In last week’s post gave us 3 ways to how to help your friends through tough times. Let’s walk into our frienships inspired and equipped to help.
Our first 3 responses to our friend’s hurt are:
1. Show up
In the midst of all the texts and calls and emails, close friends show up. Crises often deepen and define relationships.
2. Share their pain
You don’t have to adopt their pain, but you can carry some of the burden and show compassion. You may not understand exactly what they’re feeling and going through, but you can carry some of the weight of the pain and the crisis with them.
3. Support them with prayer
Prayer makes a difference. That’s how you strengthen people spiritually.
These three things plus the four we look at today can be applied to any crisis. The loss of a loved one, a bankruptcy, an illness… but these can be specifically applied to helping someone through a divorce or loss of a relationship. Many of us know or will know someone who goes through that.
As much as the loss of a relationship hurts, God’s healing and grace can reach the darkest places.
God calls us to be agents of His grace.
Here’s the the fourth thing you do as a friend, when you’re helping a friend through a crisis,
4. Start with forgiveness
Forgiveness is the most important issue that your friend is going to have to deal with in a crisis. When we don’t deal with forgiveness, it eats us alive. There are three common emotions that happen in the loss of a relationship: anger, guilt and bitterness.
These emotions are worse than the crisis, because you can carry those the rest of your life and they will make you a different person. The antidote to anger, guilt and bitterness are the same. The antidote is forgiveness.
Ask for forgiveness, accept forgiveness and offer forgiveness.
Maybe you feel like they don’t deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about justice, it’s about getting on with your life. It’s about becoming like Christ. It’s about not being controlled by them anymore.
If you stay angry at them and bitter toward them, you’re going to be controlled by them the rest of your life. You can help a friend learn forgiveness with these three steps.
- Help your friend stop fixing the blame.
Blaming has never solved a problem, made you feel better or lessened anyone’s pain. We’ve got to let it go. We’ve got to stop saying, “It’s all their fault or it’s all my fault.”
“You may tear out your hair in anger, but will that destroy the earth? Will it make the rocks tremble?” Job 18:4 NLT
This verse is saying that we’re only hurting ourselves with our anger. It doesn’t actually change anything.
We live in a broken world. Nothing works right on this planet. That’s why we’re praying for heaven. You stop trying to fix the blame.
- Help your friend confess their sins.
They will never be healed until they own up to their part. They’ve got to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. That’s the second step to healing.
“My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.” Psalm 38:4,18 NLT
Ask forgiveness from God and ask forgiveness from someone else to get rid of the guilt.
- Help your friend offer forgiveness to those who have hurt them.
Not because they deserve it, that’s not the issue of forgiveness. Forgiveness is how you grow to become like Christ.
“Get rid of all bitterness… forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT
In a divorce you will probably need to forgive other people besides your ex-spouse. You will have to forgive some cruel in-laws, some judgmental friends, you may have to forgive someone who stole your spouse.
Martin Luther King once said “Bitterness is blindness.” Bitterness blinds you to the truth. When you are bitter you don’t see things as they really are. You have a skewed vision of reality.
One of the truths you don’t see when you’re bitter is that God can take every bad thing in your life and use it for good if you’ll give it to Him. You don’t see the truth, but God can take even the stupid mistakes you’ve made, even your willful disobedience and He can turn it around and use it for good in your life, if you’ll give it Him.
The pain is not going to stop until you accept the forgiveness of God and you offer the forgiveness to somebody else.
5. Suggest accepting reality
Help your friend accept reality, how things really are, not the way they wish them to be or like them to be. Friends often have to tell the truth and sometimes the truth hurts.
Help them accept the fact that the past is passed and it isn’t going to change. No matter what you do, no matter how much you dislike the past or want to rewrite it, the past has passed.
Acceptance is the only way to peace. God’s purpose has never been changed by the pain in your life. No matter what happens in your life it never changes God’s purpose. God does not have a Plan B for your life, God has a Plan A for your life.
Even before you were born he already knew what was going to happen in your life. The stupid decisions you would make and other people would make that would harm you and He still chose to love you and he still chose to create you. He still sent his Son to die for you and He still wants you in heaven with Him.
The fact is, life has to go on and acceptance is the only way to peace of mind and emotional healing.
In 2 Samuel 12, is a story about a man named David. David was the king of Israel and wrote most of the book of Psalms. During one of the darker periods of David’s life, he had an affair. He committed adultery with one of his general’s wives while his general was out on the battlefield serving him. That woman’s name was Bathsheba and she found out she was pregnant. To hide it from his general, David had the general put on the front line so he would be shot with an arrow first in war.
So David was not just an adulterer, he was a murderer. Bathsheba bore that child and after the child was born, became very ill. David grieved over this child. He fasted and prayed for days that the baby would live.
“David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused.
Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. ‘He wouldn’t listen to reason while the child was ill,”’they said. ‘What drastic thing will he do when we tell him the child is dead?’
