Life can be a battlefield, with anyone, including our closest friends, as the victims. But are you ready and able to assist a friend during her season of hardship? Do you have what it takes to be the tangible hands and feet of Jesus when someone needs it most? When a crisis comes and a friend is in trouble, follow these simple guidelines of friendship during hardship and strive to be the most humble servant you can be.
1. Be understanding and take your cue from her.
Unfortunately, we’ve all been there; picking up the phone or opening an e-mail to find that a friend is in crisis, facing a hardship and battling the storm of her life. Our heart breaks at the circumstances as we wonder what we can do to help. We would love to take the burden away or do something, anything, to ease her pain. Realize that when bad news comes, it may devastate and leave lives forever changed. As her friend, you may be left wondering how to respond to her immense need.
Take your cue from her.
She may want space to process the news at first, but then suddenly desire comfort and support. Know that your friend wants to hear you support her, but may not want to talk about it. But since everyone reacts differently to trials, she may desire the company of close friends immediately and look to you for comic relief. Whatever she wants from you, go with it and accept it. Her needs may vary from day to day,but be prepared to be there for her in whatever way SHE desires.
2. Be gracious.
When in hardship, often people are not functioning at full capacity. I know when I was in the storms of my life (cancer, infertility, processing an autism diagnosis), I was not myself. I was super forgetful, wanted to hibernate and not be around friends, and didn’t feel like rehashing all of the ugly details to everyone in my life. While I was so encouraged by the many calls, e-mails and texts, I simply couldn’t talk about it with everyone. I prayed that my friends would understand my distance and not take it personally. So forgive your friend who may absentmindedly forget to return a call or may not have time for your friendship as in the past. Being gracious to forgive her oversight will free her from unnecessary stress and pressure. Life can be overwhelming and hard without the guilt of a well meaning friend. 🙂
3.Be proactive in your help. Don’t wait for her to ask.
The phrase “let me know how I can help” can fall on deaf ears in the storms of life. I’ve been guilty of this myself and know there have been friends in crisis that I have let down. (I’m thinking of one in particular! I’m sorry and I love you, sweet friend!) Friends mean well and truly want to help, but they just don’t know what to do.
Sometimes helping means taking action.
Ways that you can put your friendship into action include bringing over dinner, babysitting her kids, grocery shopping, cleaning a house, writing an encouraging e-mail, sending a gift card, starting a monetary collection from friends and family, writing your favorite Scriptures for her to meditate on and a variety of other ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Meal Train is a great way to organize not just meals, but to schedule helpful services for your friend in need. Being proactive will not only will surprise your friend when she needs it most, but show you care about your friendship during her hardship. Above all else, don’t forget to pray and remind her of the love of Jesus, even if she doesn’t feel He’s there.
Be creative in your help and meet her needs exactly where she needs it most, even if she doesn’t ask! (Trust me, she probably won’t!)
4. Understand that while her situation may be sad, be strong for her and tread lightly with her feelings.
Your friend going through hardship should not have to comfort you in her moments of need. While talking and communicating, be strong for her. It’s ok to cry with her and show your heart is breaking in her time of need, but be sure she is not comforting you instead. I am a crier by nature and certainly don’t want my friend in crisis to feel obligated to remind me that everything will be alright! As her friend, it is my job to provide the love and laughter she needs, not the other way around.
Personally, I’ve had relationships strengthened as blessings were poured out upon me during some of my darkest days. I’ve been rescued from solitude by friends who knew I needed to get out of the house, or in one situation, out of the state for a much needed girl’s trip even when I couldn’t afford it!
But sadly, I’ve also had friendships dissolve at a time of crisis, simply for not acknowledging my situation. If a simple call, email or text is the only help you are able to offer, that is fine, but reach out to her in some way. So tread lightly with her already fragile feelings. Friendship during hardship can be a slippery slope!
5. Don’t try to fix it.
When my daughter Joy was diagnosed with Autism, I was shocked by the amount of unsolicited advice I received. I recognize that friends and family really wanted to help and a quick Google search suddenly made them experts in the field, but I needed space and time to process, not a solution. Your friend, while in the storms of life, probably desires the same. She doesn’t need your blatant opinion on her crisis, she just needs a friend, someone who can listen and let her cry without trying to solve the problem. She needs someone to hold her hand and tell her, even in her darkest hour, that life will somehow be alright again, even if it is changed forever. Your friend may be in the same boat I was in, where there is nothing that can change the situation, so processing and accepting are all she is able to do, and that in itself can be painful and surreal.
6. Don’t stop trying.
A friend in the midst of hardship may not be receptive or show her appreciation for your support at first, but don’t stop reaching out. Be a servant to her and never give up trying to comfort her during the dark days. When the fog lifts and the healing begins, she will come around and recognize that you have been there for her, even if she doesn’t say thank you in the moment.
Love her like Jesus loves her. Hold her hand, cry with her and acknowledge her pain. She is broken, in need of comfort and knowing you are there and feeling the support you offer, will help ease the sting of the situation while the storm rages around her.
After all, this storm is NOT ABOUT YOU, BUT ABOUT HER AND HER NEEDS!