. Spiritual support. A core group responded to multiple prayer requests with scripture, encouragement, and beautiful prayers. We witnessed miracles. My Colorado family felt supported in the spirit.
5. Grieving with the grief stricken. They knew they weren’t alone in their heartbreak. Some of us grieved because of the situation. Some of us grieved out of our love for them. We are invested enough in their lives to be emotionally present. They weren’t alone in their sorrow.
Raising a special needs child is a lonely journey. My friends often feel alone in the day-to-day. Sadly, it’s the nature of the beast. This weekend, however, a cobbled together community gathered around and carried them through to the other side.
I’m reminded of a passage from the book of Mark where a paralyzed man’s friends lowered him through the roof of a home and into the presence of Jesus. I can’t imagine the chaos at the scene, and the determination it took for his friends to press through throngs of people and climb atop a house with a heavy mat. But that’s what you do, and the faith you exercise, to bring about healing in someone you love.
And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’… So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ Mark 2:3-5, 11,12.
So how can you come alongside friends in crisis? Provide any of the above, and don’t just ask, but do, show up… send a note, drop off food, pray, listen and listen again, and wherever appropriate, spend time with them. And remember, when the crisis passes, and the herd thins, continue to show up because the aftermath is usually grueling.
For my friends, there’s every hope their daughter will be restored to health. Join me in praying for that end.