When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’
Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.
His advisers were amazed. ‘We don’t understand you,’ they told him. ‘While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.’
David replied, ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live. But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.’” 2 Samuel 12:16-23
What did David do with his grief? He didn’t second guess himself or resign from life. When the baby died, he accepted reality. Here we see three things we need when accepting a crisis.
- Accept what can’t be changed
The baby wasn’t coming back so David said there’s no use me mourning any more. Now, in this unique scenario where David did the mourning and grieving before. Mourning is a healthy thing.
- Play it down and you pray it up.
Don’t exaggerate the crisis, dedicate it, surrender it. After the baby died, David goes to church. He gets up, he gets washed and goes to the tabernacle to worship. When you have pain, you need to be where you’re going to get spiritual nourishment, encouragement and the promises of God.
- Focus on what’s left, not what’s lost.
God isn’t finished with you. He still has plans for your life and He’s not through with you.
6. Strengthen their faith
A divorce or any other major crisis shakes your faith, but it is your faith and trust in Christ that’s going to get you through it.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD…” Psalm 27:13 NASB
Even in those situations, where life stinks and it seems all dark and black, you still believe the sun is shining even when it’s dark. You believe that God is a good God, even when everything is going wrong in life.
How do you get that kind of faith? The kind that sees pain and hurt and yet can still say that God is good. The Bible tells us there is a place to strengthen your faith, it comes from holding on to the promises of God. God’s promises are found in His word.
The single most important habit in developing stability against stress, is to memorize verses of the Bible. Because when you need the word most, you don’t have a Bible or don’t know where to go in the Bible. In the crises of life it’s not likely you’re going to be carrying a Bible, so you need to hide it in your heart.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV
It is the word of God, the word of Christ, that builds your faith. Saturate your mind with the word of God.
“I have hidden your word in my heart…” Psalm 119:11 NIV
What is banked in the vault of your heart? The promises of God?
We remember whatever is important to us. We also remember what we hear often. This is why we remember stats, recipes, songs and phone numbers. If the word of God matters, we’ll find ways to memorize it.
“I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.” Psalm 119:25 LB
Let’s revive one another with the word. That’s how you help a friend and strengthen people with the word.
7. Speak words of hope
Be a hope pusher, a hope dispenser, a purveyor of hope. Friends speak words of hope. Friends point out that you’re going to make it.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 NLT
Christ Jesus is returning, but He’s not back yet. That means God is not finished with you. Keep growing.
During a crisis, don’t focus on God solving the situation, focus on becoming a man or woman of God. Develop new habits and you break old habits.
Jesus Christ can heal your heart and restore your joy, but you’ve got to surrender it all to Him.
“Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.” Job 11:13-16 NIV
Who do you need to be a friend to this week? Who do you need to show up in their life, share their pain and pray with?
Who will you be a friend to this week?
Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion about the first three points of this message. Show up. Share their pain. Support them with prayer. Take a moment to review any assignments/challenges made during the personal application section of your previous meeting. Seeing God at work in the lives of those who commit to him is essential for growth.
Hear the Word
Read Philippians 1
4. Start with forgiveness
- How can you help a friend understand how their anger is affecting him or her?
- According to Psalm 38:4, what is David burdened by? How does David respond in Psalm 38:18?
- What are some practical questions that could be asked to help a friend confess?
- Have you known someone who could not forgive? How did that bitterness affect your friend?
5. Suggest accepting reality
- 2 Samuel 12:16-23 tells us about how David acted during the illness of his child. How did he respond to the child’s death?
- Help your friend accept what cannot be changed. What are some examples of unchangeable past events or acts that a friend may have to accept?
- Help your friend play it down and pray it up. David turned to the Lord after the death of his child. What are ways we can help others connect with God when they are hurting over their relationships?
- Help your friend focus on what is left, not what is lost. Who could be affected if your friend continues to focus on what is lost?
6. Strengthen their faith
- Psalm 27 shows us that David was experiencing a trying time in his life. How does David respond in Psalm 27:13?
- According to Romans 10:17, what results from reading or hearing the Word of Christ?
- What are ways we can prepare to use the Word of God to help friends when they need it?
- What Biblical resources can we direct those in need to?
7. Speak words of hope
- According to Philippians 1:6, what will God do for you until it is finished?
- An event like a divorce can make a friend feel like his or her spiritual progress has stopped. What ways can you help show that God has not given up on him or her?
- Job 11:13-16 tells of a way to defeat fear and misery. What is it?
Tell Someone Else
We need to put love in action and encourage friends who are experiencing a separation or divorce from their spouse. It’s our job as true friends to care, be aware and be there for them. Remind them that God is not through with their lives. Encourage them to completely surrender their lives to God – all the emotions, the bitterness – to ask for His forgiveness and that he fill them with hope for the future. Pray for hidden hurts, for healing, and for God to help those experiencing difficult times through their pain.