Am I A Bad Friend?

2 Dec

This past weekend I offended a friend. 

Job and His False Comforters, Jean Fouquet c. 1460

We made a plan to pray together, and before we did, I discussed with her how difficult Thanksgiving had been for me.  Dinner was just right, just what I needed, but the lead up to the family gathering had me in a state of severe woe.  I’m ready for a different kind of family gathering already, you know? I want to have my own place, with my own china, with my own food selections, and my own choice of guests.

So my friend listened and commiserated.  Then told me that, like mine, her own Thanksgiving was quite difficult.  It capped a particularly difficult week for her.  Her car broke down on the highway at 10 o’clock at night and she’d felt scared and alone.  Though she was immensely grateful to God for the impressive rescue that He maneuvered out of the situation, she was tired.  She wanted to have a husband to call who would come to her rescue.  So later that week, during a 2 hour sojourn by bus and train, alone, to her Thanksgiving dinner, she was depressed and lonely.  My friend begged God that this be her last Thanksgiving as an unmarried woman.

Unlike her commiseration with me, I offered her insensitivity.  I responded with something along the lines of, “How could you not be completely satisfied with the Lord seeing the amazing way that He took care of you that night on the highway?”  When she defended herself, and her feelings, I realized what an idiot I was.  She is entitled to feel how she feels. “You are right and I am wrong,” I apologized.  But when we prayed, I did not pray that God would hasten the arrival of her husband. I prayed that He would bring her peace and a friend, or something like that.  Afterwards, I got the impression that my prayer was not appreciated very much.  There wasn’t exactly hearty agreement.  Which made me feel bad. Had my prayer been laced with judgment?  The next day I texted another apology.  And my friend did not respond.

The thing is, I feel bad because I couldn’t pray a more supportive prayer. But I couldn’t pray a more supportive prayer because I honestly do not support my friend’s point of view. I emphatically do not believe that marriage is the answer to what ails my friend. 

She thinks, as do a lot of singles, that marriage will make everything better.  If she were married she would not have to deal with a broken down car on the highway alone at night.  But who says so? Having a husband, even a godly husband, does not guarantee that you will get the exact kind of support that you need exactly when you need it. This kind of expectation is a paving stone on the road to divorce, even in Christendom.   Maybe your only-too-human husband would come to the scene and make things worse instead of better.  Maybe he would be so nervous and worried, about the car, about you, about the money, that you would regret even telling him that you had a problem.  Maybe he would be so tired or busy or saddled with childcare that he decides not to come out to meet you, but maybe to stay on the line with you if you want.

My friend thinks that if she were married she would not have to feel angst on Thanksgiving about being alone.  But what about the angst that she might feel because she has a family and is not alone?  Marriage is not a magic elixir that instantly takes the emotional edge off. Marriage might even add an additional emotional edge. In-laws anyone? What about having to host Thanksgiving for your family and his, doing the shopping, cleaning, cooking, and baking, while still going to work and being Mommy to the kids? What about Thanksgiving road trips with a car full of tired, cranky, or bored kids? What about the added financial strain associated with said Thanksgiving travel?

The point is that marriage is not the answer to every problem that the single woman faces.  The unpleasant emotions that surface in all of our lives, married or single, are a cue to listen to what is happening in our souls.  And then to bring our real issues or concerns to the Lord.  Sadness about breaking down on the highway at night, could be an indication that your soul is longing for intimate relationship with someone, not necessarily a husband. Maybe your soul is wondering if anyone really, truly, cares and needs to be connected to a friend or a relative who will remind you of their care and concern when you are in a bind.  Or perhaps feeling sadness signals worry about the cost of car repairs and a fear of inadequate resources.  Maybe the feeling of sadness is an indication of sheer fatigue and worry about being able to get done everything that had to be gotten done that night, and then also in the morning despite being doubly tired.  Each of these unspoken thoughts, though, because they remained unspoken, could not be addressed or refuted by the Lord.  Instead my friend’s true needs, to know that she is loved, that God will provide, and that God will give her strength and grace besides, were transformed into a fantasy wish for a husband who would make all things better. 

God help me not to be like one of Job’s comforters.  And God help my friend to know You like Job came to know you.

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5 Responses to “Am I A Bad Friend?”

  1. Slamdunk December 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Fantastic post. Acting as a comforter to people is a difficult road where one thing can change what was hoped to be a positive change. I hope your friend reflects on what you said–things happen for a reason.

    God Bless you as you continue to help others.

  2. gooseberrybush December 7, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    I really enjoyed this post. So true. Not everyone is meant to be married, and marriage is not a cure all. A husband is not a guarantee of happiness or success, and women shouldn’t define and judge themselves based solely on their ability to attract and keep a man.

  3. Callmekatie May 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    I know I am coming to this post almost 2 years late, and I do hope that things are better with your friend. As a married person, I STILL have issues relating well, in a Christlike way, to friends sometimes (single OR married friends).

    I don’t think you are a bad friend, and I don’t doubt that you were sincerely trying to help her. But I would encourage you to rethink your view on marriage, or, specifically, HER desire for marriage. Perhaps it has become an idol, perhaps not. (There wasn’t enough information in the post to say.) But as one author says (if I remember it right), the Scriptures on contentment need to be taken in context. God did tell Adam it was not good for him to be alone; He did design a woman to be Adam’s “help meet.” The Bible is also pretty clear that NOT all people are called to be married; I don’t doubt that there are some who are at peace with that, and I think I even know one, perhaps more.

    However, for someone who DOES earnestly long to be married, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that that is not a reflection of who God made him/ her to be. God created marriage. God loves marriage. It’s true that the woman’s husband might NOT come to be with her that night, but probably just having him on the line or knowing he was there to go home to would be enormously comforting for her, as I know it would/ will be for me when I am in that situation.

    For those called to be married, a friend is not the answer (and, to be blunt, replacing romantic relationships with friendships can lead to unhealthy friendships: platonic friendships weren’t made to carry the weight of emotion that marriages are).

  4. Callmekatie May 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    …All that to say, I would encourage you to pray for wisdom, that God would give you the right heart…and He may just lead you to pray enthusiastically for a husband for your friend and maybe even (I don’t know what your desires are or what your heart is currently) one for yourself as well. 🙂

  5. Astrid Noubissi November 22, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    I read your post and I feel sorry and compassionate towards your friend. I can not agree with your view because I don’t think we can easily assess when a longing for husband is based on unrealistic needs / lack of contentment or based on a true longing for a lifetime partner and companion in faith and Jesus Christ.
    Sure, a husband may not help me out of all situation but he can at least bring some support when I need advice for anything a man is comfortable doing ( leadership, wise and God centered authority, guidance etc…)
    I understand where you friend comes from:
    the marriage is this place and season of life where I can learn to trust and be intimate with a man to a higher level than any friendhip has allowed me in the past.
    I had my car breaking dow/ not starting, in the middle of the night and I have cried out to God ” See God, I really can’t do it anymore…
    The stress and the pain are real but my content in Jesus Christ is greater…

    I hope your friend and you are back on better terms.
    As christian we have to mourn with our brothers/sisters when they mourn and rejoice with them when they do…
    forgive my poor English which is not my native language.

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