Because life is by nature uncertain, the course of our friendships will be affected by the pain of breakups, death and job loss. When your friend is going through a difficult season—whether because of relationships, employment or personal struggles—it can be tough to know how to help her during that time. You might be afraid that you’ll say the wrong thing, so you don’t say anything. Or you may hesitate to invite her to things because you don’t want her to feel obligated, even though you want her there.
If you have a friend in this position, here are five ways you can support her—things she needs even if she doesn’t see it yet.
- Listen. A listening ear is one of the best ways to support a friend during hard times. Your presence provides comfort and attention to help her process what she’s going through. Sometimes she’ll need to repeat the same stories and issues until she reaches a conclusion, and listening may be hard—especially if you can’t offer solutions! But just know that your listening ear IS accomplishing something: It reveals your compassion for her stage of life and gives her a safe place to work through her trial.
- Encourage. To encourage someone is to literally “put courage into” them. When you encourage your friend, you’re equipping her to face her trial. Speak words of life to her. Show her how to be confident and trust God in her circumstance—whether that means sharing a similar experience or pointing her to God’s Word. Give her perspective while still being gracious and attentive to her emotional state. Encouragement is one of the best ways to equip her for the road ahead.
- Pray. One of the most effective ways to help a friend in difficulty is to pray. Don’t just pray for her—pray with her, too! I once shared a difficult circumstance with a coworker of mine. She listened for a while, then said, “How about we pray about this right now?” As she prayed for me, she pointed me back to the truth of scripture and helped me gain the appropriate perspective on the trial I was facing.
- Invite. When a friend loses a loved one or goes through a life-changing trial, it’s natural to hesitate when inviting her to events and gatherings. But it’s still worth asking her to come along! In the midst of uncertainty and pain, many people crave normalcy, and being invited to events and get-togethers creates a sense of “normal” even when circumstances are anything but that. Bible studies, girls’ nights, local concerts and church events are all great ways to facilitate community for someone who feels isolated or alone.
- Exhort. Finally, exhortation plays a part in helping a friend grow beyond their season of difficulty. Save this for several months after the event occurred. While encouragement equips a person for the middle of their trial, exhortation lifts their eyes to what is coming next. When you exhort someone, you’re calling them to put faith in God’s long-term purpose, helping them to move forward and shift their eyes from the past to a glorious future.
As you learn to support your friends in difficulty, you’re giving them an example to learn from when THEY have friends in tough circumstances. How you walk with them through this season is a form of discipleship, and it brings glory to God in the most fundamental of ways.