I am back reading books by Henri Nouwen, that great Christian writer. On the outside, Nouwen looked as though he had so much. He was very bright, wrote beautifully and people were queuing up to read his work and hear him speak. However, he had frequent periods of feeling shaky and unwell. He knew that we can’t do the Christian journey, or life, on our own. We need friends, but what do we need them to do when we feel badly broken?

The temptation is to fill silence with words or mutter platitudes. But the tragedies and terrors we sometimes face are often beyond any words. The very kindest thing, the best thing we can do, is simply to abide with those who need us, just to be there and not to leave. We commit to standing with those who are in trouble. That is just what God promises to do – to abide with us. Nouwen put it like this.


The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.