How to Encourage a Hurting Friend
When a friend is in crisis, it can be hard to know what to do. We want to demonstrate care and concern, but we’re afraid of intruding or saying the wrong thing.
Having been there myself, I’d love to share a few insights gained through dark times when others have stepped in to encourage me.
[Read more about my own trials here: Singing in the Shadow of His wings: Truths to cling to during trial and tragedy.]
When a Friend is Hurting, Remember This:
1. Those who have experienced suffering are often best-equipped to encourage those who are currently suffering.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tell us this: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Keep in mind that the situation need not be exactly the same. While it can be extremely comforting to receive encouragement from a friend who has been in your shoes, it is also comforting to receive encouragement from those who have suffered in other ways.
For example, as I experienced and then recovered from a recent ectopic pregnancy, prayers and encouragement from one friend in particular were especially meaningful because she herself had gone through the same thing years before.
At the same time, I received great encouragement from other friends who have weathered the storms of life, though they’d never specifically experienced an ectopic pregnancy.
The application is this: We should always look to encourage those facing the same trials we ourselves have faced, but we should not let it keep us from encouraging those facing trials of other kinds.
Again, look at 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (printed above): “so that we can comfort those in ANY trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.”
2. As a part of God’s family, it is our job to encourage each other.
The following verses from the New Testament speak of encouraging one another:
- Romans 12 (esp. verses 8, 10, 15)
- 2 Corinthians 13:11
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14
- Hebrews 3:13
I especially love verse 15 of Romans 12:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
And Galatians 6:10:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Also Ecclesiastes 4:9-10:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
3. Doing SOMEthing is always better than doing NOthing.
There are so many ways to help a friend in need, and none of us can do all of them. But there is always SOMEthing we can do to demonstrate love and support.
Please see the sequel to this post: 10 Practical Ways to Help a Friend in Need.
4. Do something practical!
I am reminded of Proverbs 3:27-28:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.
And 1 John 3:18:
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Again, stay tuned for the sequel to this post: 10 Practical Ways to Help a Friend in Need.
The Helpful Phrase That Really Isn’t
The verses above make me think of a certain phrase I’ve heard over and over, and am guilty of having used myself.
Have you ever said one of these to a friend in need:
- Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
- Call me if you need anything.
- Do you need anything?
If you’ve said one of these to a friend, what was their response?
Did they call you up and say, “Well, actually, we’d really love for you to bring us a meal.” Or, “We’re completely out of fruit at our house. Could you stop by the grocery store?” Or, “The kids have big-time cabin fever and I’m exhausted. Can they come over to play while I rest?”
Probably not. How many of us would feel comfortable making such a specific request for help? Not many. Perhaps I am alone in this, but I suspect not.
I don’t mean to sound accusatory. I know it’s a common thing to say when we want to be helpful but aren’t quite sure what to do. I myself am guilty of saying “Let me know if you need anything”.
In many cases, the offer to help is sincere, though it typically misses the mark of any real follow-through or practical help.
Truthfully, it is often an attempt to pat ourselves on the back for our “thoughtfulness” without actually having to go out of our way to do anything. Well, I asked and she said they didn’t need anything. (Pat, pat).
In recent years, I have made a concerted effort to avoid this phrase and its many variations, replacing it instead with a more practical question or action.
After landing on the receiving end of practical help and encouragement over the years (as well as not-so-practical help and pseudo-encouragement), I’ve picked up a few tips, which I’ll share in the sequel to this post: 10 Practical Ways to Help a Friend in Need.
In what ways have others encouraged you during a time of need?
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