Here are five ways that you can support a friend during hard times.
Pray for Them
One of the best things you can do for a friend who is going through hard times is to pray for them. The fact is, we are commanded to pray for one another, and how much more so for our friends and family! James writes, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Try doing this: Tell them “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph 1:15), and do it often. Give thanks for them to God and let them know it.
You don’t have to look hard for a Bible verse that tells us we should be encouraging one another, and this is just what the Apostle Paul wrote; “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1st Thess 5:11). Our lives should be about building others up, because the world and its problems to are beating them down; just like it does us at times. This is a critical time for you to be there for your friend. Don’t say “Wow, you really got yourself in a mess” but rather, “What can I do to help? I am praying for you already.” The essential definition of the word “encourage” in the Greek (“parakaleō”) means “to call to one’s side” or to be “side by side,” so let’s come alongside them in times of sorrows as well as joys.
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Give time to Them
We all are pretty busy. If I took a survey, I’d guess that the majority would raise their hand if I ask them, “Are you busy?” Welcome to my world too! The point is; time is valuable to us so, why not give the gift of time to your friend who’s going through a very hard time right now. You can bring them supper, you can send them cards/flowers, mow their lawn, baby sit their children, or any number of things you can think of that are probably better than my ideas. We all have these three to give; Our time, talents, and treasures, but there are times when the thing your friend needs the most is you!
Be understanding of Them
The Apostle Peter gives a good example about understanding the differences in others by writing “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman” (1st Pet 3:7). Even though this verse is about the marital relationship, it can make us think that every one of us are different and have weaknesses and probably do things that irritate people, and we’d want people to be understanding of how we are. The point is, when you understand more about what your spouse, your friend, your family member, or your co-workers are going through, you can have a relationship that is more understanding of their circumstances. When your friend is going through some hard times, they need a friend that would more understanding than anyone else. That would be you (and me), right?
A Familiar Comfort
If we see our friend in a hard place, we need only remember our own “dark night of the soul.” We’ve likely gone through some of the same things our friend is going through and that’s as it should be. God is at work. He has sovereignly placed our friends in our life. They’re no accident! God appointed them for us and us for them. As for comfort, the Bible says it is God “who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2nd Cor 1:4). Can we remember the times God comforted us, perhaps even using a friend? That’s real comfort, and since we should be familiar with it ourselves, we can give the very same kind of comfort to our friend. How great is that!
There are other things that you can probably think of to help a friend going through some very hard times. I know that it’s often difficult to know what to say and sometimes, like Jobs friends, they just sat there with him for a time. I don’t know the answer; just pray for them and tell them you are; encourage them as best as you can without overdoing it; giving of “you” and your time is very important; you know them so you can understand them better than others; and comfort them in the way God comforted us.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman
With the year coming to an end, it seems this has been a particularly rough one for many. So many friends and family have suffered a loss, received devastating health news or have endured heartache. Perhaps it’s the unprecedented political climate, or perhaps it’s just a reminder that life is fragile. There’s no time like the present to help each other through, but asking for help is often hard. Figuring out how to help can be equally as tricky.
Here are five ways to help a friend in need:
1. Just Listen.
Telling your friend her troubles remind you of “the-time-when” after she finally opens up to you, is not always helpful. I’m willing to bet the last thing she wants to hear is a 180 to the time when your cousin’s brother’s father-in-law had heart trouble. Try to validate her feelings without digging deep into your past for unhelpful parallels. Chances are, all she needs is a listening ear and shoulder to lean on.
2. This Is Not About You.
Several years ago my dad suffered complications from a back surgery, and I flew home unexpectedly. I told my closest friends, who were in constant contact with me throughout my difficult trip and for weeks upon my return. When an acquaintance found out weeks later, she kept pressing me to explain why I didn’t call her. I was dumbfounded and tried to deflect. Sometimes we’re just too overwhelmed and exhausted to field endless questions from those who are not in our inner circle. And while this sounds harsh, it’s a reality of life. Piling on the guilt and demanding explanations about why she didn’t call you only reinforces why she didn’t call you in the first place.
3. Offer to Help.
In her talk, “Just Show Up,” Sheryl Sandberg explains that asking a friend what you can do to help puts the onus on an already burdened person. Instead, she recommends just showing up, which I imagine means different things to different people, depending on the situation. I still think asking your friend how you can help is OK, but be ready to show up and actually do something. A check-in call, a card, a treat, a surprise in her mailbox, an offer to pick up the kids or make dinner – anything that makes sense in your particular relationship and lets your friend know you care, is a considerate gesture.
4. Don’t Add to Her Plate.
We all have busy and full lives, but there’s a way to share, rely upon and support each other without becoming a drain. If your friend is going through a rough time, choose someone else to dump your sorrows on. Sure, she still wants to be part of your life, and she may be hurt if you withhold information even for the most non-selfish reasons, but consider your timing and tread lightly.
5. Don’t Ask Invasive Medical Questions Unless Your Friend Shares.
When my daughter suffered a concussion, I fielded a constant barrage of invasive questions: Have you thought of this? Have you considered that? I wanted to scream. People with absolutely no relevant medical training seemed to suddenly have input on cutting-edge concussion treatments. (And yes, we saw every specialist available and got through it.) Please, for the love of God, hold your tongue. You’re not a doctor, and if you are, you’re not that kind of doctor, and if you are, please note that no one made an appointment with you for a consult.
Going through a rough time is hard enough without having to worry about what others think. My girlfriends and I try to live in a BS-free zone, but sometimes life gets in the way. I treasure and rely on our no-shame policy and our lack of who-owes-what-to-whom accounting. Stepping outside ourselves with empathy helps us to help others. The key to helping is to listen and offer the help needed. It’s not about you, but in the end, it makes your life a whole lot easier and more fulfilling.
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