As words of pain poured from my friend Jenny's lips, I listened helplessly. She'd recently discovered her husband was in love with another woman. I didn't know what else to do but put my arms around her and pray. Yet while I strongly believe in the power of prayer, my promise to pray for her seemed like an easy way out. I wished I could do more to help.
The next morning, I drove over to Jenny's house to see how she was doing. As we sat at the kitchen table, sipping tea, her doorbell rang. It was Jenny's neighbor, Sarah, dust rag and furniture polish in hand.
"Keep doing what you're doing," Sarah insisted after giving Jenny a hearty hug. "I'm here to do your dusting." As she quietly went to work, I knew Sarah was doing more than tackling a chore she knew Jenny disliked. Sarah was praying for her as she worked, her love for her friend evident through her actions (see James 2:18).
I learned something during Jenny's time of crisis. I used to avoid someone's pain because it made me uncomfortable. I wasn't sure what to say or how to help. But after going through Jenny's grief with her, I saw that the friends who avoided her only magnified her pain and intensified her dwindling self-worth.
Not long after this, another friend was diagnosed with cancer. Overnight, she was thrown into the terrifying world of medical tests, surgery, and chemotherapy. Following Sarah's example of "dust rag praying," I fixed a casserole and took it over. My friend's feeble response to my knock on the door almost made me turn away. Feeling intrusive, I hesitantly let myself in.
"Oh, thank you for coming!" she said when she saw me. "It's so lonely here by myself all day."
At her insistence, I brewed us some tea and sat down to visit. Beside her recliner sat a huge basket of cards people had sent. "I'm grateful for the cards, but … " she said, sighing as I leafed through them, "I desperately need live conversation to distract me from what's happening right now."
Another friend was far more frank with me after her son's death. "If one more person asks me to let her know if I need anything, I'll scream! I hurt too much to even think about what I need. Why can't they call me and just say something like, 'Don't worry about cooking tonight. I'm bringing dinner over'?"
Jenny and her husband eventually reconcileda tremendous answer to prayer. And now they say their reconciliation was directly related to friends who gave them physical as well as spiritual support.
God knows how vital tangible contact is. He sent us his only Son in human form. Today he relies on us to be the tangible evidence of his love for the world. My prayersmixed with my actionswill do that. Sarah and her dust rag taught me that both are essential for healing.
Mayo Mathers is an author who lives with her family in Oregon.