Steel Bridge or Toothpicks?

Recently, I was reading through my Kindred Moments prayer journal and the author was talking about standing in the gap for others through intercessory prayer. She talked about us being bridges over the gaps and asked if we were steel bridges or toothpick bridges. I’ve thought more about this not only in regard to praying for others, but also in supporting others through their trials.

My husband has suffered with chronic health problems for 14 ½ years. There are times when I’ve had to be a bridge for him. There are times when I was a bridge of steel, but I’m ashamed to admit that there were also times when my steel morphed into flimsy, wooden, toothpicks.

 What do toothpick bridges look like? They are small, flimsy, and easily broken. They wine about everything and only give lip service to those around them who need their support. These are the ones who say, “You can count on me,” but when the need arises they are too busy complaining about their own woes to see the pain that others will go through. Also included in this group are those who give flippant answers or empty clichés to others who are hurting and usually have no clue that their words cut into another’s heart.

I’ve had two such experiences. A few months after my brother died, I was in a state of significant depression. I went to a small women’s Bible study group at church and was in a fragile state. I needed some friends to be steel bridges. I was falling apart inside and it was all I could do to actually get there. I shared a small portion of my pain over my brother’s death, and one of the ladies said, “This too shall pass.” Was she right? Would that pain pass? Eventually it did. I still have moments, but the heavy, dark pain that sucked the life out of me is gone now. However, I will never forget that loss. There will always be a scar there. Her answer invalidated what I was feeling and cut to the core.

 Another evening one of the ladies asked me how I was doing. I responded in honesty, “I’m not doing too well this evening. I’m really struggling.”

Her response was, “Just act like you want to feel until you feel like you’re acting.”

I remember being so stung. I was in a wounded state, and my heart was full of tremendous pain. Depression was so dark and heavy that my own journal writing scared me. I wrote about not wanting to live any more. I needed prayer that evening. I needed a hug. I needed someone to listen and care. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to that group for a very long time.

I’ve since worked through those moments, and I hold no grudge against either lady. Neither of them meant harm. They were just at a point where they really didn’t get it. But I did learn what not to do when someone expresses his or her pain to me.

How can we be bridges of steel? We love others. When we see their pain, we don’t harshly judge them. We express our love and pray for them. We offer a hug and a shoulder to cry on. We tell them that they can call us anytime and we mean it. We sit in silence with them and just listen when they share. We don’t answer with clichés and meaningless advice to “just be happy.” We anticipate what they might need and are quick to provide it. We send them a card that says, “I’m thinking about you and I care.” We give them a call, but respect their right to be silent. We ask them what we can do for them and then actually do it. We become a rock that they know they can count on. We take them a meal and offer to take their children to our house for the afternoon. We look for ways to help and then act on them.

We all have times in our lives when we need someone else to bridge the gap for us; not with toothpicks that break under pressure, but with steel that stands firm even in the strongest winds.

 I am thankful for the steel bridges in my life, those friends and family members who cry with me when I hurt and rejoice with me when I am rejoicing. They notice when things aren’t quite right with me. When you have a steel bridge in your life, you can’t hide behind a façade because they see right past it. They are also the ones who turn to you to be their steel bridge when they are in need. They allow you to see their tears of pain and when you ask how they are doing, they give you an honest answer. Who are the steel bridges in your life? Take time today to thank God for them.

 

And to all my steel bridges – I think you know who you are – thank you for being there. Thanks for praying for me, crying with me, and rejoicing with me. I cherish your love, friendship, and encouragement.

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4 thoughts on “Steel Bridge or Toothpicks?

  1. Oh Lisha, THANK YOU for being YOU. I feel priveleged to be in your circle of friends. Your honest sharing allows me to be human and encourages me to hang on. I think of that verse in Proverbs 27:17 that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” You not only encourage but you sharpen and challenge me to become the person God intends me to be. I think that’s what “the body of Christ” is all about.

  2. I like how you contrasted the ineffectiveness of one line ‘glib’ answers compared to showing compassion through practical actions of reaching out to those who are hurting.
    God bless

  3. I hope I have been a steel bridge for you. If I have not, rest assured that is my desire. I’ve grown to love you and your family in such a short time. All four of you are valuable to me. If I am ever or have ever been that toothpick bridge, you have my permission to slap me around.

  4. I just stumbled across this blog post. This comes at a very good time, as I have been thinking more and more about how I can be a support to those who are hurting. Within the last month, we’ve had a couple families at our school who have been greatly affected by tragedy, as well as several family friends who are facing cancer treatments. When my mother died, an older friend of the family, who did lots of counseling within the church, made a statement to me which has always stuck. He said, “Never tell someone you know exactly how they feel. You are not that person.” Even if I’ve been through something similar or identical (as was the case with both my sisters and I losing our mother to cancer while we were still young), I can’t possibly fully understand how someone else feels. We can, however, listen when a person needs to just talk about their pain, we can offer a hug (which sometimes speaks louder than words), we can weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15), and we can offer the comfort that we have received from God as described in II Cor. 1:3-4. I’ve heard the initial stage of pain being described as “having your finger still stuck in the door.” Sometimes the pain is so great that you can only think of the pain; the last thing you want is for someone to throw a comment or cliché out there that invalidates how you are feeling. That would be like the verse Proverbs 25:30: “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”

    Thank you, Lisha, for being that steel bridge for me more than once. ☺

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