When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.

–Henri Nouwen

Have you ever heard the old Swedish proverb, “Shared joy is doubled joy; shared sorrow is halved  sorrow?” Sharing what I feel with another person heightens my joys. And lessens my sorrows. In the context of friendship and connection, my feelings and my experiences are altered. Especially in the face of pain.

Four years ago my dad died. “Big John” was a retired Army colonel, who was bigger than life even in his final years when his body was betraying him, his muscles atrophying from an auto-immune disorder called Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. CIDP is a rare neurological disorder in which there is inflammation of nerve roots and peripheral nerves and destruction of the fatty protective covering (myelin sheath) of the nerve fibers. His muscles stopped receiving the signals to work and eventually atrophied. For my dad, it was a slow-progressing disorder that allowed him to stay mostly vigorous in his life. It eventually led to an inability to stand upright and having to spend his last year in a wheelchair. But, oh, Dad was so sharp and so funny even in our last conversation. His death has left a sharp hitch in my breath that sometimes catches me off guard in unexpected moments of sadness.

Shortly after his death, as I was missing my dad quite terribly, a friend asked if there was anything she could do. I responded, “Just be with me.” I didn’t need words (or a casserole). I just needed her to be present with me and be a witness to my story. To my grief. Her very presence, her holding of my pain with wordless gentleness, halved my sorrow. It didn’t take my grief away, but I wasn’t alone in it. She was with me.

One of the greatest gifts was can give in friendship is “with-ness.” With-ness in joy, with-ness in sorrow, with-ness in the quiet and hard, with-ness in the boisterous and joyful. With-ness as a witness, a testimony, of our friendship with the other.

ACTION: Do you have a friend who does “with-ness” well? Who knows how to be present with you—to double your joy and halve your sorrow? Which friend in your life needs YOUR with-ness today?  And where do you notice the with-ness of God—His Immanuel friendship—in this season of your life? What would you like to say to Him about that?


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Rupture and Repair
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