Lean On Me
What comes to mind when you think about friends? Do you quickly run through images of the faces you have welcomed into your life over the years? Does it warm your heart to think about the one friend you can always count on? You know, the one you could spend hours talking to? I have had those people in my life. My best friend from middle school is still a friend of mine to this day. We don’t talk very often, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off. We have shared hopes, dreams, struggles with our marriages and challenges of parenting teenage boys. We have even grieved together over the loss of a parent.
While I have had enduring friendships, like that one, over the years, I have also had other relationships end abruptly. Losing a friend is a heartache that never really seems to go away. Have you ever lost a friend – one you thought would be around forever? Has your heart burned with sadness over the loss of camaraderie, love and companionship with a person you thought you knew inside and out? Well, I have! As I write this, I can see her face. She was the one friend I thought would be around forever. We were so close that we would finish each other’s sentences; we shopped for the same things together, we even worked side by side – always with knowing glances, inside jokes and silly laughter. I could sit here for hours telling you about all the memories I have of her and how she would bring me so much joy.
How could such a friendship that seemed so deep and meaningful be gone in an instant? How could it be that we are no longer friends? I rack my brain trying to remember words that I said or words that I didn’t say that may have caused our relationship to falter. When I think too hard about it, my heart becomes heavy and some days are harder than others. I think about her when I wake up and at night I always wonder how she’s doing. Selfishly I think, is she worried about me like I am worried about her? Does her heart ache for our relationship like mine does? I can never shake the ultimate question of, “What happened?”
I would like to say that writing this article has caused me to process this relationship and come to some sort of resolve. However, writing this article has only made my heart hurt more. Why is that? How can I confess Christ, know the gospel, and yet be so continually affected by the discouragement and disappointment of this broken friendship? To be completely transparent, I desperately long to put this part of my life aside and to move on. Frankly, I am weary of the constant ache in my heart and I am tired of wondering what happened, if it will ever change, and what in the world I did wrong. The break of this relationship has caused suffering and I would rather not be in that state anymore.There, I said it. I don’t want to suffer the heartache anymore. But, the truth is, if you are in a relationship with a human being, you are going to suffer. Pastor and author Tullian Tchividjian writes in his newly released book Glorious Ruin, “Suffering is real; it is not imaginary—and it is painful. The Bible does not brush lightly over pain. Nowhere do we find God sanctioning a ‘suck it up and deal with it’ posture toward affliction. The Bible is realistic when it comes to the real hurt which plagues real broken people in a real fallen world. The first thing that happens when we feel our suffering is to ask “why”: Why me, why now, why this, why him, why her? Why? It is tempting to come up with a reason: someone else, or me; it’s God’s fault; it is this random universe. The fact is, however, that there are no pat answers when it comes to suffering. The problem of pain is always more complex than what we can know or see—there is always more than meets the eye.”
These are words of comfort for my weary soul. I needed to hear these words of affirmation about the reality of my pain. It does hurt. There is no escaping it.
A Rescue from Hurt
Author and speaker Paul Tripp writes in his book Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, “Every painful thing we experience in relationships is meant to remind us of our need for God.” My painful relationship is not meant for my destruction. My painful relationship is meant to show me how desperate I really am. Tripp continues; “We settle for the satisfaction of human relationships when they were meant to point us to the perfect relational satisfaction found only with God.”
Friends will always let me down and they will always let you down. Likewise, I will always let my friends down and you will always let others down. It is actually presumptuous that I expect perfect relationships from my friends and myself. We are not perfect people! Every disappointment, heartache and relational strain that I have is meant to point me to the One who is perfect. My difficulties in relationships should remind me that although I suffer, God is in complete control. My encouragement comes from remembering that Christ Himself suffered not only in relationships as He walked this earth but He experienced the ultimate suffering on the cross for broken people like you and me. His death brought me life and set me free, not from my suffering but in my suffering.
Seeking answers to the “why” questions and looking for strategies I think will free me from the pain of broken relationships will only lead to frustration and discontent because they promise me that if I can just get the answer and tweak my behavior a bit, I’ll be free. This is dangerous because of the resulting delusion that says “I am in control, I can figure this out and when I do, I’ll be fine.” These options are void of the need for Jesus and His life, death and resurrection. Broken relationships are meant to remind me of my need for God. Only He can do what I could never do for myself. (If I could have rescued this relationship myself I would have.) Jesus spoke clearly and plainly when he said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). My suffering as a result of broken friendships, reminds me once again that I am sick. I am in need of Jesus! He is the only physician and perfect friend of sinners that can heal my broken heart.
Lori Harding is the Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, as well as a small group leader and Bible study teacher. She counsels and speaks to women of all ages. Lori has a passion for communicating the glorious truth that Christ came to set captives free. Check out her blog at: Set Free lorileighharding.blogspot.com/ or email her at [email protected]