How Friendship Found Me

Several years ago, a stomach virus struck our house, and one evening all of us were sick in such a way that caused both Stephen and me to pass out at separate times, with my fall resulting in a hole in our guest bathroom wall. Charlotte was 8 months old at the time and sick herself, and it was around midnight. As I laid on the floor, I didn’t know what to do and felt helpless in a way I had not felt before. I started thinking about whom I could call, and the list was short. I didn’t have many friends that I was close enough to that I felt I could call them in the middle of the night, so I called my parents. My mom said they would come right away, but since they live an hour away, I needed to call someone close by to help with Charlotte since I wasn’t sure if I was injured or would faint again (fortunately I wasn’t and I didn’t). I decided to call my college roommate who lives in town, and she graciously agreed to come over. She came quickly and tended to Charlotte and helped get her vomit-covered sheets into the wash. I was grateful for her presence and care, but after she left I felt a sadness that my list of people I could call in a crisis was so small. Why didn’t I have more friends?

The short answer is, I wasn’t actively trying to make any. I was hungry for female friendships but was also reluctant to make the first move and reach out to the women at my church, and so even though we had been attending for a year, I hadn’t developed many relationships that went beyond small talk before and after church. I kept hoping someone would invite me out for dinner or coffee, but it never occurred to me that I could be doing the inviting as well. People are busy, and we often assume people already have their “friend group” all set. I certainly assumed no one was really interested in new friendships since it seemed that many of the women close to my age had already been at the church for a few years and knew one another well. So I kept to myself, and though I never would have admitted this out loud, I honestly hoped that new best friends would materialize of their own accord.

As you might have guessed, I didn’t magically wake up one morning with friends. But what I did wake up with one morning is ulcerative colitis. Being sick with that disease, at first not even knowing that it WAS a disease, leveled me in a way that nothing before had. At my disease’s worst, I found myself too weak to do much but shuffle between the bed and the bathroom, so things like home-cooked dinners and clean floors and bedtime stories gave way to naps at all hours of the day.

It was then, when I had lost most ability to function on any kind of useful level, that those magical, make-believe friends I wished for the previous year began to appear. Two women from church showed up in my hospital room, bringing cheer and encouragement. Another one called and offered to “clean something, anything” for me. Another one brought my family dinner and organized others to do the same. Another one let me sob into the phone while she prayed for me. One friend’s husband came to our house after Charlotte was in bed so Stephen could visit with me for a few hours. Almost overnight, I looked around and saw something beautiful: the church in action. Friends in action.

I had prayed that God would bring me friends, had prayed that He would show me how to be a better friend myself. I had even gone so far as to confess my loneliness to a group of  women at a prayer group only a month prior to getting sick. Though He answered those prayers in a rather peculiar way by also giving me an autoimmune disease, it was impossible for me to miss the way that crisis in my life became a landmark by which I recognized the faithfulness of God. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy being the recipient of so much help and would have much preferred to be the one extending such help to others. But that is not the role God gave to me at that time, nor is it the role I have found myself in for much of the past year. God has shown me many times over the years how my weakness allows His strength to shine through. He has shown me how my friends, in loving and caring for me, were daily reminders of His promise to love and care for me. What my weakness and need has helped me see is that being vulnerable in community is better than facing life alone.

We all have pain we wish to hide, but when we choose to hide our pain rather than bring it into the light of community, what are we missing? We could very well be missing out on the exact friendships we wish we had.

I hope I never have to call for reinforcements in the middle of the night again, but how thankful I am that if I should, God has grown my list in a way I never expected!


Photo by Noorulabdeen Ahmad on Unsplash 


Helping a Friend Who Is Hurting

You know what’s not fun? Being friends with someone who is depressed. The person may be distant, unresponsive, endlessly negative, and hopeless. She might cancel plans or bail at the last minute. She forgets to ask about your life and hopes you won’t ask about hers. She doesn’t want to see people but instead prefers hiding away in a cocoon of despair. When she does talk to you, the conversation revolves around her misery.

