by Karol Ladd, best-selling author of The Power of a Positive Woman
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
When our lives take detours, we must open our eyes and recognize the gift of people God has placed around us. Sometimes we are consumed in our struggle or living in an overwhelmed state and don’t see the blessing of the people God has provided. Now, let’s be honest and recognize that the people God gives us may be far from perfect. Some are delightful, but others are very different from us, and some may even annoy us at times. Yet God uses all types of people as vessels of his provision to help us through difficult times.
In this chapter we’re talking about the blessings of healthy connections, but we need to take a moment to acknowledge that not all connections are healthy. It’s important to discern the difference between healthy and unhealthy and make wise choices regarding our relationships with people who tend to pull us away from God and doing what is right. That being said, let’s turn our attention back to accepting the gifts that come through others. Oddly, when we are drowning, we sometimes have a tendency to push people away instead of allowing them into our world. I’m reminded of years ago when I trained to be a lifeguard. We learned that one of the most dangerous types of rescue is when the victim is thrashing and panicking. When that happens, the lifeguard may even be pulled under by the victim. The victim unwittingly keeps at bay his or her own rescue by continuing to kick and scream and trying to make it alone. It is when the drowning person allows the lifeguard to approach that he or she can be saved. Similarly, in the midst of what feels like drowning in our own life circumstances, we may struggle and thrash and tell everyone, “I’m okay, I can do this on my own.” But the truth is, we’ve been created as relational beings. When we are hurting, we must allow people to help us and thus experience God’s rescue through their loving hands.
What healthy connections has God provided in your life right now? Whether you have allowed them to help you yet or not, I want you to write their names below.
People God Has Sent into My Life to Help Me
Take a moment to go back through the names and thank God for each of them and their presence in your life. Be honest with yourself, now; are you allowing these people to get close enough to help? Perhaps you are still trying to swim out of the riptide on your own. It is time to recognize God’s loving hand through the touch of these people. Again, they may not necessarily be people you adore or love to be around, but they are people God has placed in your life to help you and offer some sort of care for you.
Family is typically the first line of support when our lives take a difficult turn, but many people don’t have that luxury. Either family members are too far away, not able to help, or sadly, some may not be willing to help. There are times when we may need friends to step in and take the place family members normally would. Some friends may have been your friends even before the adversity, but sometimes friendships are born through adversity.
Let’s take a look at a couple of ways you can build a bridge of connection in your time of need. First, consider the groups in which you are currently involved. Don’t just assume they know about your situation or are aware of your needs. As much as we would love for people to step up to the plate and jump right in and help, it doesn’t always happen. In today’s world, many people are busy and wrapped up in their own lives. Everyone could use a little heads-up to know how to help. So if you are in a Sunday-school class or a small group from your church or a MOPS group or a Bible study, I want to encourage you to call some in the group and tell them your prayer needs as well as your immediate practical needs.
I’ve learned that although most people are busy, they really do want to help. Giving an indication of your needs (without high expectations attached) can help people know how to lend a hand. I know, I know, we are told to always just step in and help those in need. But often people cannot step up and help you if they don’t know you have a need. We want to be careful not to come across as “needy” all the time, but there is a careful balance of allowing people to help when you need it without asking for too much.
If you don’t have a support group, it may be time to seek one out. A quick search on the internet will help you discover a particular type of local support group that could help you. Here are a few support groups that may fit your needs.
Crown Ministries (financial counseling) – www.crown.org
Cancer support – www.mdanderson.org
Alcoholics Anonymous – www.aa.org
Grief Recovery – www.griefshare.org
Children with Disabilities – www.joniandfriends.org
Divorce Recovery – www.divorcecare.org
Divorce Recovery for kids – www.dc4k.org
Celebrate Recovery – www.celebraterecovery.com
Caregivers support – www.caregiver.com
Supportive friends can emerge from one of these groups, but friends may come from many other sources as well. Keep your heart and mind open to the people God puts in your pathway. You may make a friend at the hospital or in the doctor’s waiting room or at physical therapy. The person in the cubicle next to yours may need a kind word, or the mom next door may need a hug. Don’t just talk about your needs; find out about theirs. Reach out in the place you are at right now. You may think you don’t have the energy or time to make a new friend, but if you will use the opportunities in your new situation to build a connection, you will experience the joy of budding friendships.
Take a genuine interest in others, and they will take an interest in you. Be an encouragement to others, and you will find yourself encouraged as well. Love someone who is unlovely and difficult to love, and you may break through the wall around her heart and find a new friend.
While you are looking for a friend, be a friend. The result will be a heart filled with joy as you have lifted another person up. If we take the first step to touch another person’s life, we may be surprised at the connection that follows. Solomon reminds us, “A real friend sticks closer than a brother.” Let’s seek to be a real friend through caring for others, for as we do, we will find we are cared for as well.
God uses the people in our lives to help us and give us support.Don’t push away the people God brings. Listen to their advice and allow support.Make new connections by sincerely caring about others.Build on the relationships that emerge from support groups and with others who are going through similar challenges.Keep your marriage strong through healthy communication.While ultimately our healing comes from God, friends can be a salve to help the healing process.
Passage: Romans 12:9-16
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Loving and faithful Father, I praise you, for you will never leave me. Thank you for being the perfect friend. Thank you for healing my wounded heart. Thank you for the people you have sent into my life. Help me stay connected to them. Please strengthen my relationships and teach me to be a good friend to others. Open my eyes to new relationships ready to be formed and give me the grace to make lasting connections with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Write a note or email to someone (family or friend) who has been a support to you, and thank that person for being a part of God’s healing hand in your life. Tell your friend several qualities you appreciate about him or her, and be sure to include a sincere dose of hearty encouragement.
2. If you are married, take a moment today to tell your husband that you love him and appreciate him.
3. Make a point this week to intentionally pray about your relationships, asking the Lord to strengthen current relationships and open your eyes to new ones.
Excerpted from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive by Karol Ladd, pp. 163-165; 167-169; 175-176. Copyright © 2008, Howard Books. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.