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On a trip to the grocery store shortly after Catie’s death, I spied a lady I knew. She was not a close family friend, but she knew our story, and I knew her name. As I entered one aisle, she darted down another. When I went to produce, she pivoted and headed for the meat market. When I went for milk, she headed for bread. She avoided me the entire shopping trip. 

I don’t like to speculate on motives, but I know how awkward it can be to engage someone who is dealing with deep pain. I try to avoid those moments too. My mind spins with excuses. What will I say? They don’t need me bothering them! I’m not a trained counselor! How could I possibly help?

For many years – to overcome my tendency to maintain distance and avoid awkward conversations – I kept a small notecard taped to my desk phone that simply said, MAKE THE CALL! When I became aware of a friend in need be it from sickness, lost jobs, wayward children, death of a parent, marital problems, legal messes, or other painful events, I tried to make the call. Not much to it; a word of encouragement, a listening ear, a prayer. A lifeline to a person adrift in an angry sea.  

God designed us for relationships. We need one another. In good times and bad, friends are critical in our lives. The twin command that Paul issues to the Romans throws down a major challenge to our relationships: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) We need people in our lives to share our joys, but we desperately need people to share our pain. Friends multiply our joy and minimize our pain.  

Initiating relationships in times of suffering is very difficult. We need to build our social networks before the paralysis of pain engulfs us. Broadening and deepening our social support begins when we rejoice with those who rejoice. In the good times make friends, share a meal, attend a party, go to church, join a club, and never bowl alone!   

Friends we made in the good times provided the safety net we needed when darkness engulfed us. People mowed our yard, washed our car, cleaned our refrigerator, cooked meals, offered hugs, hit buckets of golf balls with me, took Cay to lunch, called, sent flowers, wrote cards, and in innumerable ways mourned with us in our mourning. They were the hands and arms of Jesus in our lives.  

Dan Bolin


Refueling in Flight Ministries, Inc


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