It’s hard enough to keep healthy, balanced relationships when life is going well, but when we find ourselves on the rocky, unpredictable road of adversity, it’s almost impossible. Relationships get complicated – fast. Family and friends of those who are suffering often feel like they’re walking on eggshells, never quite sure what is expected of them, what to do, how much to help, when to back away, or what to say. Sometimes they react in extremes: undermining the cancer patient’s self-esteem by doing too much and interfering in every aspect of life or totally withdrawing.
The Bible, God’s manual for healthy relationships, provides some guidelines that can help us deal with the changing needs of relationships under stress. These guidelines remind us of our true needs and suggest ways to meet those needs without stepping on toes, abandoning, or demeaning the one who is suffering.
What I Need
I need your presence when I’m suffering (Job 6:14).
I need your prayers. At times my suffering makes me feel far from God and my prayer life suffers because of it (Ephesians 6:18).
I need your God-given gifts to strengthen and encourage me (1 Peter 4:10).
I need your strength to help me carry my burden (Galatians 6:2).
I need your unconditional love when I’m not lovely (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
Sometimes I need your advice when I’m not sure what to do (Proverbs 12:15).
I need you to accept my tears and to acknowledge the pain that prompted them (Romans 12:15).
I need your silence at times to acknowledge the depth of my pain (Job 2:11-13).
I need to be left alone sometimes to sort out my emotions and talk with God (Matthew 14:23).
I need your hand to reach down and lift me up when I fall (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
I need to know your struggles so that I can serve you and not just focus on my pain (Philippians 2:4).
How I Need It
Please keep your promise to be near. Your presence reminds me that God hasn’t forgotten me (Proverbs 3:28).
The greatest gift you can give me is to connect me to God, to life my needs before Him (Mark 2:1-5).
I need your gifts to be motivated by love – not pity or a need to “fix” or correct me (1 Corinthians 13:8,13).
Please don’t try to carry my whole burden. You’ll undermine my self-esteem and independence (Galatians 6:5).
When you withdraw from me, my sorrow only increases (Job 6:14-17).
I need support and encouragement more than advice, so please give advice only when I ask for it (Proverbs 12:18).
Tears may be uncomfortable, but I need to express my pain. Don’t minimize my sorrow. Let me cry (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
Suffering is sacred ground that often defies explanation and, therefore, word (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
I know my needs can be hard to figure out. They’re confusing to me, too, so you’ll need to let the Holy Spirit lead and direct you (Galatians 5:18).
I don’t need an explanation or judgement as to why I’m down (James 4:12).
Don’t try to protect me from your pain. It makes me feel as if I have no value as a friend or as a believer (Galatians 6:2).