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If you missed my monthly On-line Encouragement for September, Hope for a Hurting Friend, here it is. If you want to be on my mailing list, please sign up on my website, LindaNewtonSpeaks,com. I have a follow up on this article that I will post soon. It will offer more insight if you have this information first.
You may not think you have much to offer a hurting person, especially if you have not experienced what they are going through. But being there and just listening can be one of the greatest gifts you can give. Have you been there when your friend is melting down and life had just dumped a truckload of pain to her front door?
Maxine finds you at work to tell you her oldest son’s on drugs. Police called last night he’s in custody, and she is devastated.
Cindy comes to you at church. You can tell by the tone in her voice she’s trying not to wig out, “I have breast cancer,” she informs you with tears in her eyes.
Rita calls before you are even fully awake. Her husband just dropped a bomb on her before he left for work. He wants out of the marriage.
We offer the immeasurable gift of a listening ear, but how we will listen is very important. We listen with no judgments. This is not the time for legalistic lectures like…
“Maxine, I told you to set boundaries with that boy!”
“Cindy the way you put away that junk food. I’m surprised it’s not a heart attack!” We will listen with our hearts.
While we suspend any judgment, we also refrain from offering easy pat answers:
     “You need to get that kid to Teen Challenge, Maxine.”
    “Cindy, homeopathy is the answer for your cancer. My coworker’s sister’s cousin cured her cancer with herbs!”
“You should call an attorney right now, Rita. Your husband will take you to the cleaners if you don’t.”
Think of how you feel when someone offers you unsolicited, simplistic advice. Does it create a log-jam in your brain, like it does mine?  Most people can figure things out for themselves…and they need to. Your gift now becomes offering them a safe place to get their thoughts together.
As you respond to your burdened friend, pay attention to your pace, pitch and tone as you calmly ask more leading questions:
”What did the policeman say, Maxine?
“Did your doctor say what kind of cancer you had, Cindy?”
“Do the kids know what’s going on, Rita?”
 As you share with a soft, slow pace, there is more chance your struggling friend will match your pace, pitch and tone and calm down long enough to find comfort in your presence. Then she can regroup for her next step.
Caring for hurting friends can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful and consuming unless we know what to look for. Be careful not to do for your friend what she needs to do for herself. Here is some helpful insight from the book of Galatians.
Galatians 6:2 tells us to: Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Then in verse 5 we are urged,  “for each one should carry his own load.” That can be confusing unless we take a look at these verses in the original language.
The word “burden” in the Greek means “an overwhelming load a Boulder.” If my friend is facing cancer, or sudden loss, or she has a child is in the hospital, that constitutes a burden or a boulder. I’ll help her shoulder that. We look out for each other’s boulders in the Body of Christ. But a load is like a backpack or a knapsack. In that knapsack, each of us has everything we need to do life. Unfortunately, there are folks who will recruit us to carry their knapsacks because, let’s face it, if they can recruit someone to do it for them, they can coast. In our codependence and need to be needed and liked, we will!
In their book, Hiding from Love, Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s offer this helpful insight.  “Boundary conflicts happen when Hiker A tires of his knapsack and wants a free ride.   Hiker B, wanting to be caring, takes it on.  After a few miles, two things happen.  First, Hiker A learns it’s a lot of fun not to have to be responsible to pay his own rent, find a job, or take responsibility for his own happiness.  Second, Hiker B shifts from love to resentment to bitterness as he takes on the impossible task of being responsible for another person’s life.”
If I’m not careful and boundaried, I’ll be paying for Maxine’s son’s rehab, driving every day to he doctor with Cindy, and moving Rita and her four kids in with me…all the while blaming God for my exhaustion!
Our goal is to help others without getting engulfed in their issues. To do that, we empower not enable. Enabling makes the hurting person dependent on us. Empowering lets her see you believe in her, and helps her depend on God. He has more answers, more strength, and more resources than you do, and he’s available 24/7/365! Empower with phrases like:

“You can do this, Maxine.”
“God will get you through, Cindy.”
 “You’re stronger than you think you are, Rita!”

God never burns out. He has wisdom for you and your hurting friend. That’s one thing you both can count on.


October 17, 2011 @08:27 pm

Thank you, Linda. This was very helpful. I want to be this kind of friend.

October 17, 2011 @08:26 pm

Thank you for a great message!!! I needed that! I tend to be codependent with people. I am trying to let the Lord guide me and be still long enough to hear His voice. Thanks for being faithful to send great emails.

October 17, 2011 @08:24 pm

Thank you for that, Linda. I will read it at Boundaries class!

October 17, 2011 @08:23 pm

Thank you for this, I am going to share this with others. Hope you are doing well. I hope we get to do another retreat together soon.

October 17, 2011 @08:22 pm

Thanks for passing on your wisdom. It is timely and useful as we minister to people God brings across our path.

October 17, 2011 @08:21 pm

Thank you Linda!! I needed this right now!! And you're right God will take care of all our burdens. We just have to be reminded.


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