Within the past week, I lost two friends. One was a Christian, a member of my church. She committed suicide. The other was an atheist, a high-school buddy. I found out that she died of a drug overdose.
Mourning is a struggle for me, primarily because it's difficult to tell others I'm sad. I'm afraid they won't understand or won't care. So I've been walking around with a pleasant expression on my face, telling people "I'm fine" when they ask, "How are you doing?"
I'm not fine. I'm angry with my friends who took their lives. Why did they give up? I'm angry with myself. Was there something more I could have done? I'm angry with God. Why, God, did you allow their pain to become unbearable? Why didn't you send more help? Why didn't you intervene? My Christian friend (I'll call her "Elaine") had an incurable illness that caused chronic pain. My atheist friend (I'll call her "Nora") was, I just found out, being abused by a family member when we were in high school. I wonder why Nora never told me. And I wonder what I might have said if she did.
When friends are hurting, my first response is to try to alleviate that pain. Seems lots of folks do this. You've probably heard many Christians say, "I'll pray for you," and then talk of God's love and pray he'll bring peace and comfort. This is exactly what I did with Elaine. Just a few months ago, I held her hand and prayed, "Father, please heal your daughter Elaine's body. You know she can't handle this constant pain; please take it away. Please hear her cries and comfort her." I told Elaine how much I loved her, how much God loved her, and how her Father wanted to hold her in his arms.1