When I miscarried our third child one conversation with a friend sticks out in my mind in particular. Funny thing is, I don’t remember a single word she said.

What I do remember is collapsing into the brown chair in my bedroom, heavy breaths and strained words pouring out of my mouth, before moving to the closet where the full-length mirror hangs, and describing how it sucked to look pregnant but be digesting the fact that I wasn’t.

I’m sure she talked too; it wasn’t only silence on her end, but I did most of the talking and that’s precisely my point. She wasn’t uncomfortable in the quiet moments where only tears dripped between us.

We all have a friend who’s suffering–maybe several. What is the best thing to say to her? And when we’re in pain what do we want to hear? How do we love well?

If that conversation taught me anything it’s that what’s said may not be that important after all. When the roles are reversed and I’m on the listening end, am I willing to sit still in the pauses, to resist the urge to fill up the air around us with words?

Isn’t God’s presence with us the biggest gift of all? As Immanuel simply is could our faithful presence be the most important offering we bring?

It’s been said folks want to rush through Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday. We’re uncomfortable with torn flesh and the alternating gut cries and awkward silences that precede death being finished. We’d rather gloss over the mess and live in the pastel colors and plastic grass of a risen dawn.

But Easter Sunday doesn’t come without the Friday before it.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

The Good Friday friend remains in the midst of the pain, even into darkness.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli Eli lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’?

She doesn’t correct the grief-stricken cry of the one who feels forgotten.

And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.

She perceives an unmet need and does not hesitate to act.

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance…ministering to him.

She persists through the gore, refusing to leave in spite of the heartbreak.

There are moments in The Suffering, whether in quick moments on the phone or slow months standing beside, in which it seems nothing is accomplished except the passage of time. Sometimes, though, it’s in the pregnant pauses of silence where unseen battles are won.

I’ve been both the Good Friday and the Easter Sunday friend and, I confess, sometimes I peter out too early. I feel I don’t have it in me to go the full distance of the capture-to-resurrection cycle. Mourning isn’t pretty. Do I rush to doll it up with shiny shoes and braided hair?

At one time or another we’ve all needed the kind of friend who makes herself available even when there’s nothing to be celebrated. Especially then. I pray I’m willing to keep vigil past sunset as the chill of evening sets in, whether I have a sweater or not.

Of course we should celebrate victory over death. The party should be wild and raucous. He deserves it. But let me never forget what he endured to get there.

To get us there.

Let us be present from the scourge to the resurrection, through darkness to bright hope, during brutality and its undoing. Instead of a detached bystander, may we be a people involved in both the grief and the relief.

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