Being a friend can be difficult, even inconvenient. It requires a commitment of time, effort, love, patience and kindness. There are times when your friends may need more help than you can give or may tax your patience.
Sharing and caring make a friendship real and enduring. The most difficult times are when friends expect you to carry their burdens or when you feel compelled to carry burdens for them. Would this be an act of love and Christian charity, or would helping them carry their own burden be of more benefit to your friend?
Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. —Galatians 6:2-5 KJV
Without doing anything wrong, everyone picks up burdens. It may be an ill child or elderly parent, a birth defect or inherited health or mental issue, job loss, timidity, growing up with abuse or going through a messy divorce. We may have been betrayed as children or in our adult lives, and may face trust issues. God wants us to help our friends carry their burdens, but instructs us to let them carry their own loads.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24 KJV
A load is a hardship we pick up along the road of life and add to our existing stress and struggles, resulting in feelings of martyrdom, anger and frustration. This can include self-debasement and self-abuse, reacting inappropriately in situations or behaving in an inappropriate way.
How can you show friends that you care and help them with their burdens without accumulating the baggage of their loads? Pray with them, bring them meals, visit them in the hospital, grieve with them, sit and listen to them or ask them what they need and want of you.
Help a struggling friend find a new job, a new home or a good care facility for their aging parent or spouse. Intervene if necessary, but let your friends make the decisions for themselves. Empower them and give them the strength to deal with what is yet to come.
For example, if your friend needs help with alcoholism or other addictions, help them find the right treatment program if they want your help. AA is a wonderful source for comfort and aid where addictions are concerned, and Al-Anon can help a person discover if and why they are an enabler, and how they can more successfully help their friend in need. This is a journey that a person must undertake themselves, with the assistance of those who have been through the same experience and have emerged from the other side, successful and reborn.
A friend who goes out of the country to serve in the military will also need your support. He or she is away from home and family. Write letters, chat online if you can, help the partner left at home deal with separation anxiety and the very concrete fear they may feel. This is where including their family within your own can be the best comfort of all. You will not be able to replace the missing parent, but you will be able to help the one left behind.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. —Psalms 25:15 KJV
No friend can take away another person’s pain, no matter how great the love between them. However, small things can help ease the weight of their burdens. Small acts of kindness, like remembering to call or offering to cook dinner can make a world of difference. Just being with them may be the best gift you can give.