The Power of a Friend in Anxiety Times

Two and a half years ago my father fell. He went into emergency neurosurgery at the age of 92 and eventually recovered, but that first month following the surgery  – the long stay in the ICU, then the hospital room, then the nursing and rehab hospital for physical therapy and occupational therapy and speech therapy waiting to see if he would ever be able to process words both coming into his brain and coming out his mouth – that first month was not my finest hour.

Alongside in Anxiety

It’s not that I wasn’t able to come alongside Dad. I was and I did. But I didn’t do it alone and I didn’t find it at all easy. In fact, my ability to do anything at all was completely due to the people around me. As I found myself dealing with the stress and anxiety – and the physical manifestations of them in my sleeplessness, loss of appetite, lack of focus – I needed people.

My wife is the one who drove with me the two hours to the Bay Area hospital and sat with me in the waiting room during Dad’s emergency surgery, who helped me work through all the logistics of going through Dad’s recovery period and then moving him to a senior assisted living apartment in our town. It’s not the first time she’s come alongside me when I’ve found myself anxiety-ridden over dealing with Dad’s medical emergencies. (See The Best Woman I Know.)

Others came alongside as well, including a whole slew of bloggers loaning me their words in order to keep my blog going when I didn’t have time to come up with my own posts. Their guest posts not only kept the blog going; their words kept me going. Each of these women wrote what I needed to hear as I was going through the stress and anxiety of those seemingly interminable weeks. (The posts by Adriana Kassner Cunningham, Michelle Van Loon, Jennifer Grant, Susy Flory, Carolyn Custis James, Keri Wyatt Kent, Aleah Marsden, and Cara Meredith are all linked in How I Got by with a Lot of Help from My Friends.)

The Blessed Offer

There is another whose support came at just the right time, too. Mark and I have known each other for years. His kids were in the youth group I worked with in church, and his oldest son became my son’s Bible study leader when my son entered high school. I reached out to Mark during the days my father was in the hospital, asking for prayer.

“Sure. Tell me how I can pray.”

“Liz had to fly to San Diego for some family stuff for a few days. I’m still driving to the Bay Area every other day to see Dad and check in with his doctors. I just need strength. This is hard.”

“When are you going next?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

“I can go with you. I’ll even drive.”

That is Mark. Offering to drive through Bay Area commute traffic each way, including navigating the freeway through San Francisco itself, and then back again through the same traffic – that offer came easy to Mark. His kindness lifted my heart in that moment.

I ended up not taking him up on his offer, though, and perhaps that’s a good thing. What I thought was going to be a two hour visit at the hospital with Dad and touching base with his doctors turned into a full day of visiting Dad, talking with doctors, waiting for lab results, talking more with doctors, talking to the hospital social worker about discharging Dad to the rehab hospital, and eventually making the long drive back home.

Mark would have handled it all without complaint. But the blessing he brought to me wasn’t to be obtained only if I’d taken him up on his offer. It was in the offer itself. I knew I wasn’t alone while Liz was gone. Mark’s words told me I had someone I could rely on, lean upon. Knowing this lowered my stress, relieved some of the anxiety, and allowed me to sleep better that night.

Liz flew back into town a couple days after that and she made the trips with me to and from Dad’s hospital. Her presence was the best anxiety relief I had. And Mark kept checking in, asking how to pray and offering to come along if we needed him.

A friend in anxiety needs.

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13 Responses to The Power of a Friend in Anxiety Times

  1. I have three prayer partners and we email each other every day. So valuable! Have only met one in person.

  2. hippiemama71 says:

    Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend is always loyal, but a brother is born in time of need. I had a similar experience when Marissa overdosed last year. A dear friend, sister in Christ, called off of her nightshift job to sit with me and was ready to drive me 3 hrs away when Marissa was transferred to children’s. Friends like that never understand how much (underscored and capitalized) even just their presence means.

  3. Kathy Heisleman says:

    Do you know the book “Love Does”? It’s just what you were talking about here….fun to know even more resources on this important topic.

  4. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    Wonderful to read such concrete examples of true friendship in action, Tim. These gestures mean so much.

  5. Ruth says:

    Very true words!

  6. Ruth says:

    Now I know I can comment again I will add to your story Tim! My father is 90, living in his retirement unit near us, a stand alone by the way. He had bronchitis, pneumonia and was in hospital for some time. The antibiotics he had to take have left him permanently incontinent. Every test under the sun, and a new diet. We have some carers visit him, but every evening and some mornings I do the necessaries.
    My wonderful husband comes with me as often as possible, helps take dad on outings, clears the garden of weeds and puts new batteries in dad’s large collection of torches as needed! Yes, he does have an electricity supply, but, well torches are his hobby!
    A shout out to my amazing man for being there so much. Dad can’t go into care until he is no longer aware of things around him as he hates change and has the most awful anxiety attacks if we aren’t there to ‘read’ his mood and needs……

  7. Anu Riley says:

    What a wonderful post. I got choked up thinking about all that was going on around you, and within you. It is very hard to describe what it’s like when a loved one is suffering. It’s even harder to know how to deal with a loved one who is suffering. There are so many practical things to work out, so your brain has to function in that capacity.

    Then there is so much emotional turmoil to work out, which is not so easy for the brain to deal with. Or barely has time to acknowledge, due to the heavy brain work of processing the practical tasks.

    But both are equally important. We tend to try to reign in our emotions in order to remain strong and vigilant for our loved one. But the Bible speaks in a different way. It says when we are weak, He is strong.

    It is just as practical to make time and space to release all those emotions to the Lord, or to a trusted friend—-and take on His strength when we have emptied ourselves. Those that try to be brave and tough it out on their own are rejecting the enormous honor it is to let the Lord carry us in His arms. And yes, I mean honor. Others might see it as a form of humiliation. It is anything but.

    The ones that love you the most will absolutely attempt to be there for you in any and every practical way. But the will also inquire about your emotional state as well, because that is just as important.

    The words that stood out to me the most were simple: “I needed people.”

    As Christians, of all people, we often miss the mark when it comes to that. Worship songs, sermons and even Bible verses get trotted out about how the Lord is “all you need.” Very true, by the way. There are no amount of people that can replace or even come close to the very presence of the Lord, near and dear when we need Him the most.

    But the Bible clearly acknowledges that we need each other, rely on one another, and most of all—-admonishes us to actively engage with one another. Not just when you are in time of trial and testing, but in everyday ways. You don’t need to be in extreme need in order to be encouraged, comforted or blessed. Hebrews 3:13 makes that clear. Every day matters.

    Countless times I’ve heard how people find out who their true friends are when a crisis hits. I’m beyond grateful that you had so many people there for you. Anytime you’d like to reach out and ask for prayer, or if there are particularly hard days, I am available for sure.

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