August 22, 2018

When a Friend Doesn't Show Up in Your Darkest Hour

When our hearts scream in pain, the silence of others can be louder still, especially the silence of the ones we thought were close. When a friend doesn't show up in the time we need them most, suffering only multiplies, and it's a suffering that emerges later, after the dust settles, after the initial panic subsides, when the new normal is just plain normal and the old one long forgotten. We recognize the silence, the time, the unacknowledged. This is when a bitter pain sets in, if we allow it. This is when we must wade through difficult emotions in order to find and pluck up the truth for keeping. This is when we must decide what we'll do, even though the "doing" seems to be the silent's responsibility.

I pluck up these truths again and again, as each bitter thought antagonizes me:

Perfect
Jesus met my needs perfectly. When sorrow attended my soul, he stood nearer. When I felt alone, I wasn't. Before I even knew of what was to come, he prepared the way. My friend may not have shown up, but oh how my Savior did. Let me count the ways.

Lament
It hurt deeply when he or she didn't come running, didn't acknowledge the pain, didn't carry even a corner of the burden. Relationships and the people in them are imperfect, and I feel a longing sob rise up and out of me as I feel so acutely what was never supposed to be. But it is so; this world is groaning, and I with it. I will tell Jesus how it hurts that my friend didn't show up. He knows what it means to be alone in his darkest hour.

Mercy
I think about how I haven't shown up. My friend's husband confessed infidelity, and I didn't show up. Another friend had a stillborn baby, and I sent flowers and that was the end. A friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I didn't show up in ways I now regret. I haven't acknowledged deaths, I haven't carried burdens I could've carried, I haven't offered words of comfort. Even before all that, when I hadn't yet suffered, I didn't know how it felt. I didn't know what to say. I've been afraid and uncertain around suffering. Sometimes I've been drowning in my own pain and simply haven't been able to take on more weight without going completely under, and maybe just maybe my friend is carrying a secret pain. I will offer the mercy I would like myself.

Thanks
I think about the many who showed up, some I wouldn't have expected in a million years and some with the most knowing of kindnesses. The one I hold in my mind may not have come, but Jesus sent his people. I will recall their presence, their words, their touch. I will thank God for the comfort of his people.

Speak
I think about the one who didn't show up, the one I wished had. Does she avoid me because she knows deep within she didn't show up when she was needed? I know I have done this myself, avoiding others because I'm ashamed. Is God nudging me to speak the truth to her in love, to tell her how it made me feel? If my goal is truly restoration of a broken friendship rather than expressing my anger or being right, I will go to her, prayerfully and carefully. I will tell her of my hurt. We can both grow from this.

Forgive
I think about what the hurt is telling me. Hurt tells me I am entitled to bitterness and unforgiveness, but this is a lie. Jesus tells me to forgive those who sin against me, whether they ask for forgiveness or not. I will look to Jesus and see all that he's forgiven in me. Then I will look to the one who has hurt me and forgive, knowing I may have to do this every time I see the friend who didn't show up until the remembrance of it withers away.

Discern
Perhaps this isn't the friendship I thought it was. Perhaps the friends who showed up are invitations to new or deeper friendships. I will pray and ask God for discernment. I will honor the friend who didn't show up in my words and actions, but I will also pursue others who've pursued me well.
Sometimes when I write posts like this, the people in my life panic a little and think that I'm subtly writing about them. Rest assured, I am not. I have experienced people "not showing up" in times of suffering, and so I write from that perspective, but I am not currently experiencing suffering, and my friends are loving me well. This post was commissioned by one of my Patreon supporters named Linda, who asked me the question, "How do you respond when a friend doesn't show up in your darkest hour?" Thank you, Linda, for making the By Faith podcast possible through your support. If you'd like to join Linda and others in supporting my work (and find out how you can commission a blog post), find out more here.