Yes, I have been just such a friend, but in spite of all of this, my friends stuck with me instead of leaving me to face the darkness alone. Here are some of the ways my friends have ministered to me while I have fought depression. I offer them as a way to help others know how to help a friend who is hurting, whether that hurt is caused by depression or some other form of suffering. A simple gesture goes a long way to ease an aching heart.

  1. Prayed for me at regular intervals throughout the day.
  2. Brought my family meals.
  3. Visited me at work and brought my favorite coffee.
  4. Surprised me at work with a card and CD.
  5. Checked on my husband when I was getting inpatient and residential treatment.
  6. Picked me up and took me a to a movie when I didn’t feel safe driving myself anywhere.
  7. Came to my house unannounced late one night after I shared that I had a really bad day (they did check with my husband first). They kept me company and made me laugh and made the darkness seem a little lighter for just a little while.
  8. Regularly called or texted me to check in on me.
  9. Sent me texts with verses of Scripture they were praying for me and reminded me of God’s truth when all I could believe were the lies depression fed me.
  10. One friend made a 2 hour round trip to visit me when I was hospitalized. Twice. This meant the WORLD to me. Seeing a friendly face when all around me was confusion and chaos comforted me immensely.
  11. One friend talked to me late one night when I was really upset and Stephen was working a late shift. She kept me safe.
  12. Brought me flowers.
  13. Paid for 5 weeks of Pure Barre classes. (Seriously. Such a generous gift for my body and soul!)
  14. Emailed me and answered my calls at random hours of the day when I was hospitalized and in residential treatment.
  15. Gave my family restaurant gift cards when I was hospitalized.
  16. Gave me Scripture verses printed on scrapbook paper that I could hang up in my room at Timberline Knolls.
  17. Wrote me cards and sent me pictures of my kids at various events that I missed when I was at Timberline Knolls.
  18. Went with me to Walmart to get supplies before I left for Timberline Knolls (I needed random things like a battery-operated alarm clock and ear plugs and unopened toiletries) and then paid for everything I got.
  19. Gave me a photo album of pictures of my family and friends to take with me to Timberline Knolls so I could look at them when I was homesick and remember how many people loved me.
  20. Several people gave me books that helped me: Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine, Suffering Is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot, Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray, and When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper. (All of these books are relatively short, which helped me tremendously, as reading–something I dearly love–has been hard for me since depression struck. My focus and concentration have really suffered, so the shorter the book, the better.)

This is just a sample of things that my friends have done to remind me that I am loved. This list is amazing on its own, but I left off the one event that showed me without a doubt that God loves and cares for His own. Back in March when I was on the way to be hospitalized for the second time, I sent a group text to several friends to tell them what was going on and asked them to pray. My phone was taken away from me when I was inpatient, but my friends used that group text as a way to update one another on my progress. When I got home and was catching up on all the texts I had missed, I saw one that instantly brought tears to my eyes. My dear friend Lauren texted everyone and said how burdened she was for me and that she wanted to have a time of prayer and fasting for me on a certain day. My friends all responded with enthusiastic support, and so on a Tuesday that happened to follow what was for me an awful Monday in the psych ward, my friends were lifting me up in prayer and forgoing their own comfort to bring me before the Father. Whenever I think about this selfless act of love, tears spring to my eyes. It was a gesture of faith and compassion I will never forget. Even when I feel like a burden or feel abandoned, I can look at this list and know that these were acts done out of love, not obligation.

One important thing to note about this list is that my friends wouldn’t have known to do any of this if they hadn’t known my need. Receiving from others requires that we open ourselves up and reveal the vulnerable, weak places of our hearts. It is not comfortable, and it is risky, but being vulnerable also brings with it great blessing.

I know that not everyone has the support system I do, and I do not even know how I ended up with these wonderful people in my life. But I do know that their existence is a provision from God, and they have been the hands and feet of Christ during a time when I often didn’t know if God cared at all. When doubt was high, my friends were there. When tears fell hard and fast, my friends were there. When I felt like I couldn’t bear any more, my friends were there. They prayed the prayers I was too tired to pray. They spoke the words of truth I forgot. They loved me in spite of myself. Because of my friends, I have seen the love of Jesus on full display. This is a gift I will not soon forget.