by Afton Rorvik
Oh, the joy of laughter and connection birthed in friendship!
But what happens to that joy when one of the people in the friendship feels stuck in struggle or when that person copes with hardship by just “shoving everything under the rug” and putting on a cheery smile?
I have been that person. And I have watched depression move in and take up residence in my soul.
But then someone I loved listened to my struggle and gently spoke a version of this powerful phrase to me, “Please, get some help!”
I did. And I learned to stop playing pretend, saying “everything is fine.” I learned to face into struggle and say, “This hurts.” What a relief! Playing pretend had become utterly exhausting and unproductive.
The older I get, the more I realize that I desperately need friends who don’t just make me laugh but who also nudge me with a challenge to live well.
Dr John Townsend explains it so well in his book How to Be a Best Friend Forever: Making and Keeping Lifetime Relationships.
When someone has a brokenness, time alone will never heal it. Time does not, in and of itself, heal all things; although time plus relationship and truth can heal just about anything. But we have a tendency to ignore a hurt, or try to live around it or above it. It takes work, effort, and discomfort to heal trust issues, fears of intimacy, guilt messages, addictions, and the like.
That is where best friends come in. Be the agent of healing; let your friend know that you want him to have a better life, and you care enough to make it a topic of conversation. To tell a good friend, “I want you to see a therapist to get some help on this” is one of the most growth-producing things anyone can do. You can’t do the healing yourself—only God, your friend, and the counselor can. But you can be the one who helps to make it something a person considers as a real and valid choice. (pages 96-97)
Becoming That Friend Who Offers the Comfort of Challenge
When I read Paul’s words about comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT), I wonder if comforting others means more than just saying, “You’ll get through this.”
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
So often in my life God’s comfort has come from His gentle prodding to face my inadequate, sin-loving self while also accepting His offer of forgiveness. He essentially says, “You’re not living well. Let me show you a different way.”
What a comfort to know that God cares enough about us enough to call us out AND simultaneously draw us to Himself.
When we listen to a troubled friend, can we find the courage to comfort with challenge? Can we learn to say gently as God says to us, “I see and hear your struggle. Have you thought about getting help?” Could those words ultimately offer more comfort than the words, “This will pass”? And could those words ultimately lead a friend to (or back to) the God of mercy, the source of all comfort?
Townsend’s words, “time plus relationship and truth can heal just about anything” remind me that so much of the work God does in this world happens between His people as they reach for each other.
Oh, the life-changing gift of a friendship that contains laughter AND challenge.
Afton Rorvik writes about living connected, something that matters deeply to her even as an introvert. Her book Living Connected: An Introvert’s Guide to Friendship debuts in October 2021. Afton and her husband John have two adult children and love to walk and hike in Colorado. You can connect with Afton on her website or on Facebook or Twitter. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter here.
Hey Perennials! You can preorder Afton’s new book NOW! Living Connected: An Introvert’s Guide to Friendship releases October 5th.
From the book’s Amazon page:
Introverts do so much well. They listen well, feel deeply, and think carefully. They also take delight in quiet and happily spend time alone.
Yet even introverts need friends to support them through the rough patches, to challenge them to live well, to help them laugh.
And God calls even introverts to live connected. No small challenge! In her warm, conversational, story-loving voice, Afton Rorvik writes about creative and practical ways to embrace introversion as a friendship-building tool―in a quiet, thoughtful way, of course.
Introverts (and those who love them) will find courage and challenge here to build life\-giving friendships, one word at a time.