Imagine you are spending time outdoors with a best friend and then suddenly you’re caught in a heavy storm. Lightning. Strong winds. Flooding. The weather forecast only said ten percent chance of rain. Lies! You both run towards shelter and wait for the storm to pass. As the downpour comes to a full stop, you inhale the sweet fragrance of freshly soaked earth released into the air.

Suffering can look a lot like this storm. We tend to view it as a negative experience. But in reality, suffering prepares us for a new season bursting forth in fullness. The good news is that we weren’t created to go through adversities alone.

A difficult season has a way of testing even the greatest of friendships. Some thrive while others quickly cave into a colossal death. We’re all acquainted with the grief that comes when one is severed. Many people build walls to protect themselves from this kind of pain and end up settling for shallow connections. I’ve learned to check the heartbeat of my friendships by asking myself the following questions:

“Am I privately getting myself together or am I inviting others in?”

“Am I asking for more than I am willing to give?”

I’ve realized that I have the capability to maintain healthy friendships even when I find myself in the darkest valleys. All around us there are people who are hurting. Here are 3 actions we can take in order to shift the focus from self-preservation to being a life-giving friend…

Help others through the greatest oppositions.

Frodo had Sam on his way to Mordor. Harry had Ron and Hermione at Hogwarts. Han Solo had Chewbacca inside the Millennium Falcon. Eleven had Mike, Lucas, and Dustin in Hawkins. Though each character has their own internal conflict, they are able to band together and go through the mud towards victory. Deep friendships involve risk; there is no hesitation to offer support. A consistent presence shines brightly.

Cheer others on in moving toward their purpose.

Sacrifice and humility remove the focus from ourselves and give less power to our obstacles. Use the power of encouragement and be a trusted voice in a friend’s life. We are then able to use our energy to listen and empathize with someone else’s pain. This is contagious. We will see others do the same for us in the midst of our suffering.

Author and speaker Paul Tripp perfectly describes it. “True friendship calls you out of the darkness of personal privacy, into the candor of mutual concern. It moves you from being a sealed envelope to being an open letter.”

Challenge others to look upward.

It’s important to share with others that light will shine again. We can easily throw ourselves a pity party the moment life becomes overwhelming. Giving up starts to look appealing. I’ve been in that position before. This the best time for a gentle reminder of the greatest presence of Love. But not every friend is ready to grasp this message. This step requires patience.

Waiting fosters growth in our lives. It’s not wasted time.

A heart doesn’t change based on suggestion. It has to seek transformation for itself. The best thing we can do is be an example of truth and grace. Let’s learn to patiently ride the storms together.