If you’re not personally in the middle of a fight for your life, family, or faith, you probably know someone who is! Life is full of challenges, and there’s nothing like hard times to quickly make you feel overwhelmed, isolated, and maybe even misunderstood. That’s exactly why we should and must help friends through hard times!
I recently posted a question on our blog’s Facebook page: When you’re facing life’s biggest challenges, what practical things do you want your family and friends to do to support you?
This post is a compilation of the most common answers, with some additional insight from yours truly. So what are the most desired and effective ways to help friends through hard times? Let’s dive in!
Help Friends Through Hard Times By Being Present Without Judgement
- Don’t avoid them. There’s nothing worse than facing a challenging time and watching your family and friends scatter. Do you struggle wading through difficult situations with others? Imagine being them! If you want to help friends through hard times, the first step is to be present with them, even if and when it feels messy.
- Pray for them, fervently and faithfully, and tell them that you are. One of the most common requests of those facing difficult times, was for prayer! But they’re not just looking for a 5-second prayer in their honor. They want you to jot their need down and lift it in prayer daily until the need has been met. And be sure to let your friend know that you’re praying for them! I know from experience that knowledge alone can deliver immense comfort.
- Listen without offering judgement or advice (unless asked). Your friend might just need to vent and get things off her chest. Unless she asks you for it, she’s probably not looking for a step-by-step plan for how to approach the situation. She’s likely heard it all, whether she wanted to or not, and would be thrilled to just have a friend sit and listen for a bit.
- Ask how you can help. Before you jump into whatever you believe will help most, ask your friend how you can help. They might not need another casserole, especially if their fridge is already full of casseroles from other well-meaning friends. But they might wish someone would watch their kids for an hour so they could go to the doctor alone. True, some friends might not have a specific need in mind (in which case, keep reading for ideas). But if they do, your help would be most appreciated there.
Help Friends Through Hard Times By Giving Time, Food, Money, and Encouragement
- Give your time. One of my favorite suggestions was the gift of time. Tell your friend you have two hours Friday night to help them in any way they need. Let them decide if that help comes in the form of cooking, cleaning, babysitting, grocery shopping, or just visiting over a cup of coffee. This offer will allow your friend to express their biggest need without feeling like a bother. After all, you’ll be there during that time anyway!
- Coordinate a meal train. This is one of the most popular ways to help friends through hard times. Because who feels like cooking and eating healthy meals when it feels like their whole world is falling apart? Be sure to ask them first if they’d like a meal train, and if they have any allergies or dietary preferences. Then reach out to others to line up a week (or two or three!) of meals that will just show up at their door. If you can, drop food in disposable containers so your friend doesn’t have to worry about washing and returning dishes. And try to feel out the situation when you drop the food off. Do they want to talk through their health issue for an hour every night someone drops off food? Maybe. Or maybe they’d prefer to thank you for the food and jump right back into their busy life. They’re your friend. Feel them out.
- Consider giving cash or a gift card. Unless your friend is well off, a little money will deliver the relief of knowing they don’t have to cook tonight, or can hire a babysitter for a few hours, or pay for their medicine.
- Write an encouraging note. If you’re anything like me, you might struggle to express what’s on your heart in person. So take a few minutes to pick up a card, or even fold a piece of paper, and let your friend know that you love and believe in them. Tell them you admire their grace and strength during this difficult time, and that they inspire you! These are words they can come back to again and again on the hard days.
Help Friends Through Hard Times With the Right Heart
- Insist on helping. Some people have an incredibly difficult time accepting help. If your friend is one of those people, insist that you’re going to help them either way, so they might as well give you the specifics of what they need. Many people, myself included, don’t want to inconvenience anyone, and so won’t accept your first offer to help. But if you insist? It will help to assure them that you sincerely want to help, and aren’t just paying lip service to their situation.
- Don’t insist on their feeling bad about, or even incredibly grateful for, your help. If you’re going to spend your entire time helping them telling them what a huge inconvenience it is, or how busy or tired you are yourself, then it would be better not to help at all. If you offered, they’re assuming you have the time, energy, and desire to help. And if you don’t have those things, they’re likely aware and understand why you wouldn’t offer additional help.
- And finally, please don’t make it about you. You’ll never effectively help friends through hard times by telling them how your times are or were actually harder. It might feel like you’re simply relating to their experience, but it could easily be misconstrued. Focus on them, only relating your own story if they specifically request it.
Wrap It Up
You can help friends through hard times by being present without judgement, asking how you can help, giving time, food, money, and encouraging notes, and approaching support with the right heart. What are your thoughts on how best to help friends through hard times? Be sure to share in the comments!
P.S. Do you or your friend need a practical plan to manage stress? Download our free guide here!
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