This season of my life is not only teaching me more about myself, but also the people I call friends. I firmly believe that there’s no better time to distinguish between who is and is not on your team, so to speak, than when you’re going through a rough patch — be it depression, rejection, self-doubt, unemployment, or some other life challenge. Through experience and observation, I’m discovering the value of good friends and the type of friend I aspire to be to others when life gets tough.
A friend who encourages
There’s nothing like a friend who tells you that you can when you start to believe that you can’t. Over the course of my job hunt, I’ve been through application and interview processes that have made me question the things I know to be true about myself. Fortunately, at the same time, I’ve experienced the blessing of friends who can identify my gifts and provide specific examples of those gifts in action — as loving reminders that I do, in fact, have what it takes to succeed in whatever I set out to accomplish.
Make no mistake, I’m not talking about flattery, which can only carry a person so far. I’m talking about genuine expressions of admiration that require no prompting or rewards, and that spur a person along in their endeavors. This simple act of kindness can go a long way for someone experiencing rejection and/or the temptation to compare themselves to others at every turn.
A friend who is available
If we’re friends, you’ve probably heard me say that I’m never too busy to chat on the phone or catch up over coffee. I will, without failure, make time for you (sooner rather than later), because you’re important to me; and if you’re in distress, what better time to be available?
When a friend chooses to be present, regardless of their geographic location or the weight of a situation, it speaks volumes. Many of my close girlfriends don’t live in the same city as me, but I know that I can count on them to be all in for the good and the bad, and that they’re just a phone call away. Sure, we all get a little busy from time to time, but we all make time for the things and people we care about most. Even if we don’t talk on the phone or face-to-face for an extended period of time, the in-between texts, emails, or handwritten notes in my mailbox let me know that my friends are thinking of me and that they’re not completely out of reach — especially when I need them most.
A friend who gets in the spiritual battle
To add to my previous point, there’s nothing like the gift of a friend who prays. Not in a halfhearted, routine sort of way (which most people are accustomed to), but in a way that points to the truths of Scripture and revives the soul. Allow me to explain…
Have you ever been so down that you felt like nothing and no one could bring you up? If you’re like me in those moments, the last thing you want to hear is one blanket statement after another uttered in your direction — particularly from friends with a limited view of your situation. For example, this can be something as innocent as hearing them say, “I’m praying for you,” at the close of a conversation. Most people don’t mean any harm by saying such things; but oftentimes, these words fail to speak to the heart and provide little comfort and reassurance.
Recently, I’ve found that I’m most comforted when a friend takes the time to listen beneath the surface, gets in the fight in secret, speaks when the time is right, and provides godly counsel that points me to the truth beyond my present circumstances. This may seem trivial to some folks, but it makes a world of difference when someone goes to the throne of grace on your behalf when you’re too down and out to do it for yourself.
A friend who helps lighten the load
On a final note, I struggle with asking for help with most things. Unfortunately, this translates to leaving my friends in the dark about my needs and going it alone — for better or for worse.
Nevertheless, when a friend catches wind of one or more of those needs and offers to help in a tangible way, it’s truly a beautiful thing. Help can come in the form of an extra set of hands or other valuable resources. Anything that has the potential to make the burden of a situation feel a little lighter to the one who’s carrying it. This could also be an invitation to get away and do something completely unrelated to the matter(s) at hand so that there’s time and space to breathe and regroup.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about friends who, in recent months, saw my needs and decided to do something within their power to help. I hope to return the favor (and then some) someday.