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How to be Christ to a friend in crisis

WOMAN WITH FRIEND
Photographee.eu | Shutterstock
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Even Jesus needed help keeping the weight of that cross from crushing Him.

Submit all questions to @askkatrina@aleteia.org

Dear Katrina,

My best friend is like a sister to me and it breaks my heart to see her going through all these tragedies in her life that are slowly starting to make her lose her faith. Last month she told me she was done with God and wasting her time on her prayers that never get answered.  

She three kids — one with a physical disability, another with a mental handicap, and her oldest (23) tried to kill himself over the summer. About five years ago her husband left her and filed for divorce because, of all things, he said she wasn’t taking care of herself anymore (as if she has time to!).  She’s struggled for as long as I’ve known her but she’s always had such a positive spirit and a strong faith in God that carried her through.

Now, I’ve noticed her slowly getting more and more angry with God and her situation. The final straw was her recent diagnosis of breast cancer. She won’t go to church anymore and doubts God even exists. I wish I knew what to say to convince her God still loves and cares about her and her family. What can I say? What’s your advice? I miss my friend and her smile.

Texas  

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Dear Texas,

Your friend is going through trials that most of us cannot even imagine so you probably won’t see the smile you miss so much for a while. But don’t let that discourage you or make you think you’re not able to help. People going through hardships often wear the “brave face mask” for several reasons — they don’t want to be perceived as complainers, receive pity, or make others uncomfortable.  That mask typically only comes off for the true friends, like you, who can be trusted seeing the real sadness and frustration underneath.  

To be honest, there is probably nothing you can say to her right now that will convince her that God still loves her, but there is plenty you can do that will. God often uses us to answer others’ prayers by making us vessels for His will on earth. We are His arms when we offer a hug and His ears when he take the time to listen.

Without her husband, your friend is missing half of her support team. The full responsibility of caring for her children’s needs and getting through cancer treatments falls solely on her shoulders. Even Christ needed help keeping the weight of that cross from crushing Him. Some things are just too much for a single person to bear and no amount of words will alleviate the burden. In those times we must be like Simon of Cyrene and help carry the load on our own shoulders. It’s through our actions then do we show God’s love made manifest.

So while you can’t cure your friend’s breast cancer or mend her broken marriage you can offer her some relief by offering to clean her house, cut the grass, or bring her meals. You can be her advocate, since she doesn’t have the time or resources to advocate on her own behalf.  

Contact the parish she’s registered at and let them know they have a member in crisis. See if they don’t already have a ministry that brings meals to families. Ask your friend for a honey-do list that’s been neglected since her divorce and hire a handyman to tackle it or ask the church, other friends, and family to chip in and help pay for home repairs. Be her ride home from chemo or her babysitter when she has doctor appointments. Or simply be there with a pizza and a shoulder to cry on.

One thing I’ve noticed is that in times of crisis people tend to disappear. They may think the other is too busy for friendships or avoid them because they don’t want to be involved in “drama.” Your being there and willing to help in any capacity is an answered prayer. She may not recognize it as such right now but she will in hindsight. In this way we can hope that her faith will slowly be restored.

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