The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I was lying awake in bed listening to music, when a certain song came on. Now, one of my favorite things about music is how a single song can bring back a flood of memories in an instant. The song that came on my iPod was “You Found Me” by The Fray. This particular song brought me back to a day 5 years ago, when I was a sophomore in college. It was during one of the most difficult times of my life, I was really struggling and had recently fallen into using self-harm as a coping mechanism. On this particular evening, I posted lyrics from this song on my Facebook page; “Where were you when everything was falling apart? All those nights, waiting by the telephone that never rang, when all I needed was a call that never came…”
A few minutes after posting those lyrics, my phone rang. I answered to hear one of my new teammates, a girl I had only known for a few months, ask me if everything was ok and if I needed to talk. I blew her off, terrified of being vulnerable and opening up about what was going on, but it has stuck with me all these years. And so has the friendship and caring efforts of many others throughout those years.
- The friend who sat with me and listened while I poured out my heart, too afraid to make eye contact.
- The friend who put her arm around me as I shook and wept when the words wouldn’t come.
- The friend who drove me around late into the night so that I wouldn’t have to be alone.
- The friend who threw away my razor blade when I wasn’t strong enough, and encouraged me that things would get better.
- The teachers and staff who prayed for me, and who pointed me towards help.
And so many others…
I wish I could say that I always appreciated what those people did for me, but the reality is that I didn’t. I put those people through a lot; when they tried to help, I fought back. When they tried to be there for me, I pushed them away. But somehow those people stuck with me, they cared for me and showed me love when I was, admittedly, hard to love.
It was on my heart to write this for a few reasons. First, I want to recognize the people who walked with me through some of the most difficult times in my life; the people I neglected, abused, and took for granted. And second I want to say, to them and to anyone else who is trying to walk with someone who is lost and hurting, that what you do and the efforts that you make matter more than you may ever know.
As someone who remembers all too well the difficulties that I put people through, the very people who were trying their best to help me, I want to acknowledge that walking with someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, or brokenness of any kind is no easy task. It is important to understand that there is no guilt or condemnation on either side of that; it is simply a reality of life in a fallen world. The truth is, it can feel like all your efforts are in vain, and at times you might even feel like a human emotional punching bag. It can be discouraging and frustrating, and you may even wonder what is keeping you from just walking away.
But hear me when I say this; IT MATTERS. You may not feel like anything that you do for that hurting person makes a difference, but it does. You may not see it today, this week, or even this year… but your efforts, your presence, your words of encouragement, and your whispered prayers all make a difference. I read something in one of my favorite books today called How People Grow that really resonated with my heart on this topic. In speaking of his own experience of recovery from depression, the author described the importance of the people in his life at that time saying;
“God did not delegate the process [of healing] to people at all. He wore people as his uniforms.” (Cloud and Townsend)
As one of my professors likes to say, to sit with another human being in their pain is to occupy a sacred space. To allow yourself to be used by God to administer truth and healing to a broken person is a role near and dear to God’s heart. Jesus himself wept with his loved ones at the tomb of Lazarus, even though he knew he was about to remedy the situation by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Likewise, in Romans 12:15 it says that we are to “weep with those who weep.”
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.” (Psalm 34:18, ESV)
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8, ESV)
Notice that Romans 12 doesn’t say “fix those who weep,” it is not our job as humans to fix or heal anyone else… so please take that unnecessary pressure off of yourself. Our job, our role as humans, is to be a conduit for God’s healing in HIS way and in HIS timing. So don’t let a seeming lack of results (or lack of appreciation) discourage you from occupying that sacred space with another person. God is working through you, and His efforts are never in vain. And I believe that someday you will get to look back and see the impact that you had on that person, and it will be so much more than you ever imagined.
And for those who are struggling, for the brokenhearted; know that you are not a burden or a charity case, and there is no guilt or condemnation in needing help, or even in your difficulty receiving that help. We are all in this together, we are all on the same journey through this broken world. And I believe that someday the comfort and support that you received from God, through His people, will empower you to be used by God to come alongside another hurting and broken person in a beautiful way.
“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, MSG)