Many of you are jonesing for Pumpkin Spice Lattes and cozy sweaters on crisp fall days right now. You are just done with this season and ready to move on. I get it. It seems like many of my friends have been living “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Summer this year.

One friend is grieving the sudden death of her husband. Another reeling from a deeply painful betrayal, and another whose 18 month old has leukemia is living with chemo and isolation. Still others are dealing with “prodigal” children, dysfunctional communication in their families, and postpartum anxiety.

This pain leaves my friends wondering “Why, Lord, why? and WHEN will this END???”

In contrast, I have had a delightful summer, making me loathe to share my joy, for fear of intensifying their pain. I know. I’ve been Alexander in the past – the one in deeply wounded confusion.

I really want to be a good friend.

It’s timely, then, that I’ve been reading “The God of All Comfort” and doing a study of Job.

When our friends are hurting, our first inclination is to want to figure out and fix, right? After all, we hate seeing our friends suffer! The thing is, only God can fix it, redeem it, and in His time He will.

Often when we speak, we inadvertently add to the pain of the sufferer.

Without thinking, we say the normal, “How are you doing?” and the one in pain wants to scream, “HOW AM I DOING??? I WANT TO DIE, THAT’S HOW I’M DOING!!!”

A better option might be to give a hug and say “It’s so good to see you.” or “What is on your plate today?”

My friend whose child has leukemia wrote: “Someone told me today that the vaccines I chose to have my son receive caused his leukemia.”

WHAAAT???? Why would someone say that? ¬†As we talked about it, we agreed that when we draw close to people in pain, in addition to wanting to FIX, we also become aware of our own vulnerability. Our reaction may be to withdraw or come up with “reasons” that make us feel more protected.

But I believe God’s charge to us (though I do it poorly) is to sit with our friends in pain, not judge (as Job’s friends did), and listen more than we speak.

Glennon Doyle says friendship is two people acknowledging together that they are not God. Good word, that.

Joe Bayly lost three children years ago and wrote this after the death of one son:

“I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealing, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly. I wished he’d go away, and he finally did.

Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour – or more. He listened when I said something. He listened. He answered briefly. He prayed briefly, and then he went away. I hated to see him go.”

If you are hurting today, maybe all you need to hear is that you’re not alone. You are precious and beloved no matter what.