How to help a friend through hard times

Ashley Dickson

Have you ever been on the helping end when a friend’s life turns into a mess? At some point, we’ll encounter the need to help a friend in a difficult situation. As followers of Jesus, this is what ministry is all about. 

When the people we love are suffering, they need much more than a simple answer. They need our presence.

Maybe you’ve got a friend stuck in a cycle of sin or addiction. Maybe you know someone facing unimaginable loss or betrayal. Maybe your coworker is facing an unfortunate situation, and you find yourself at a loss for words. 

There is no formula to get out of a mess. When the people we love are suffering, they need much more than a simple answer. They need our presence

How to Help Someone Out of a Mess

1. Listen.

When a friend’s life has been turned upside down, the last thing they need is our prescription for a quick fix. The temptation to fix can be strong. But more than a fix, your friend needs to be heard. How do we truly listen to their struggle?

  • Look them in the eye and avoid the urge to talk as they share their story. Put away your phone or anything else that could distract you from listening. 
  • Ask questions. Engage in the conversation by asking to hear more. 
  • Affirm their struggle. Repeat key phrases they used back to them so they know you are listening. 

2. Tell them the truth.

Chances are, your friend is hearing lies. Instead of adding to the heap of condemnation, remind them how much God loves them. Psalm 86:15 says God is “compassionate and gracious ... abounding in love and faithfulness.” John 3:16 reminds us that God loved us so much He was willing to give up His Son to be in a relationship with us. 

You can be the voice that reminds them of the truth. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Remind your friend or loved one that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39). And if your friend has a relationship with Jesus, there is nothing that can take them from his hand (John 10:28-30).

3. Love them well.

Often, pointing someone to the truth is the easy part. What’s harder is showing up. 

Is there something you can do, not just say, that would show your friend you care? Offer to watch their kids while they go to a counseling appointment. Bring them a coffee or a meal. We put our prayers and faith into action as we stand beside our friend through the mess (James 2:14-25). 

In this process of listening and offering hope, you may feel ill-equipped to help with the struggle at hand. Know what you don’t know. Depending on the situation, there could be a point when your friend needs professional help. That is OK! In fact, it could be the most beneficial thing your friend can do. 

If counseling is someone’s next step, stop by the Care Room at your campus to get a list of professional counselors in your area. 

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