How to Encourage Hurting Friends

Encouraging friends when they’re happy, healthy, and successful is one thing. I can buy their books or like their social media posts. I can host a baby shower or a birthday party. Congratulations and well wishes can be texted, emailed, telephoned, or spoken aloud.

What do you do to encourage friends when their life unravels? <<Click to Tweet

Earlier this year, I watched people I love experience pain. Our community of friends was hurting – in more than one way at various times. A marriage close to me shattered. Another friend struggled physically through all her pregnancies and each time she had people to take care of while she attempted to function through the nausea. I’ve seen broken relationships and hurt feelings. I’ve processed some of my own childhood wounds. People at church are grieving and healing and waiting.

Certainly, pray for and with your friends. Acknowledge you believe God’s promise for everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

In her devotional What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days, Holley Gerth writes: “To encourage literally means ‘to give courage,’ and that’s what God wants to do for us on the hard days. He says to us, ‘I’m here. I will help you. I will give you strength to take one more step.’ He looks at your life with infinite love and tenderness. And he knows how hard it is to be us sometimes. He lived in this world. He experienced pain. He died on a cross. Jesus understands how brutal this world can be.”

Yes, God knows about and redeems the hard days, but they’re still difficult and exhausting when we’re in the midst of them.

The pain doesn’t necessarily subside when we want it to, but we can share God’s love with our friends when they’re struggling:

1. Be present. If your friend has an important appointment she doesn’t want to face alone, go with her. Sit down and really listen when she’s had a bad day. Be available, in case she needs you. Be silent, if that’s what she wants. Coming alongside your friend and her pain speaks volumes, even if few words are actually exchanged.

2. Help with ordinary chores. Sometimes pain limits our ability or motivation to take care of daily tasks. Volunteer to pick up groceries when you’re doing your own shopping. Help clean her house. Stock her freezer with dinner options or show up with a ready-to-eat meal. Take her dirty laundry away and bring it back washed and folded. If she has kids, offer to take them for a few hours.

3. Remember important dates. When there’s a situation that makes her anxious, jot down on your calendar your friend’s next doctor checkup or marriage counseling appointment. Set your time to pray at a time you said you would.

4. Embrace normal. Even when they’re hurting, our friends want to be invited over and included in other regular plans. While they may not be able to think about much more than their pain, they still need to have a life that has some sense of normalcy.

5. Send care packages and real mail. You can do this even if you live in the same town. Drop off her favorite treat when you know she’s had a hard day. Box up goodies for your friend who lives far away when you know she could use the extra dose of love. Emails, texts, Facebook posts, and handwritten cards and letters are great ways to give encouragement.

Whatever you decide to do, know your hurting friend will be encouraged when you come alongside her in whatever she’s experiencing. That alone will remind her she’s loved dearly, regardless of her circumstances – by both you and our Savior.

How about you? Do you have any suggestions on how to help a hurting friend? I’d love to hear in the comments. 

Encouraging friends, whether they are hurting or celebrating, comes down to community. That's one of the themes in my new ebook that documents my journey through infertility and two adoption processes into motherhood. "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" officially releases today and is available on Amazon.

Kristin believes in seeking God as the author of every story. You’ll quickly learn her favorite story to tell is how God created her family through adoption after a hard season of infertility. God continues to surprise her – in the best kind of way – with all the ways her life is nothing like she expected. She lives in Murray, Ky., with her husband, Greg, and two kids – Cate and Ben. She never leaves home without her iPhone, which reminds her where she’s supposed to be going, holds many notes documenting her ideas, and helps her document life. 

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