I used to think that one of the best things I could do for a friend in crisis was give her some space. Maybe I never actually put it into words, but that’s what my actions often communicated. I cared about her, but I didn’t know what to say; I didn’t know if she’d want me to infringe on her privacy; and honestly, if I were in her shoes, I wasn’t sure I’d want me around either. But after facing some hard situations myself and walking with close friends through their trials over the past few years, I’ve changed my mind.

When my children were diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, the friends who pressed in were the ones who helped me the most. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” and it’s the friends who love me at “all times,” especially the unexpectedly confusing, painful, and lonely times, who the Lord uses to communicate his nearness and compassion the loudest. That’s the kind of friend I want to be to others.

Busyness Isn’t an Excuse

I could easily use my season of life as a mom with five young children as an excuse to ignore or neglect my hurting friends. True, my hands are full with my own family and it isn’t always easy to prioritize proactive care for those living outside of my home. However busy our season of life is, though, there are ways we can love our friends through adversity. It might require sacrifices on our part, but we remember that Jesus showed us what true love is when he gave up everything to leave his heavenly throne, became like us, and died in our place.

None of us have arrived. We can’t care for all the people we’d like to, as well as we’d like to, and there will always be more we could do. But here are five ways we can love a hurting friend.

Five Ways to Love a Hurting Friend

  1. Pray

Don’t underestimate the value of prayer. Charles Spurgeon certainly didn’t when he said, “No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.” Even if you live in a different time zone or are strapped in a wheelchair, you can pray. We don’t have to be the perfect Comforter or Counselor for our friend, just willing to go to the One who is on her behalf. We ask Jesus to comfort our friend and give needed wisdom. We can’t solve her problems or change her circumstances, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. We can entrust her to the one who is in control and is able to work on her behalf.

  1. Serve

We serve however we’re able, especially in a crisis. We text, message, email, call, and visit our friends. We don’t wait for them to reach out for help or say, “Let me know what you need.” Instead, we try to think for them. We make a meal and drop it off. We offer to pick up and watch children. We grocery shop for them. We coordinate our small group to provide gift cards or cash to cover gas, meals, and tolls for trips back and forth to the hospital.

  1. Show up

As “crisis” moves into “trial,” we want to be friends for the long haul in a sustainable way. We remind friends that they’re not alone and that we’re thinking about them when we send Bible verses, songs, podcasts, sermons, and devotions to encourage them with biblical truth. Maybe there’s an extended NICU stay or a marital separation. Hopefully a support team—some combination of a pastor, counselor, other friends, and family—is coming together. It isn’t our job to solve or fix the situation but to regularly show up for our friend.

  1. Remember

We can be sensitive to times and dates when a friend is more vulnerable emotionally or spiritually. If there’s a pregnancy loss, we remember the baby’s due date with flowers or a phone call. If a spouse, parent, or child dies, we remember to reach out on anniversaries and birthdays. We also look for ways to make memories with and for our friends and, if present, their children. We take photos so they can look back and see moments of God’s grace in the midst of their heartache.

  1. Grieve

Finally, we grieve with our friends. We sit, listen, and “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15). We validate their losses, whether a loved one has died or months of time and finances are lost to extended illness. We point them to Jesus, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” the one who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:3-4).

Yes, we’re limited in what we can do or say, but that doesn’t mean we stand back and do nothing. We may lead busy lives, but we love however we can. By showing up and being present, we assure our friends that they’re not alone. Ultimately, we point our hurting friends to Jesus, faithful and true, who knows exactly what they need and is able to provide abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.

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