When I was catching up with a friend, I noticed she wasn’t her bubbly self and looked listless.
I asked, “Is everything ok?”
She replied, “I couldn’t sleep last night because I heard those voices again.”
I was surprised. “What kind of voices?”
“Voices that tell me I’m not good enough, that I’ll never achieve anything. And sometimes they tell me to harm myself because I’m not worthy to be loved.”
As my friend continued to share how this had gone on for some time and that she was on medication to help the voices go away, I was shocked. I had no idea she’d been struggling with this, and how it had affected her so much. Wanting to help, I offered, “The next time you hear those negative voices at night and cannot sleep, call me so that we can talk and pray together.”
Over the next few weeks, my friend called me frequently at night. Sometimes she sounded anxious, other times she was agitated. The voices were at it again, like a boomerang that went round and round in her mind, tearing down her worth, eating away at her. The phone calls could last over an hour, and I would try my best to calm her down, speak words of hope and truth to her, and pray with her, asking the Lord to protect her from the voices and to help her sleep soundly.
As the weeks progressed to months, the late-night calls began to weigh down on me, interrupting my studies and taking time away from rest. Realising I had to set some boundaries so that my friend would not over-rely on me and for me to manage my own well-being, I roped in some mutual friends to take turns in journeying with her through those difficult nights.
It was a long battle for our friend to fight those voices, and it made us frustrated at times, wondering when these voices would ever disappear. Was this a physical condition that could be treated with long-term medication? Was this a spiritual battle of the mind that could be won by prayer? There were no easy answers, but one thing we were sure of — we wanted to love our friend by sharing her burden.
As Jesus-followers, we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, which Jesus referred to as the second greatest commandment (Matt 22:39–40). One way of fulfilling this commandment to love our neighbours is to “carry each other’s burdens”, which was Paul’s encouragement to the churches in Galatia (Gal 6:2). We are to share one another’s struggles, help those in trouble, and not stay away because of the fear of getting implicated in a messy situation. Even though we may feel helpless with regard to our friend’s situation, we can intercede for our friend by praying to God who is faithful to hear our cries and who is mighty to save. By actively looking out for friends and others who are going through difficulties, we can become God’s channel of love to one another.
Years have passed since those late-night phone calls, and I’ve had many other moments of learning what it means to carry one another’s burdens. Sometimes it meant comforting a friend whose mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes it meant hugging a friend tight as she confessed her secret sin in tears. Sometimes it meant helping a friend in her studies when she missed classes because of a tough situation. Whatever it is, when you reach out to a friend in need, you are sharing one another’s burden and making a difference which matters much. Never underestimate what one small act of love can do. It can turn someone’s life around.