I didn’t fit.
I just didn’t. They all knew the Bible. They grew up in the church. Their families didn’t look like mine. And not only that, the weekend before I had made a huge mistake — in front of everyone. This Christianity thing wasn’t for me, was it? I slipped out of the room and headed for the front door.
She met me at the door. “Are you leaving, Suzie?”
I hung my head. “I don’t think I can do this,” I whispered.
She was the pastor’s wife. A woman I knew somewhat, but who didn’t know me or my life at all. That’s why I was surprised by her response. She simply drew close and looked me in the eyes.
“All of us feel that way at some time or another.”
She didn’t try to figure out what was wrong. She didn’t give me a formula for how to fit in. For the next few moments, she listened. She empathized. She pulled me into a mama bear hug and let me know that we all start somewhere and she was glad I was there.
I was 16 years old. She had no idea that one day I’d be a Bible teacher or an author or podcaster. She had no idea that one day I’d be a mama or grandma who would pray over her own children and grandchildren. She had no idea if I had walked out that door, that I may have not had the courage to come back or how that moment changed the direction of my life.
Never underestimate the power of your presence in a crisis — a crisis of faith, a crisis of loss, a crisis of anxiousness, a marital crisis; or any other.
The problem with showing up is we often worry that we’ll get it wrong.
That we’ll say the wrong thing. That we’ll feel awkward or that, because we’ve not walked through that particular situation, that we’ll make things worse for our friend. But this is good news — the fact that you show up makes a difference.
5 ways we can show up for each other
Simply show up
Show up. Without the right words. Without advice. Without easy answers. Just sitting next to her is comfort. It says, “I see you. I love you.”
Meet the basics
Bring food. Bring coffee if she loves to drink it. Bring her favorite smoothie or her favorite chapstick. Bring a hug, if that is her love language.
When you are in a crisis, your attention is on fight or flight. The last thing you are doing is nurturing yourself. She may not drink that coffee. She may not eat that food right at that moment, but the fact that you care matters. Your role isn’t to force her to meet her needs, but to provide something she might not even realize she needs.
When I look back over 2020, I distinctly recall items such as a green smoothie, Chik Fil A chicken and biscuits. A soft blanket. These were a few of the ways that friends wrapped around basic needs and it was beautiful and appreciated, especially later when the haze of all the unwanted news began to subside.
Don’t give advice
One of the most powerful adages is this: Unsolicited advice is usually more about the giver than the receiver.
We usually fill in the blanks of silence because we feel awkward or insufficient. Honestly, most of the words spoken in crisis often add to the burden. Pithy scriptures or quotes or ill-fitting stories in order to say something, anything. We want to help but we don’t know how.
Hear me, friend. Sitting with someone in their sorrow is powerful. If they ask for advice, then share it. If they don’t, then simply be there.
Someone says something like, “I’m really sad.” And we don’t hear what they are saying. We hear a call to fix that sadness.
Make sacred space for them to share what they are feeling. Affirm those feelings. Instead of responding with your own story or ways to fix what they are feeling, simply respond with, “I hear you. That is really hard, isn’t it?”
Leave the door open for them to talk about what is on their heart. That burden they are carrying. The feelings they are experiencing. They may feel different tomorrow, but for right now this is their reality. Expressing those feelings is strong and brave, and the fact that there is a safe place for those words to land is beautiful.
They may not want your sympathy. They definitely don’t want your pity. But empathy? That’s beautiful.
Let them know you will pray for them, but take it one step further. Ask permission to pray for them right in the moment. That might be a whispered prayer with hands held. That might be an embrace with words spoken over their heart. It could be a prayer text sent as you are on your way to her. This is not a prayer meeting. It’s understanding that you are willing to stand with her spiritually, and when you leave those prayers will continue.
One note of caution: Don’t share her needs with others, even in a request for prayer. She has allowed you to see her true need, and trusts you to pray for her. If she wants others to know those needs, she will either share that with them or ask you to share it.
When I look back at that encounter at the church door so many years ago, there’s a 99% chance that a busy pastor’s wife thought she was just loving a hurting teen — and she was. But it was greater than that. She showed up in a moment when I thought I didn’t fit, would never fit, and was so discouraged I’m not sure I would have had the courage to come back. I was alone in my faith. I didn’t have the background, the family, or the knowledge to know what to do. I not only stayed that night — but here I am decades later my life wrapped around faith and God’s love in such a way that it is who I am.
Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.
How can you show up for someone today?
Just for you
- Check out Suzie’s newest book, JoyKeeper: 6 Things that Change Everything You Thought You Knew About Joy
- Listen to this week’s episode of More Than Small Talk — “Handle with Care.” Suzie, Holley, and Jennifer talk about the difference between sympathy, pity, and the power of empathy. Subscribe to the More Than Small Talk Insider newsletter at www.morethansmalltalk.com.
- Do you need a resource on healing, forgiveness, how to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, how to be a good mom when no one showed you how, and more? Check out all of Suzie’s books.