Emotional and spiritual pain in the lives of women run deep. Those wounds cry out for a healing deeper than the relief from a sincere hug or a comforting greeting card. But when women in our lives share their wounds with us, it can be hard to know exactly how to offer sincere help, honest encouragement, and true healing.
When a sister in Christ opens up about a deeper wound in her life or reveals something that she struggles with, how can you help her find healing?
Opening up about past and present wounds requires an incredible amount of vulnerability. We're called to come alongside the women in our lives who are hurting and embrace them with genuine sisterhood and authentic, agape love. So, with this in mind, here are four steps for how to love and help the women in your life who are suffering.
When a woman in your life opens up her heart to you, it can be easy to rush into the situation, ready to react and respond. But before giving consolation, advice, and recommendations, take a breath and invite the Holy Spirit to speak through you. Then ask for permission to speak into the situation.
On a practical level, that looks like repeating back what someone has just said, so that they know you were listening. "What I'm hearing you say is . . ." Then, after they've corrected you if you've misheard, or affirmed that you heard them correctly, ask permission. "Is it okay if I share what's on my heart?" If they want your advice, they'll be able to give you the go-ahead. But if they just want you to listen, this is a great time for step number two. . .
Define Your Role
One of the best ways that Joseph has helped me work through wounds and situations in our relationship is to define his role in that moment of conversation. He'll often ask me "Do you need me to listen to this problem, or would you like my help solving this issue?"
When you enter into that moment of vulnerability and pain, don't be afraid to have a miniature "define the relationship" talk. Ask what your friend needs the most from you in that moment. "Do you need someone to listen to what's been weighing on your heart, or would you like me to help you reach a solution?" Defining your role in the situation helps foster intentionality with how you respond. If someone just needs you to listen, you know that advice isn't warranted in that situation. If someone wants help to heal the wound, they'll know you're going to help them get the resources they need.
One of the most important things to remember is that we cannot fix, heal, or save anyone. However, Christ can fix the broken, heal the wounded and save the lost. Beautifully, He works through us to accomplish that.
When someone opens up to you, it could be that you are a stepping stone for them on the way to the solution - but your help may not be the final solution to the problem. The prideful part of me wants to be the friend who is able to completely turn someone's life around with something I have said. But despite my desire to speak truth into wounds of the women in my life, most of the times I have to let friends know that I cannot provide all the help they need.
Sometimes, your advice and friendship may not be all your friend needs to solve the wounds in their life - and realizing that takes a lot of humility. God is the one who heals, and He's not expecting us to heal the wounds of the women in our life. But He does want us to come alongside them and love them with the love He shows for us as His children.
Know When Your Help Isn't Enough
As friends, we're called to be supportive and mirror God's unconditional love. Although we can come alongside the women in our lives and support them, there are times when their wounds are deep enough that they need someone else to reach a point of healing.
If someone in your life has opened up about a past wound, an addiction, or a dark part of their life with you, sometimes the best thing you can do to support them is to offer to help them find resources for their specific situation. Maybe that looks like recommending spiritual direction, or professional counseling. Perhaps there are resources that you know that are specifically catered to your friend's wound that you can help them find.
The most important thing for your friend to know is that you love them. Wounds are hard to share - our brokenness can make us feel isolated, worthless, and forgotten. But when someone opens up their heart to you and lets you see their wounds, reassure them that you're still their friend. Messiness and brokenness are part of the human condition, and nothing is too big for the Father's healing touch to mend.