We appreciate receiving calls from people who want to know how they can help a friend who is dealing with a troubling issue. Regardless of what the issue is, here is a summary of what we typically share with these callers. Think of these points as “the five Ls.”
One of the best gifts you can give your hurting friend is to listen. Let them talk about what is going on. They may need to repeat themselves over and over to process what has happened. Allowing them a non-judgmental, safe place to simply air what they are feeling is invaluable. Empathize and ask questions, but don’t try to offer opinions or solutions.
Once you have listened well, begin to educate yourself about your friend’s situation. Check out the articles and resources on our FocusHelps website. Find out what God’s Word has to say on the topic. Research the issue, become informed and find out how others have coped with this problem. Share when asked – not as the expert, but as someone who has cared enough to find some useful insights.
Find practical ways to help. Could your friend use a hot meal, a babysitter, a housekeeper, a walking partner, a book or perhaps a gift certificate for some special service? Demonstrate your care in tangible ways. Call periodically just to check in. Be the hands and feet of Jesus; what do you think He would do for your friend to show how much He cares?
Recognize your limits, both for your sake and for your friend’s sake. You can only do so much within the natural limits of your gifts, abilities and resources. While you can help bear your friend’s burden, ultimately the burden belongs to them. God will be faithful to give them no more than they can bear. Through trials, God refines and teaches us. Trust that when you have reached the limit of what you can do, God will still be there for your friend. Their greatest growth may come from their dependence on Him when no one else can do anything more.
First and last, PRAY. Leave the burden with God. He has power to do beyond what we ask or think. There is great comfort for every people-helper who acknowledges that God can fix a broken marriage, heal an injured child, mend a broken heart or love a weary parent. Trust that your prayers do a great deal to help your friend, because they bring him/her before the Almighty God.