Have you ever had a friend who has confided in you that he or she is struggling in their marriage?
Ted and I have. More than once.
And I’m not talking petty issues like stray socks left on the bathroom floor, but deep stuff. Things like infidelity, emotional detachment, and conflict that have been brushed under the rug for so long that now there’s no simple way to sort through it.
How have we responded when these friends have come to us?
Well, certainly not as relationship experts. Because we aren’t. Sure, I’ve authored a book on marriage that releases soon, but I write as a friend and fellow traveler. One who’s willing to be vulnerable and transparent in what God’s teaching me in my own marriage in hopes that it encourages others. Not as someone with all the answers.
The truth is, sometimes I feel ill-prepared and unequipped as a friend pours out her heart to me over Starbucks coffee or a bowl of French onion soup at Panera.
There’s a good likelihood that at some point you too will have friends who are struggling. Maybe you do now. I’d venture to guess that many of you, like Ted and me, aren’t marriage counselors, relationship experts, or seasoned pastors and their wives. That like us, you’re an everyday sort of person who has a passion to see marriages around you not only survive, but thrive, yet you don’t always know all of the right things to say.
If that’s you, be encouraged! Even if you feel unqualified, you can still be there for your friends. Here are three things I’m learning normal, non-counselors like you and me can do.
Listen. Sometimes in the past, I’ve been too quick to interject. I’ve been so hurried to formulate my own response that I’ve missed what’s being said. I’m discovering that it best serves my friends to let them finish sharing before I speak. And, as I actively listen, I also pray for wisdom in how to respond.
Encourage. When my turn to speak comes, I base my responses on biblical truth. The truth that God is a God of forgiveness and reconciliation — a God who designed marriage and wants to bring healing to relationships. I also encourage my friends to seek out the help of a trusted Christian marriage counselor if they haven’t already. At one point, Ted and I even offered to put our money where our mouths were and pay for a few sessions for friends.
Pray. Most importantly, I pray for them. For their marriage. My prayers stem from the belief that we serve a listening God who is in the business of miracles. Even when I have friends who I know have given up on their relationship, I still pray that the God of the impossible will bring restoration to their marriage.
The truth is, you and I can’t fix our friends’ marriages or guarantee that they last. What we can do is strive faithfully to be an encouraging, biblically-centered voice of truth in their lives. And even though that may seem like it’s not enough at times, your efforts — no matter how unqualified you may feel — could make a difference.