“I’ve prayed all these years, and God has never once answered.”

The weight of those words hung in the air between us.

As much as I wanted to disagree, to remind her of all the ways God has provided, I chose to simply listen.

My therapist friends have taught me the power of silence, of allowing another to think aloud, of allowing her to grapple with emotions in the sacred space of uninterrupted companionship.

Although we both knew her words weren’t true, in that moment, that was her felt truth. And feelings can be honest and raw and different than reality because they represent our perception, right or wrong, factual or not.

In a world of perfectly posed Instagram photos and enviable lives unfolding over Facebook statuses, it takes courage to admit that everything isn’t okay, that life feels unbearably hard, that God feels silent and just… gone.

And when someone bravely whispers that things aren’t perfect — a dreaded medical diagnosis, her marriage is on the rocks, her children are out of control, work is stressful, finances are tight, or whatever hard thing she whispers across that quiet space — what is it that we can do?

How do we respond to those whispered needs that feel so complex, so much less tangible than a bag of groceries secretly left on the porch or a volunteered afternoon at the local homeless shelter can fix?

When faith wavers, how do we show the love of Christ in a way that doesn’t come across as insincere — with answers that are too simplistic, with a distracted pat on the head as we quickly change the subject to something less scary, something that doesn’t cause tears or difficult emotions?  

Instead of rushing in with Christian clichés that I’ve grown to hate, it is sometimes okay to sit quietly alongside those we love in the hard places, simply present, simply loving.

And, we can pray. There is such power in prayer, and sometimes our role, our best help, is to faithfully and quietly pray when she is too tired, too weary to pray for herself. Because God is good. And he hears our prayers and is moved to respond (Matt 7:7-11) — even when life is hard, especially when life is hard.

Lord, you know the secret struggles each woman faces. Meet her in that hard place and give her hope and a dream for the future. Remind her of your great love for her as a beloved daughter of the Most High. And send her a confidante, someone who will pray for her when she is too weary, too tired to pray for herself. Amen.